Some anniversaries aren’t meant to celebrate but to remember and learn from — while you make plans to move on. This is one of them.
Two months ago we marked one entire year since our world stood still. Unfortunately, a global pandemic doesn’t call for anniversary champagne toasts. One year in, and we still have few reasons to celebrate this milestone although, from the looks of it, spring didn’t get the memo. It still sprung, right on schedule. The season, however, is a whole lot more than April showers and May flowers. At its core, spring symbolizes an escape from despair and dark times, and that pretty much defines this past year, no? Despite the heavy, colorless winter past, confused crocuses, and daffodils still stubbornly refuse to give up. Uh, little dudes, did you see the weather?
“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring”. Lily Pulitzer
Living like it’s spring can be a tough directive, especially in times of loss and quarantine. This past year qualifies as the poster child for lost jobs, livelihoods, and people we loved. Sneeze-inciting ragweed may be in bloom but the pandemic elephant still reminds us daily that the deadly virus continues to infect and kill. Confusion reigns about what we can or can’t do once fully vaccinated and social distance is still the norm. Even so, spring proves we have the strength and heart to bloom again, even if we have to push through frozen ground to get there. And one thing is for sure. Life, like every season, inevitably goes on even if it might not be the same on the return trip. Neither will we.
Nothing is more intrinsic to nature and humanity than change. From hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and epidemics, nature can transform our world in a nanosecond. We can try to control it but, like a pandemic, it tells us who’s boss. The virus will eventually lessen its stranglehold. Life will slowly return, but not to ‘normal’ — and that may not be a bad thing. We are so due for a major reset. The wealthiest 5% remain at the head of the line, while the rest struggle exponentially from job loss, and financial difficulties. Some will still have no healthcare, live from paycheck to paycheck, often in abject poverty. In a country divided by affluence and the lack of it, political party, race and gender, this pandemic has been definitive proof that illness does not discriminate. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming”. Pablo Naruda
As life begins its baby-step return, we see defaults as clearly as we see change. Time is inhabited by both good and painful memories, love and loss, joy and tears. Happy times are no less happy when they are joined by sad. Like the lion and lamb of life’s seasons, they inhabit the same space. And, while they are polar opposites, they are part of the same equation. That’s life’s eternal dichotomy. No one complains when the pendulum swings the fun way, but when our little world teeters on its axis and hands us things that suck, whoa! Yet, life is exactly that; a conundrum of all things good and bad. It’s up to us to find the aha moments.
Death is one of the only stories that begin — at the end. But the love and hope that made the story unforgettable, are also why it lives on. My husband and my love story had an untimely, sudden end but I’ve learned the chapters in between impel me forward. While the healing was hardly quick or easy, the story moved me toward the possible. We are all connected in the fight to survive. More than any time I can remember, we all seem joined in the hope for not just a ‘new’ life but one with meaning. If we found nothing else this past year, hopefully we discovered how to cherish the moment. We realized we either get swallowed up in the sadness of a world gone incognito or use these uncertain times to evolve. While we’ve grieved the loss of 581,000 treasured fellow Americans, hopefully we’ve gained a good helping of gratitude for even the most mundane minutes we have. When we look in the rear view mirror, hopefully we’ll find an intent to take nothing for granted, new ways to navigate difficult times and the ability to really ‘see’ people.
“No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland
This past year we slogged through equal portions of mental fatigue, anger, and sadness along with a super large helping of anxiety. We’ve been cautious and nervous, while accumulating an inordinate supply of masks and antibacterial cleaners. We lived tentatively, hoping each week was just a temporary stopgap measure not a portent of the future. Our resilience alone should warrant some celebration, right? Instead, most of us only feel the ‘the anniversary effect’ that all who’ve lost a precious someone feel each year ‘that’ date rolls around. Whether a livelihood, loved one, lost school year or graduation, health or loss of security and trust, this anniversary is certainly not one for fireworks.
Has everything returned to normal? Nope. We may cautiously be hugging our families and besties, and noshing outside with pals on one of the few nice weather days we’ve had so far. But, I’m pretty sure a movie theater outing or trip across the pond isn’t on your near future itinerary. Concerts? Um, no. Partying? Does clinked glasses across Zoom count? This last year we learned to appreciate living ‘smaller’. We watched plants, puppies and bread grow. We learned to cherish a moment, a connection and a slower pace. Masks have helped not only lessen contracting COVID but even the common cold. Who knew? (Next winter, if you see me wearing a mask in Trader Joe’s, you’ll know why). They say whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger but surviving a pandemic should also make us grateful, more understanding and compassionate.
What comes next? Who knows. The unknown is never comfortable simply because it’s, well, unknown. When you’ve followed the rules while fearing the worst for so long, it’s only natural to want reward at the end but, when IS the end? As communities start to reopen, there will still be future outbreaks because COVID variants are uber contagious. Ultimately, this watershed global event will have defined our world and how we live in it. Screw last year’s vengeful snowglobe. This fragile planet begs for spring and demands that a new normal creates better, lives better, and loves — better.
Have at it.