I woke up at 3:00 the other morning and failing to fall back to sleep, lay there just letting my brain run in all directions. A particular realization rose to the surface, a feeling of being unsettled. Unsettled seems to be my constant companion, sometimes more apparent than others but always hanging around. The past year has moved me out of my comfort zone and I often feel as if I’m hovering in a sort of gray state of anxiousness, melancholy, and world-weariness.
I miss having plans. I miss seeing people. I miss looking forward to anything much more exciting than my weekly grocery run. It’s hard sometimes to stay positive when everyone you love is so close and yet so far away. Virtual reality helps, but it’s simply not the same. I want think about being in the world again, and spending time with people without the underlying fear that we might harm one another by breathing in the same space.
I see the ever-increasing divisions in this country and realize I’ve probably spent much of my life blissfully ignorant. This … everything the world is going through right now … this is nothing new. It has happened time and again, hasn’t it? I’ve just been fortunate enough to have lived most of my years in relatively calm times – or more likely was simply sheltered from the really worrisome stuff. When I was in the third grade, my elementary school suddenly enrolled a population of Vietnamese children. I remember being fascinated with the fact that they didn’t speak English. I noticed their mismatched, often ill-fitting clothing, but at that age it never occurred to me to question why, or to imagine their lives hadn’t been every bit as safe as mine. Somehow, my best friend that year was a Vietnamese girl who’d been placed in my class. We barely understood each other’s words, but we connected. And I had absolutely no idea for a very long time where she’d come from and the war that had happened in her country, or our country’s part in it.
This has happened a lot to me over my adult years, a dawning realization years in the making. Events that had previously seemed little more than a history lesson during my school years, I suddenly realized had occurred during my grandparents’ lifetime. My parents’ lifetime. My lifetime.
I often have to turn away from the news these days. I can’t ask Jack not to watch, but sometimes I have to close myself off. Sometimes when I’m cooking or doing chores, I’ll turn the television on for some background noise. I’ll find something that is just enough to keep me company but not enough to distract me from what needs doing. I’ve been watching Eat, Pray, Love on Netflix lately, either while falling asleep or while doing some chore. I long ago read the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, but had never bothered with the movie. I almost always think a book is better than its movie, so this was, in my mind, the perfect one for background noise. Except that a particular line in the movie captured my attention.
Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.Elizabeth Gilbert
I found myself sort of ranting to Jack two nights ago. He had the local news on and I was allowing myself to watch. There was a story about parents appealing to the governor to lift mask mandates for youth sports. Apparently several children have passed out while playing, presumably because the masks make it difficult to breathe during activities requiring such exertion. I watched as parent after parent was interviewed, all expressing the unfairness of requiring children to wear masks while playing a team sport. (Ironically, the story went on to say that statistics show there has been no increase in incidents of passing out as compared to before the pandemic.)
I’m normally not one to express an opinion out loud about such things. Everyone is entitled to their passions. The past year has taken its toll on everyone, and what’s a priority to some may not be a priority to others. We’re each seeing the world right now through our own unique lenses. But this news story fired me up. I looked at Jack and threw my hands up, asking, “What’s more important? That your kid gets to play basketball, or that your kid gets to play basketball in a way that offers a slightly better chance of keeping her and others around her safe? If you feel your child is at risk from wearing a mask while playing basketball, then maybe the choice should be not to play basketball this season! I mean, should we all be allowed to do the things we think we’re entitled to do? Or should we be doing whatever it takes to get beyond where we are now?”
I’m tired of it all too. I’m tired and I’m getting bored. But I also don’t think we should just throw out all precautions and play a real live game of survival of the fittest. My kids played sports. I remember how important it was to us. And yes. It’s unfair the way so many things are right now. It’s unfair that kids are falling behind because they’re not learning in the structure of a traditional classroom. It’s unfair that we can’t hold birthday parties or celebrate holidays with large groups of family and friends. It’s also unfair that people are dying.
None of us gets to do all of the things right now that we were used to doing before. And who knows if or when we’ll get to do them again. Maybe this is where my feeling of being unsettled stems from. That we might never again get to do of the things that define life as we think we know it.
The world sometimes feels to me like it’s falling apart. But isn’t this the bigger picture? Sometimes I begin to feel so defeated at all that’s going on, and then I watch the history channel and am reminded just how awful things have been before. Hasn’t this happened time and again throughout history? A ruining of sorts? What was taken for granted by one generation fails to exist for another. And it works both to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment.
I knew all of this … this trying to carry on through the pandemic … was going to get really difficult for me about this time of year anyway, with days that are still too short and when darkness comes too early. Not to mention, it’s a sub-zero deep freeze outside and that certainly doesn’t help. It’s made me a bit mopey at times, but also more introspective as well. That quote from Eat, Pray, Love keeps coming to mind. This is all so much bigger than us. So much bigger than I’ve imagined it would ever transpire to be. I’ve gone from disbelief that the virus would really affect us , to being literally afraid of it. I’ve gone from believing a resolution is just around the corner, to finding ways to stay positive and move on toward a day that’s still much too far away. I’ve experienced exhaustion and sorrow over too many other devastating and historic events that just seem to pile on top of a world that already feels much too fragile.
We are experiencing a ruining right now, I think. Funny thing is that whenever I’ve imagined such a thing, it was instantaneous and totally devastating. Before now, the world going to ruins was merely a far-fetched invention of the imagination. But I’m beginning to understand it’s not an illusion. It’s real. But it’s happening in slow motion. And this means we have some control over it, a chance to ensure that something good comes of it. It could really go either way, but I pray that our transformation holds more growth, more good than anything.