I am still stuck within the confines of my apartment. Cases of COVID-19 are still rising in our area and we do not have the required hospital capacity to handle a huge surge in cases. So, like the rest of the world, I am waiting.
Waiting for what, I’m not quite sure.
At the beginning of our shutdown, I thought I was waiting for a return to normal. I had hoped that after a short period of lockdown the virus would die and everything would go back to the way it was. After this intense but brief pause I would be able to go back to work, see my friends, and plan ways to use my vacation time that don’t involve my couch.
Almost 10 weeks later and very little has changed. I am still inside my apartment with patience growing thinner by the day. Far from adjusting to this new normal, every hour seems to bring new, exhausting challenges: not only the challenges of isolation, but those of reopening as well. With medical advice changing each minute, what can you expect society to do? What do I expect myself to do? Can I just wait indefinitely for a vaccine because I’m high-risk, letting the next few years of my life pass me by? At what point is it safer to go outside than it is to stay inside? These decisions are a weighty responsibility felt by the whole world right now.
So, I am still waiting. Waiting for more research, waiting for more empathy, waiting for a solution. Waiting for a clear way forward so I can plan my behaviors accordingly.
But how should we respond in this uncertain waiting?
I know that I cycle through huge waves of deep emotions every single day, often working my way through motivation, desperation, boredom, loneliness, and sadness before lunchtime.
How am I supposed to plan for the future when nothing about the future is certain? Even if society reopens, even if church services resume, even if no one I know is affected, the world will never go back to the way that it was. So how are you supposed to plan for a world that doesn’t exist yet, that is being shaped each minute in unpredictable ways?
Waiting is hard, especially when it’s not by choice. But I am no stranger to waiting – I’ve been doing it my whole life. I’ve been waiting to work on loving myself because “I’ll get to it later.” I’ve been waiting to move deeper in certain relationships because “it isn’t the time.” I’ve been waiting to do scary, challenging, important things because, “I have time, I’ll get to it someday.”
I suppose this has been the gift of quarantine for me – this brutal perspective of life and its limitations. That no matter how in control I thought I was, life has always been uncertain. Only, in normal life I am shielded from these uncertainties and this constant reminder of death. In normal life, I am free to act as though I have all the time in the world because I have the luxury of avoiding my own mortality.
This luxury is no longer afforded me or to any of us. Even my dreams remind me of clouded respiratory symptoms and lives cut too short. I begin and end each day thinking about the new world that I now find myself in, grieving the loss of the world I sometimes find myself still waiting for.
How do you respond to the loss of all things normal? How do you grieve a world that will never be the same again? What am I waiting for if everything has changed?
I suppose the answer is that I am no longer waiting for a return to normal.
The price of perspective is steep – for so many others the price has been incalculable – and yet I am seeing that doing important things now isn’t optional anymore. Important things like relationships, self-love, and putting the work into joy and fulfillment should not be put off any longer: life is fragile and it is uncertain. Of course, doing these things now will look different to accommodate the new world that we live in. But I don’t need to wait anymore.
“… and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah chapter 6, verse 8).
What are we waiting for?
Rebecca constantly strives to practically love people around her. She also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.