Learning to Love 2020 for What it Offers Us

Let’s face it. Things feel unbelievably difficult. No one is having an easy time of it. When people I know look to see pandemic silver linings (or something) the things they come up with are invariably not awesome. For example, people look back on the pre-pandemic (and still, recent) deaths of those they loved. They are grateful that friends and mothers did not die alone in a COVID-19 hospital with restrictive visiting hours. While people agree that this is good, it’s still hard to imagine a “comfort" more like feeling desperate for the bottom.

And so I am going to become super intentional about noticing things that remain both beautiful and, even, especially important in 2020.

Learning to Love 2020

The writer Carson McCullers wrote a story in which a protagonist, disappointed by love and heartbroken, tries to recover the ability to love. He suggests that starting with the big love first is backward.

I meditated on love and reasoned it out. I realized what is wrong with us. Men fall in love for the first time. And what do they fall in love with? … they fall in love with a woman. They start at the wrong end of love. They begin at the climax. Do you know how men should love? A tree. A rock. A cloud.

Carson McCullers

It has been years since I read the story but I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. We want to love an entire world that feels, to many, wounded. We could start smaller, examining little things. It might work better.  It is impossible to take in the immensity of reminiscent love. Let’s remember to love the little things. We look to the cuts, and we attempt triage. When we can bear it, we cast back to a time we could understand levity.

I think we need to push back against an emergent 2020 meme that trains us to see only the horrible things.

Learning to Notice Little Things is a Gift

This afternoon I stopped at a farm stand and bought blackberries still warm from the sun. Nothing reminds more of the short life spans of things than the micro seasons of different berries. Blackberries are over in a week or so – if you keep driving you are sure to miss them. Eating a blackberry is something I tend to do only when they are in season because I think fruit out of season is gross. This means that when I eat a blackberry, I am folded into the arms of time which is elastic in a good way, opposed to the way it can sometimes feel now – which is to say absent of markers and jumbled.

Thunderstorms and Clouds

I love a thunderstorm beyond all measure. I love humidity in a valley and the way that clouds gather and bunch and puncture themselves with shots of light. I love the way a storm rolls in and tosses the still new-made trees silver-flecked and green. I love the fury and the heat of the day that settles on itself before it is spent.

Are these little things? Are they trees, or rocks, or clouds? I can’t tell about scale any longer. But let me kick it to people. To love for heroes – and a wish to honor that human connection.

The Small Business Owners Who Keep Main Street Humming

To the innovators and small business owners who stood up and pushed back when COVID-19 hit. The toy store owner who organized toy drives for children in pediatric units, the dance teacher who saved her studio and is planning financial aid enough to re-enroll students, I salute you.

The Organizers

To the organizers who, in the middle of a pandemic, did not give up the struggle for social justice. I bow down.

To the armies of people who made masks when there was a lack of PPE.

I wish there were a less trite phrase that means the silver lining of things. I guess referencing post-traumatic growth can do, for now, the idea that people who endure trauma can build their struggle into positive growth.

People talk about a post-COVID-19 world and wonder what it will look like. To this, I say that it is always a post-something world (post 9/11, post-housing meltdown). Humans adapt. I hope that we don’t miss the chance to grow from this. We are all vulnerable.

Trying to Hear Things Better

The birds they sang/at the break of day/start again/I heard them say/don’t dwell on what has passed away/or what is yet to be…Ring the bells that still can ring/forget your perfect offering/there is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen is a poet. See the buried aspirational hints that the song contains? “Start again" and “what is yet to be."

It is hard to show up to life every day and be courageous. But we are alive. We are humans being brave, and exercising agency. This is an active stance, existing.

There is a relative democracy to a pandemic. It is an imperfect democracy, and I would never suggest otherwise. Marginalized populations are more vulnerable. But still, illness is dangerous to everyone regardless of wealth or other advantages. What if understanding this can make us collectively humble? What if we train this knowledge on communities?

But the little things are touchtones of sustenance too. As I write this, my daughter, 10, is reaching the end of her fairy years. She should be almost ready for bed but she just opened the door and went out into the backyard to catch fireflies. It looks like twinkling hot Christmas in July – the way those bugs shine their fleeting and humble magic in the trees. My daughter says if you look closely you can see which ones the fairies are. I’m going to join her now before she loses the ability to tell the difference.

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