The Weight of Ordinary Loss
It's been a year since Covid turned the whole world upside down. This pandemic, the worst world public health disaster in 100 years, has dealt horrifying pain and loss out to people. Millions have been sickened and died, and many of those who recover have long-term health problems to face. Businesses have closed. Job loss is rampant. And the educational systems around the world are limping along with fair to middling results.
These are the headline losses, the events we all agree are horrendous and that make us dread the news.
Yet, there's another type of loss I believe will haunt society for years to come--chronic, daily, ordinary loss. That primitive part of our brains that worries about survival has been working overtime for a year now, keeping our bodies soaked in a stew of stress hormones. For most of us in industrialized countries, those of us usually lucky enough to spend our days unconcerned about things like food, drinking water, or violent warring factions, this is a new normal that's miserable.
Friendships can cool and fade in a world of lockdown and social distancing. Dating seems to require cartoonish amounts of effort and creativity--wine, candles, takeout, and Zoom. Friends and family members who have essential jobs are exhausted, short-tempered, and burned-out. The discussion of proper hygiene infiltrates every interaction, and sometimes results in public confrontations.
Day after day, we hear that this too shall pass...but no one knows when. A year of living with the non-stop negative news, the never-ending list of things we can't do, the human relationships that are battered and bruised because it feels like this nightmare will never end, is taking a toll.
Oh, there are good days. A break in the weather for a lovely walk, or a creative friend who figures out how you can meet in the park (masked) to chat about a book you've both just read. There have been bright spots for some of us. But the trauma of living through over a year of frightening public health news and disastrous economic fallout is not going to magically vanish. The weight of those ordinary losses is going to press on the heart and soul until we deal with it.
Recently, someone I follow on Twitter posted that her three year old had just told her to, "calm your body and breathe with me." Even a preschooler, learning mindfulness in nursery school, can see the agitation bubbling over.
Collectively, humanity is worn down. We are tired. Tired of lockdowns, tired of bad news, tired of living in a world filled with uncertainty and a million tiny ordinary losses that add up to misery. We are, in the classic sense, sick and tired of being sick and tired. This long-term drip, drip, drip, of pain is not going to heal overnight. So, how do we approach the long path to recovery--physical, emotional, financial and spiritual?
Physical – if you have been living in sweat pants and snacking non-stop, then now (today) is the best time to start exercise again. If you’ve been working hard at an essential job, then today is the day to commit to self-care.
Emotional – did you learn things about yourself, your loved ones, or your relationships (good or bad) during this past year? Where did you turn for support? Who was always there for you? Who let you down? Do you need to make changes here too?
Financial – job loss, weird grocery and takeout bills, buying supplies for home schooling…there are multitudes of expenses and challenges that battered families over this past year. Even though vaccines are rolling out, economies around the world have barely begun to recover. Financial literacy is not an option.
Spiritual – was your faith in God, the cosmos, or your fellow human shaken during the pandemic? When matters of life and death became everyday conversation, how did you feel? Are your values even more clear today…or are you questioning even more?
I don’t have answers to all of these questions. Like everyone else, my daily, ordinary, losses weigh heavily on my heart. I’m tired and struggling and wondering, “Who will I be when this is all over?”