There has always been a perception that for people like me, with happy families and great jobs and careers and who don’t post problems on social media, life is perfect and everything is hunky dory.
Today, more than ever, I felt the need to write this post.
Just an hour ago, my husband, my son and I stood in our living room and listened to Sunday mass on TV, streaming directly from our parish. Outside our window, snow flakes fell slowly and steadily, blanketing everything in its path – the streets empty, desolate, lonely.
It was then that I realized. Like everyone else in this world here and now, I am not okay.
I really thought I was, though. I truly felt that way.
In fact, during this week, our first week of working from home, I was quite hopeful. I felt pretty upbeat, happily encouraged my co-workers, my friends, my family that we would be able to adapt to this new normal. The three of us worked from home, me at my desk, my daughter at hers, and my husband at his. The puppy would not stop barking at every single sound. I found myself doing three loads of laundry a day and spending hours cleaning and disinfecting the kitchen. The weather was miserable, I thought the puppy would eventually murder me for ignoring her all day, even as she constantly clamped down on my ankle.
As a leader of an organization, I did my best to stay positive, did Skype chats with the team, wanted to make sure we all stayed in touch and engaged. I mean, we all feel the same way. No matter what you do in your life, staying home, staying put because you have to, is a challenge none of us have had to really face. Instead of finding more time to be with my family, we were working fourteen hour days, always on call, on Skype, on Zoom, on emails. Everyone’s emotions and the business impact of this event weighs heavily on our shoulders. It was and still is, our responsibility to assure everybody that everything will work out.
Today was my tipping point.
We’ve never missed Sunday mass – save for a few exceptions. And to be sitting in our living room watching a completely empty church just hit home for me.
Everything came rushing back. The changes at work that have left me unsettled. The death of three people in my life (all in March) and the toll these losses have taken on me, the news that a loved one is very ill. I managed to internalize it all, brush everything aside, minimize the sleepless nights and the uninspired lack of creativity. The isolation, my family’s anxiety, my son being an ER nurse, my youngest who feels so socially lost, my daughter who is juggling with the pressures of work and a relationship. My sisters who are in different parts of the US and Asia. My husband who is high risk.
I convinced myself that in time, it would all pass. That if I continued on my path of helping others and providing the strength that my family needed, it would all just disappear.
But this is uncharted territory. For all of us. What an understatement, when we think about how this disease is threatening to hurt those we love, separate us from each other and the world. Here we are, helpless and confused. We’re supposed to be indestructible, our will to progress and develop, and conquer and overcome smashed to pieces by something we can’t even fathom, don’t even understand.
If you’re not okay, then why should I be?
I am anxious and afraid and unsure of what’s ahead for us. And like you, I don’t know much at this point. You may say that my problems are nothing compared to yours. And that may be the case. But we’re all hurting in one way or another. And no one is immune to the tension and stress that is prevalent in our world and in our daily lives.
But here’s what I do know:
I know that although we will never emerge from this unscathed, we will value life more, recognize its brevity and never take what we have for granted.
I know that we will recognize the importance of actions over words.
I know, more than ever, that hope is alive and that whatever it is you believe in, believe in it with all your heart.
But most of all, I know that this fear and uncertainty will be the thread that holds us together. It will bring our humanity to the surface. A humanity that has stood the test of time in sickness and in health, in war and in peace. A humanity that embodies a passion to live, and whose intrinsic values are based on mutual respect and love.
And so, even if my head is turned upside down and my heart is hurting for all the pain the world is confronting – I know more than anything that we will survive this. We have to. Our children and grandchildren deserve to experience the beauty of life that we’ve been able to.
Be kind to yourself and to each other. Find comfort in each other’s company. And stay home so that we are able to see each other again real soon.