perspective

Showing Up without Showing Up

It has been a strange few weeks, to say the least.  We’ve switched from going about our busy lives barely knowing the word coronavirus around St. Patrick’s Day to a shelter-in-place order which started a few days ago in my home state. There have already been all kinds of twists and turns on this road, from learning how to do work and school from home, radically changing the structure and service model of my husband’s business, watching events we were looking forward to fall off the schedule and more.

At this point, my family is pretty lucky.  I still have a reliable income for the time being.  We have food, water, shelter, basic necessities and our health appears to be good.  Sure, there are the bumps and bruises that come with radical change but nothing insurmountable.  I can still go outside and exercise.  I can text or talk with friends using technology. All in all, right now things are sort of annoying and inconvenient (when I’m not anxious about the big picture), but overall we are ok. At this point, we are not forced to make the kinds of heroic sacrifices as those in healthcare or in public service positions are.  It could definitely be harder than it is.

I think the first gut punch I felt from this coronavirus quasi-quarantine experience came when a friend’s dad passed away last week.  At that stage, going out and about was already questionable, and groups of more than ten were not happening. Then, a couple of days ago, I learned that a co-worker’s husband unexpectedly passed away. By this point in the corona cycle, 2 funeral had been identified as events that spread coronavirus in a relatively rural community in Georgia, leading to many serious illnesses and deaths. So attending my co-worker’s family’s funeral to support her husband would, again, not happen.

Instead of going to pay my respects, I sent cards and texts and tried to support from a distance.

Honestly, it felt inadequate.  Disappointing.  And it made me mad.  Technology is great, for sure, but there are some things that you need to show up for as a friend and as a support. Like, physically show up for. I grew up Catholic and my dad taught me the seven corporal works of mercy, the last of which is to bury the dead.  When we cannot gather to express our sorrow, our comfort, our support, to just bear witness, what is lost? I heard about people doing Zoom funerals and I just shake my head.  I suppose it is something but it hurts my heart. It’s an extra layer of loss. So many emotions.

Other possible struggles are on the horizon.  Friends and family who have special birthdays coming up in the next week.  How do we celebrate them while adhering to health and safety guidelines?  Easter is next weekend.  What will our holiday look like, since our huge family egg hunt and crepe celebration really can’t happen?

I don’t have answers for these questions.  It is a very strange time.  While technology is great, there are some things that it can’t replace. All of this ties in to the concerns both of the chicks have shared about mental health at this time. I’m sure more will come up as time wears on. How do we show up for people when we can’t physically show up for them? It’s something I am puzzling over in this hard season. How have you been able to remain connected?  Are there any other life events that we need to do now that technology just can’t replace?

As much as I hear our country’s leaders talk about the “pent up demand” for goods and services brought on by the quarantine, I predict an even larger pent up demand for people.  For presence.  For connection.  For contact.  For togetherness.

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