I resolved on January 1, 2021, that I would write and then post Monday – Friday. Quickly, that goal changed. Next I decided that I would write and then post three days a week. Last week, which was also the third week in January, I did not post at all. I did write. I wrote and rewrote.
Last Monday I wrote about rejection. I was feeling blue and feeling left out. I spent the entire day writing. I ended up writing myself into an understanding space. I discovered that what I was feeling is loss, not rejection. For a moment I felt better.
I recognized that we all may be feeling left out, feeling a loss, or better, just feeling lost. We are living through a global pandemic (duh). We have been left out of the lives we usually lead. None of us are doing what we usually do. Even the more permissive pandemic-participators, as they defiantly slip their masks around their neck once inside Costco, have had to adjust. Regardless of their rebellious acts, for them to enter a store, they have to wear a mask.
Collectively, life is not how we pictured it would be. The pandemic’s end still seems so far. It is hard not to become numb and complacent, and forget life was supposed to be. Now with toilet paper reliably back in stock, it also seems comfortably dystopian. I think it is ok to acknowledge the awkwardness of this moment. It is weird.
Our oldest son, Kyle, should be halfway around the world at NYU Abu Dhabi, finishing his junior year of college. He and I hike together a few times a week. We have decided to explore all canyon paths around Salt Lake City. Last week he showed me this magnificent path above Salt Lake City’s Avenue’s neighborhood. It felt like we were walking in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. I felt transported. Kyle is a runner and also has a goal to run everyday. Saturday he fell down a slippery mountain trail, bruised and hurt his knee. He ran on Sunday. His knee still hurts today. He is currently in the basement applying for jobs and playing Minecraft. Our youngest son, Eli, is one of the few people who was able to follow through with his plans: he did a Wilderness Medicine and Mountain Rescue semester at the National Outdoor Research School (NOLS). NOLS was his plan pre-Covid. Of course, we worried his semester would be canceled. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Yet, NOLS was also impacted. They eliminated the in-hospital sections and for three months Eli was strictly cocooned within a small group of students. In the desert, his group found their planned water source was dry, and had to search for water for more than forty-eight hours (twice). Eli loved it. He loved NOLS. His recent job, snow-making at Park City ski area, just ended for the season. Last night he came to my room and excitedly told me he loved having Sushi with his girlfriend’s family. Right now he is home and sleeping on the couch. I love these moments.
Dave is currently in the home office working, which he has done since March. I often try to work in the office too. During the day, the office has always been my sacred space. Between Dave’s Zoom calls and his super loud meeting voice, with my laptop in hand, I find myself quickly exiting, sitting at various tables around the house. Sometimes we fight about this office space. One week I even cried. I was like,
“Dude, everything was great until you started working from home.”
Then I felt mean.
Disrupted. That is what we are.
Before this all happened to all of us, what were your plans? What were your days like?
Dave left early each morning. I spent the day quietly working. I saw friends for lunch or long walks. This was supposed to be our empty-nest-year. A year ago, Eli was a high school senior. I was feeling all the feels and was not sure I was ready for my boys to fly away. I cried a lot and could not believe my babies were grown. As a way to circumvent our empty-nest sorrow, Dave and I schemed how we would spend the frequent flyer miles we’ve been hoarding into an expansive, around-the-world trip. I finally made it to Platinum status, something I thought I would personally never be able to do. We would leave right after dropping off Eli. We would fly to Europe, South Africa and back to Europe. By mid-October, we would meet up with Kyle at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. Then Dave and I would head to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Japan and head on home. Dave would work remote. So would I. We were excited. I fantasized about all the national parks, little towns and villages we would explore all around the world. I imagined the different grocery stores and interesting people we would meet. Dave and I would be home in time to meet Eli as he finished his NOLS semester. I could not wait.
Even though I pride myself in my extreme budget travel ability to stretch points miles and grocery store purchases, including the Adams’-Family-preferred, 3-Euro meal, it is not lost on me how decadent our scheme was.
Then sometime last week, on one of our daily walks, I blurted,
“Dave, you have your thing. Right now you are converting our 20 year old 4Runner into an off road camping machine. You always find a project to distract you. It is January and the grey skies are bringing me down. I want a thing. Instead, I feel like I am treading water and am not sure how to put my feet on the ground.”
We were quiet and kept on walking.
As we walked, my thoughts percolated to the surface.
“Wait. Before this stupid pandemic, I did have a thing. We travel. I also used travel to pull me out of my winter blues. When January came around, instead of feeling depressed, I would distract myself by planning our next adventure. I think I need to find something else.”
I feel this loss. I really miss traveling. I miss it so much that even when Dave suggests we can safely camp in Utah, I snap at him. I tell him I feel like I am settling, that I feel resentment. I definitely feel discombobulated. I write about feeling discombobulated. I am sure I have written some of this before. I feel repetitive. I feel boring. I feel bored. I am working to find a way through (obviously). I hope you are too.
Thank goodness for perspective. I also recognize that if we were not living through a global pandemic, I would never have this extra time with my boys, or actually take the time to go camping — in Utah. I am grateful. I admire Kyle and Eli’s strength. I know it has not been easy having life ripped apart. I know my privileged-world sorrow pales with the significant disruption that so many are experiencing. Over this past year, I have seen friends lose jobs and lose loved ones. I know others who have dealt with devastating cancer diagnoses and sudden deaths, events that would throw anyone off their axis, even in non-pandemic times. I have a friend who was paralyzed from the armpits down this past July. He was working on staining his house while working from home. He fell 35 feet and landed on his head. He is alone in his ICU hospital bed and hoping one day soon he can move on to rehabilitation. I feel very sad for him.
I feel greedy again for feeling as lost as I do. Like a wave, my feelings move. At the end of these particular words, I realize that ultimately I feel grateful. I feel grateful that I am surrounded by the people that I love, even if I think they talk too loud on Zoom calls.