I have sat down to write this blog post at least half a dozen times. I have so many words in my head, but I can’t seem to get any of them out fully formed. I feel like I am treading water. Stuck in a place where I am alive but not living. A place where it is hard to talk and breathe at the same time.
There is this moment after a trauma. This moment when you realize that your life can never be the same. It’s the realization that no matter how badly you want things to stay the way they were, they can’t. Because something has happened that has drastically changed your world and it can’t be undone. No amount of wishing or denying or grieving can put things back to the way they were before.
And part of this moment is also the realization that things are going to be really hard for a while. You’re going to have to do a lot of work, and cry a lot of tears, and have a lot of awkward conversations. And at the end of it all you still will not be able to get back to where you started before the trauma occurred. At the end of all that hard work the best that you can hope for is that whatever new place you find yourself in will be ok. That it will still have sunshine and laughter and people who love you.
I think in some ways that this moment is what most of us are experiencing right now. This pandemic has changed our world completely, and some unknown number of those changes can’t be undone. I know my world has changed. I am fortunate that no one in my family is sick yet. But I have friends, people I love, who have lost parents and relatives. My town has changed. So many people have lost their jobs. I don’t know how many of the local businesses will be able to reopen. At least one of the shop owners has died. My relationships have changed. A precious handful have strengthened, but most of them have simply been put on hold, and I don’t know what those relationships will look like when they finally get reconnected. There is such a feeling of uncertainty and waiting and not knowing what pieces of our lives will still be there for us when all of this is over. It’s terrifying if you let yourself stop and think about it.
But there is another certainty about traumatic experiences. It’s that life keeps marching forward in spite of them. It can seem absurd in the moment, but it happens nevertheless. I went for a walk today and all the flowers in the town center are blooming. They are blooming not for people to enjoy but because that’s what they do. We don’t know how long this pandemic will last. And we don’t know where we’re going to end up when it does. But life is still moving forward even as we feel like we’re standing still. And after we’ve gotten through all the hard work and tears and sleepless anxiety-filled nights, we will find ourselves somewhere. It will be somewhere different than the place we were before. All we can hope for is that wherever that new place is, it still has sunshine and laughter and people who love us.