I am writing from a desk I found down the street a couple weeks ago that is now tucked into the corner of my room. A desk that has brought so much joy to my life and came just in time. This is my fifth day off inside amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Our governor announced an official order to shelter-in-place for two weeks, but to be honest, this is only the beginning.
It’s strange times we live in, stuck inside our homes as a means to stop the spread of a virus that is ravaging our world. Although “stuck” is not an accurate word to describe this situation, because it is a blessing to have a roof over my head. Not only are many without homes as we speak, but others are worried about how they will pay rent with businesses shutting down, leaving millions unemployed or without work. I feel lucky to have a job in which I am considered essential, leaving me with one less thing to worry about during this difficult time.
However, as I sit here, there are very few things that consume my mind. I am thinking of my family I love and have been keeping in contact with as much as a can, about the virus which has changed life as we know it, and with what activities I will fill the rest of my day. These include reading, some word puzzles, perhaps watching a show while working on the jigsaw puzzle I started last night. I am feeling refreshed, having gotten outside for a run this morning, a more frequent activity of mine these days and one I am grateful for; in Italy right now, citizens aren’t even allowed to do that. This is not just our current situation in the United States but a reality that has affected all of humanity in some way worldwide. For the first time in my life, and I’d say the first time for most, we are facing something that has affected every individual on this planet. It’s introduced a concreteness to this world that perhaps many have never comprehended or understood up until now.
For the first time in my life, I am not thinking of the future or what I will do tomorrow, next week, or this summer, because none of that is guaranteed. I do not know when this pandemic will end or be under control or what our world will look like at that time. In all reality, our world will never be the same, this is one of those things that marks a turning point in life, a beginning and an end. The world as we know it has come to a halt, and we do not know what it will be like once we rebuild our society. People will die, millions will grieve, others will seek new jobs, while businesses will work to rebuild themselves if they can. The healthcare system will pick up the broken pieces from the trauma they have encountered while others will learn how to once again work in the office. All will decide how they want to fill their days, while slowly but surely, humanity learns what it’s like to be outside again in the world without fear of an unforeseen killer. In the meantime, one cannot help but think, where does that leave us now?
This pandemic, the unspoken mandate to slow down our lives while staying at home and remaining socially distant, leaves you with nothing but the present. We are not guaranteed anything to come, and we cannot control the future, though many of us try and believe we can. For the first time perhaps ever, we have been given a concrete example that life is out of our control, that all we have is now. This current reality is a reflection of a daily truth we often refuse to accept. In this state, what is important illuminates itself—those we love most come to mind. The things we miss will make themselves known, leaving all else we filled our days with prior to this time come into question.
If you did not have another day to live life as you have been, if your future were not guaranteed as it now stands, what would you do with another day? Who would you see, who would you call, who might you declare your love to? Would you chase that dream? Would you make the move? Would you continually run around pleasing everyone you know or be okay spending more time with the few people who have shaped you into the person you are today? Would you travel? Or would you stay at home? Would you take care of your body a little more if you only made the time to do so or eat better seeing what you can make while cooking at home? Would you spend a little more quality time with your kids and a little less time on your screens? Would you go for a walk, get outside in the fresh air, or would you stay at home while the rest of the world spins around you? Whatever you choose, it’s up to you, and it’s okay. Each choice is yours alone, and each day is a blessing. This is our concrete reality today, but really, it is our everyday truth.
In a time when we do not know when we’ll be able to gather and celebrate with family and friends again, when many do not know when they will return to work and others are left to wonder when their kids will go back to school, don’t forget to embrace these days. They are something we may never have again, as these are unprecedented times. These days can be full of fear and anxiety or love and simple pleasures. Joy can be found in the simplest ways, such as with this desk of mine—a place to sit and write to you all, a place to do my puzzle, to organize my things, to place my book. Joy may not be what it once was for you, but I promise you it’s there. You just haven’t slowed down enough to find it. These days are not wasted; in fact, they may be just what we needed.
Now is a time to come together as a nation and as a shared humanity, because we’re all in this together. In a world that has come to value doing more, faster, better, a world that has been separated by race, politics, religion, and so much more, I hope you take this time to remember where life really begins and what’s really in our control. That we are all the same when you slow down and think about it. That joy comes from within, that we all crave connection, and that whatever serves you and you alone is okay and is exactly what you should seek and share.
Stay strong, my friends. Choose courage in these times of uncertainty and grace in the face of the unknown. We’re all in this together—we always have been.