They say that COVID-19 may come in waves: waves across countries, counties, homes, and upcoming seasons. This first national wave, we were much less prepared than we would like to be for future waves. When I consider other challenges in life which come in waves, I think of physical pain; emotional pain and grief; levels of intimacy in relationships; attention span; hunger and thirst, moods. The embodied human experience is one full of waves, cycles, seasons- all transitions. Many of them we come to recognize in ourselves, if not in others. We see aging, sickness and healing, relationships beginning and ending, plants and weather changing with the seasons, women’s bodies cycling with the phases of the moon, the stages of sleep, arousal, hormonal potency, and even spiritual maturation. Some of these we have measurements or standards with which we can compare ourselves individually, as couples, families, communities or nations. However, this new experience in which we all find ourselves has no point of reference. It is alarming, disarming, and unsettling. Our ways of being, our known’s, our patterns, our identities are all being rewritten as we go.
Change is not optional; it is certain. In reading William Bridges book Transitions and considering the process of life review many of us do in times of crisis and loss, I am acutely aware of how averse, and frankly unaccustomed, we are to the work of transition, the space between ending and beginning- what anthropologists who study ritual call liminal space. We are no longer at the beginning; we do not know what is next; and the end is not on a discernible timeline. Often, if we have seen others come out the other side of some kind of challenge or struggle, we place value on that struggle. We determine it worthy of our time, blood, sweat and tears. If we can assign meaning, and particularly a trajectory, to an experience, we can mark where we are on the journey.
This whole first wave of wondering if America will be affected like other countries, realizing that it is, and not knowing what our next steps will be or how long they will take is the depth of uncertainty. It is very uncomfortable to want to simply return to what we knew before, and wonder if that reality resembles what will be “when this thing is all over.” We tend to cling to the known and familiar, and judge harshly the different and unseen.
Certainly human history has seen pandemics, plagues, and widespread mass destruction. One of today’s differences is how far we thought we have come, how safe and prepared we thought we were. This is not a point of criticism; but rather a gateway for compassion, the emotional wave involving recognition, the full gamut of feelings, and the recovery which will include reflecting on what we have learned and what can happen differently in the future. This current pandemic is a catalyst in the heart of all people, individually and collectively, who are now threatened indiscriminately along with the financial, healthcare, and worship systems that have shaped our lives. What has meaning and how we choose those ways of being and doing in the world are shifting.
Yes, let’s name it- we are having global growing pains and identity crises, simultaneous with widespread fear and loss. AND…For every shocked exhausted healthcare worker and grieving family member, there are stories of generosity, gratitude, and grace. Death is upon us; but not without the ineffable resilience of the resurrection. This Holy Week is strangely coinciding with one of America’s predicted most deadly weeks. Of all the things we are doing differently from the past, let us turn in particular to the heroes and heroines of the world’s sacred texts who faced unparalleled challenges and still relied on the resources, grace, timing, healing, and omnipresence of the Divine. Let us be gentle with ourselves as we each figure out how to do what is best for us. We will make mistakes and suffer tremendous loss; but we will do it in the company of friends, family, and strangers who are all One in the Global Community. Let us know in our souls, the way we still expect to see the sun in the morning each night, that morning is coming. And the next wave of night that washes over you, small or crushing, remember that you have seen what happens next. This time morning might appear differently, or at a new hour; but one thing is certain- there will be Light.
(Thank you to ipopba/Getty Images for the beautiful Feature Image in this Post)