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May We Have What We Need

My next-door neighbors just moved, and I’m mad. We’ve only lived here for three years, and it’s not like we’re never going to see them again, but it’s just one more change I can’t control.

Frankly, I find myself in a bad mood about practically everything these days. I’m mad that there’s nothing left to view on TV after four months of binge-watching everything from British mysteries to documentaries about places we can no longer visit. I’m mad that I have to be supportive and encouraging in Zoom meetings, despite the frustration of most tasks taking twice what they would if we were doing them in real life. I’m mad about COVID, about Donald Trump, about the selfish short-sightedness of many Americans, and about not being able to plan anything because who knows what’s really going to happen.

What I mostly see are people trying their very hardest to have a good attitude, to be helpful, to listen to how others feel.

Needless to say, this makes me really fun to live with. Jodi has had to roll her eyes at me so many times since March that I’m surprised she still speaks to me. I have taken to sighing loudly throughout the day to demonstrate my weariness with all of this, and I’ve made phrases like “this crazy world we’re living in” and “pre-pandemic” a regular part of every conversation. I also frequently lose sight of how completely blessed and fortunate I am, which makes my quarantine poutiness even worse.

Still, once in a while, all of the messiness of this time falls away, and I am reminded of what’s important. My gratitude for that is immeasurable. I remember when my mother died unexpectedly more than 30 years ago. For several days afterwards, I would awaken to the reality of what had happened and feel crushed, unable to imagine ever feeling better. Our relationship had not been a perfect one, but my life would never be the same without her in it. Sometimes, just the thought of that would take my breath away. And then, gradually, I began to see the pink sunrise and notice the smell of water on early morning summer lawns. Life would go on and I would have the great good fortune to have had nearly 40 years with her.

This week, it’s my dogs who are the constant reminder of what’s important. I have loved me some dogs in my life—a gift for which I will always feel lucky. From my childhood dog Tony, to Jessee, a huge, black poodle whose escapades could entertain people for hours, to our amazing service dogs, and now Remy, the little Corgi who has stolen our hearts. It’s hard to focus only on the grim when a dog like our yellow lab Nugget looks at me soulfully from across the room with her deep, knowing, brown eyes. And for me, what they do is remind me that we continue to connect, no matter what.

Almost everyone I talk to these days includes the word “exhausted” in any description of how they’re feeling. I can’t even imagine the level of fatigue of people who are working, maintaining their houses or apartments, and trying to care for or home-school kids. And yet, what I mostly see are people trying their very hardest to have a good attitude, to be helpful, to listen to how others feel.

I have no doubt that we will get through this, though I imagine our world will never be quite like it was before. We will be wary, cautious, and worried in a way that many of us have not been accustomed. But we might also be a little more understanding now, or sensitive, or compassionate. We’ve seen so many people struggle and ache and demand something better for their lives. We have reached the end of complacency, I hope, and with that comes trying to walk the wobbly line of the unknown. It’s difficult now to not see each other’s vulnerability, and impossible to ignore it.

Who can say what the world will look like after this? We all wish for something different and better, and the unknown of it all is frightening. I don’t do well in the initial moments of the world crumbling beneath my feet, but I trust things will right themselves with time. I know that being mad doesn’t help anything, and I remind myself of that daily as I vow to practice staying on an even keel. We have each other, and those stalwarts in our lives who stay by our sides—dogs, friends, mates, co-workers. May we feel blessed. May we feel resilient. May we have what we need.

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