The coronavirus is a “great global pause.”
How are you filling the time in the midst of it?
I’m amazed at how so many of us are staying more connected than ever, even as we’re forced to stay apart. Friends are calling and sending cards. My husband’s old friends from NELFTY are holding mini Zoom reunions on Sunday nights to catch up.
I’ve got 10 siblings and have never felt closer to them. We created a text thread that has become a lifeline, an unbroken chain of love and humor connecting us over six states during these weeks of “sheltering in place.”
But it can feel daunting. Leave your phone for five minutes and you come back to 45 texts.
One brother created Brett March Movie Madness after basketball was canceled. We all ranked the movie grid his family created. I’m still fuming that “The Lord of the Rings” gave “The Shawshank Redemption” the boot.
We’re sharing selfies and spring bouquets, grandchildren’s art and fresh cinnamon rolls. We’re suggesting movies and shows: “Game of Thrones,” “Fauda,” “Lonesome Dove,” “The Wire,” “Knives Out,” and “Yesterday.”
In between humorous texts, we share pandemic updates in our various cities, including New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland and Columbus. We offer prayers and updates for the brother-in-law who survived coronavirus and the
brother-in-law who just started chemotherapy for cancer.
The niece who is new to home schooling, like so many parents in America, joked about locking herself in the bathroom just to have a moment to text. She got stressed out trying to log into the homework iPad using 95 different logins. “Apparently, hackers aren’t real interested in second-grade learning,” she wrote. I love that she can laugh through the struggle.
It makes me appreciate that Facebook post: “Feeling guilty about your kids watching too much TV? Just mute it and put the subtitles on. Boom. Now they’re reading.”
Humor keeps us connected. When my brother and his wife ventured out to buy groceries in Columbus, his wife texted: “My dearest family, we go into battle this morning at the local grocery store. We expect fierce opposition, but with courage and a sense of honor, we shall prevail. I shall send you my locket to think of me and any groceries lost in the engagement. Love, the colonels.”
My brother who loves to scuba dive, used to volunteer at the aquarium in Chicago. It’s now closed due to coronavirus, so they let the penguins go wild. In the video, the tuxedoed birds run around like prom night gone wild.
My sister was teaching a college course by Zoom when a Zoombomber mooned the whole class, which prompted my siblings to opine: “I’m behind on my studies ... bad things happen during a full moon.”
You have to laugh, because we will cry at some point. Last week, I attended my first Zoom funeral. The virus killed my friend’s elderly mother, so we gathered online to hear the rabbi and family share stories about her. It was sad to watch the coffin being lowered into the grave without any of us there.
On the worst days, my family reminds me, we’re all just doing the best we can, and each day, that best is a moving target.
One day, I snapped at my husband who was giving me directions I hadn’t asked for on a route that I travel every day. (See? I’m still annoyed!) I’m using this time in solitary with him to pause and edit what comes out of my mouth before I say it.
One day on our text thread, one sibling asked: “What one word would you use to describe your stay-at-home experience so far? Keep it PG.”
The responses? Fattening. Perspective. Recalibrating. Chocolatey. Calming. Napping. Walking. Hiking. Chaordic (chaos and order.)
My word? Clarifying.
This time out, this great global pause is clarifying for me what is most important. It’s a time that we will never again have.
Writer Will Durant once wrote that civilization is a stream with banks. He said the stream is filled with the things historians record, pandemics and the like, while on the banks, “… unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks.”
The story of this pandemic isn’t just about mortality rates and unemployment numbers. It’s about what we’re doing on the banks of this river, and how we can celebrate life, even now.