What the Virus Gives

Posted on March 20, 2020


It’s easy to look at what we have lost, thanks to Covid-19. We have lost mobility, independence, choice. We have lost the ability to hug, to kiss, to show physical affection. We have taken those dearest to us in our lives and encased them into sterile video screens or cell phones. During most of the traumatic events in our lives, we are comforted by the touch of those we love. We need them now, yet know that their touch poses a danger to them and to us.

But, as in all things, this virus gives as it takes away. If we step away from the fear and the anxiety for a moment, we may see that there is something else going on.

The nuclear family, in the absence of the usual forces that fracture it, becomes the sole focus of our lives. Without school, without daycare, without soccer and baseball and any number of other team practices and games, without friends at the playground and play dates and parents’ sorely needed momentary escapes to their own social events, we are left with the people we have originally chosen to spend our lives with.

We no longer take ourselves or those we love for granted. That age old (or at least since the moment the first phone was invented) demand, “Call your mother,” is no longer an annoyance, to be fit, somehow, into a life that is already overextended. The ability to communicate becomes something precious, something that reminds us that these people created our first home, and it is one in which the door will always stay open to us.

We crave being with close friends, so that we can vent or crack jokes or simply be us in a way we can’t be with anyone else. The craving reminds us that our friends ave been the anchors and the sounding boards for us throughout our lives. They have been our soft landing, when the world suddenly becomes formed solely of hard edges. And so we reach out, and we find we are always welcome.

We pause to appreciate the people in our lives who many not be friends or family, but who give joy to us when we are around them: the person who cleans our house or cuts our hair or fixes our car or runs our favorite neighborhood restaurant. In the absence of having them in our lives, we are reminded of how important their existence has been to us, not because of the services they provide but because of who they are.

Our neighborhood becomes more real to us. We watch people walking dogs, as though we have never seen this taking place before. We see people mowing lawns, pushing baby strollers, coming out to check their mail. In the absence of gyms, we see people walking, walking, walking. These people remind us that life is real, that we are resilient, that we have been hurled into a sci fi movie, without a hero to kill the zombies and save the day.

In enclaves of houses or condos or the anonymity of some apartment buildings, we get notices of residents who offer to get food or run errands for the elderly or infirm. Even if we are young and healthy, this reaching out has us feel more secure, more cared for. The usual noise in our heads settles. We experience a new sense of community.

As our worlds quiet, something else softly moves into the space that has been taken up solely by fear, frustration and anger. Fear, frustration and anger don’t vacate. But they do move over to allow the new residents a space. The newcomers, gratitude and commitment and resilience, settle in. It is the newcomers that we will depend on when the virus is gone. It is the newcomers that must be carefully and lovingly nurtured for us to have our future.

Posted in: illness