I met up with a friend locally this week—we skateboarded at a distance, swapped stories, and tried not to fall off our newly purchased boards. I was shocked at both how quickly it was to get back into the groove of being around another human and how, at times, utterly mundane it felt. After months of not being able to see loved ones, I figured even just the sight would cause me to fall apart or spiral me into a level of connection I had yet to experience. Instead, it felt normal and I was caught off guard by that sensation. How could this only feel normal when I had built up any interaction in my head to feel like so much more? On a daily basis, I day dream about hugs, reunions, late night conversations, etc. What was going on? I figured I’d have a shot of energy and endorphins similar to when I return to caffeine after a break.
With time and distance comes clarity. To start, I forgot about two key quotes and concepts that I usually hold so dear: the blessing of a normal day and the power of honoring seemingly small moments. I offer some favorite quotes to help drive the point home:
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― Mary Jean Irion
“There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this happens, concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur (the little happiness) until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will shine. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow.” ― Ardis Whitman
I’m convinced that these two concepts unlock the key to what will get me through this pandemic over time. In the early stages of a long distance relationship many years ago, I texted my then partner about how I longed for normalcy with them: to go to the grocery store, to get morning coffee together, to argue over the thermostat setting, etc. That’s how I feel now with all of my loved ones. I long for the day when we once more take for granted the normal moments with each other (first quote) and instead don’t rely so heavily on the small moments of our lives to keep us afloat (second quote).
When the time comes when it’s safe for us to be in person again and we’re each left at times feeling disappointed, I’ll remind myself that it’s about the habit of loving one another and I hope you will too. The habit of choosing to connect, the habit of asking questions, the habit of intentionality, the habit of listening… It’s not about the specific moment in and of itself. The moment will likely fall short especially in those early, awkward interactions where we won’t know how long to hug each other for, whether we’re still safe, nor what to even say since so much has changed yet every day has felt the same. It’ll be about the long arc and the wider context of us as humans finding ways to return to each other building our connection muscles back up one by one. That is the beauty and a single moment won’t be able to properly encapsulate it. Don’t expect it to and embrace it if it does. Those moments of utter connection and aliveness are rare in life as a whole and I am remembering a pandemic won’t change that.
All of this is to say: Don’t worry if it feels normal or even mundane when we see each other again—this is what we’ve longed to have return to us to take for granted once more.