Saturday, August 1, 2020

Grief & Gratitude

Whenever I start having free-floating anxiety, it’s usually because I’m not grateful enough for the good things in my life.  I’m too focused on some personal crisis or problem.  I give myself a pep talk, ask God for forgiveness, and make some time for gratitude.  That’s worked pretty well for most of my life.  But life has significantly changed in this Age of Covid.

Yesterday I masked up and went into the big city to run some errands and do some necessary shopping.  I’m one of those renegades who don’t think masks are necessary.  I think social distancing and a lot of hand washing is sufficient.  But I wear a mask where its required just out of compassion for the poor store clerks whose job it is to be sure everybody is wearing a mask.  They’re just trying to make a living.  I know some anti-maskers defy mask requirements.  I’m not judging them.  In fact, maybe we need a few defiant people to make a statement, but I don’t think that’s my calling.

Shopping used to be pleasurable.  Sometimes, even when I had everything on my list in my shopping buggy, I’d browse around and find something I hadn’t known that I needed - or wanted.  But shopping is not pleasurable anymore.  It’s more like a military mission - a foray. Get in, get what you need, and get out.  

Eating out used to be pleasurable, but masks have ruined that.  Of course, you’re allowed to remove the mask to shovel food in your mouth, but the mask is supposed to be on until the moment your food arrives.  Some restaurants only offer outdoor seating.  That might be pleasant in the Scottish Hebrides, but it’s not too pleasant in southern Louisiana in 95+ degree heat and humidity.  Yesterday I sat in the car and had a cold drink and a protein bar.  It was sufficient, but hardly a “dining experience.”

I’m a little bit introverted.  Even so, I used to enjoy the occasional chat with a stranger in the grocery aisle or the cashier when checking out.  Masks have ruined that, too.  We all seem to talk less.  It’s harder to make yourself heard and understood when you’re wearing a mask.  I never realized how much I used to observe facial expressions when talking to people.  Now it’s sort of like talking to a blank wall.  Someone might speak a greeting, but I can’t tell if they’re happy or sad or grumpy.  It’s like I’m interacting with robots.  I miss seeing people’s faces.  When you’re faced with masks (no pun intended) every time you leave your house, it begins to wear on you.  On some level you start to feel like everybody’s humanity is being sacrificed.  

And I miss church the way it used to be.  My church is open with social distancing and masks, but what kind of fellowship can you have with a mask on?  We Christians need each other more than ever in these trying times.  I think we all understood in the beginning when we were supposed to be “flattening the curve,” but how long is this going to go on?

Add to the Covid business, the state of the nation - cities being burned with impunity by the hateful and the lawless - politicians turning a blind eye to the destruction - millions out of work - the destruction and removal of historical monuments, accompanied by scathing insults to us and our ancestors.  This is cause for grief.

I’ve tried giving myself the usual pep talk.  I’ve prayed about it, and I’ve received some comforting insights.  I’ve suffered losses and so have you.  There’s no point in denying it.  Some people have suffered big losses - the death of a close friend or family member.  Some people have lost their jobs and don’t know if the job will still be there when this is all over.  These losses are in a special category all their own.  The attacks on one’s heritage and culture is yet another category.  But even the small losses - just not being able to live the way you used to - are significant.  I think God is giving me permission to let grief and gratitude coexist right now.  Grief over the continuing, daily losses and immense gratitude for health, enough food to eat, resources to pay the bills, and peace in my neighborhood.