I learned at a young age the value of being prepared. The snow scraper and kitty litter stayed in the trunk October through April (if you get it, raise your hand). Now perched in coastal NC, I replenish the “Spam, hash and Oreo stash” faithfully every May (again, show of hands and shout out your own variation of storm prep essentials).
I’m back in Central NY this week. Relentless rain leftover from Fred the Storm finds me and my sister digging up memories of Mom furiously digging ditches around our childhood home during another leftover storm to keep the water from pouring into the basement. I had no idea at the time how strong she was.)
Emergencies we can handle. We are completely unprepared for the long, slow drawn-out crisis of “life as we know” it at this age, at this point in our lives, during this season in our country’s history. My long-planned visit to see Mom (the main reason I’m here this week) has been cancelled due to Covid. I know what to do in an emergency … but what about this kind of non-urgent yet highly important non-crisis?
How have we been prepped to watch our parents as they age, as the people we know slip away and are replaced by people still familiar yet wholly strange?
How are we prepared for being the grownups in the room, on social media in online conversations or face-to-face interactions in the world, as society convulses in the weirdest ways? What prepared us for waking up from the American Dream to the reality of masks, hand sanitizer and relentless debate?
Nobody told me to be ready for any of this. And it’s not just me. It’s so many of my friends when we get real about what’s going on in our lives.
Nobody warned us about dying parents and stressed out kids and ugly neighbors and divisions that can’t seem to be bridged by simple common empathy. Nobody mentioned we might go days without a decent night’s sleep, for no apparent reason. Nobody thought to tell us that our mental health was as real — and as vulnerable — as our physical health. Nobody warned us there would be days when, after a productive and largely successful earlier part of our lives, we would have to learn all over again how to do life.
I’m tired. I’m worn out with it all. Trying to make sense of it all. Trying to keep a positive light shining. Trying to hold on the what matters, even as we accept what’s new. It’s too much. And it has to be done regardless. So I go back to what I know.
I know my way around a bag of kitty litter on black ice in a freezing wind. I know how to recover when the car starts to fishtail. I know where my portable Coleman stove is at all times. I can always boil water.
So that’s where I’ll start … with what I know.
I know the world is absolutely loaded with gorgeous, kind souls. I also know that many of those gorgeous souls are feeling the same way I am. Disoriented. A bit adrift. Wondering how we got here, yes, but not wasting too much energy on that question when faced with the more urgent questions of what do I do now.
What I know with all my heart is that I can’t let my questions distract me from the joyous parts of the life … the reunions, new beginnings and happy stories deserve, no, demand, my attention. Your tribe, your circle, your people deserve your presence.
We are not hothouse flowers. We do not wilt when things aren’t just so. We have good roots, strong stems and lasting beauty that changes with us. Our voices are still clear and true.
So maybe we have not be adequately warned so about life as we now know it. Let’s lean in to the gorgeous, kind souls that surround us, and figure it all out together.