We passed the 100-day mark of shelter-in-place in the Bay Area. I found out I won’t be returning to my office until January. Covid cases are still rising across the country, including in California. Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free.
The world has been collectively holding its breath since the beginning of the year. Even those of us who are sure that there is no “getting back” to normal, we have been holding our breath waiting to see what the new normal will be like.
I, for one, have forgotten that there is a place between what was and what will be.
I can continue to hold my breath, becoming heady and dizzy, falling into a state of hibernation. A self-induced coma. Closing my eyes real tight and saying, “wake me up when this is over.”
I can continue to put off thoughts about how the trajectory I was on at work was suddenly derailed and I’m feeling like I have to start over with conversations about the future of my role.
I can continue to put off thoughts about what it means to not visit family, to not travel long distances, and I’m feeling helpless and scared about missing them.
I can continue to put off thoughts about my relationship with running in the absence of races or training with teammates or running with friends and I’m feeling like I’m floating when it comes to any sort of goal.
I can continue to put off thoughts about my relationship with writing and assume I’ll just “feel like it” again someday and I’m feeling like my creativity has just wandered off and may not return.
I can continue to put off thoughts about how seeing photos of friends assembling in groups without masks, about how reading comments of people who say “all lives matter” or “they should protest more peacefully” or “but I’m not racist,” about how voter suppression is happening in Kentucky literally as I write this, all these things make my blood boil and anxiety spike, and I’m feeling like there’s no way for me to make a difference.
I can hold my breath through all these thoughts and feelings, waiting for them to go away, waiting for the new normal to get here so that I can restart where I left off before the pandemic.
I can exhale, and then take tentative sips of breath in this new atmosphere.
Maybe it’s not yet time for gulping in air, feeling a sense of freedom and a newness.
We’ve landed on a new planet, one called Limbo, and it looks like we may be here for a while. A pit stop on our way to the future. We hoped it would be a short layover, but we’re starting to realize that we’ll be here long enough that we’ll need to grudgingly set up camp and make it feel just a little like home.
So first we need to test the air to make sure it won’t poison us.
Small sips, small steps first.
A conversation with a supervisor.
FaceTime with Mom.
A phone call on a run.
A twenty-minute free write.
A donation, an article read and shared, a social media break.
Instead of right away wiping the entire slate clean and starting over in this new place, starting with a few small things that make me feel like myself, allow me to see what’s important, help me see what I want to keep and what I want to throw away.
It means taking a little breath, noticing if it’s filling me up or poisoning me, and making adjustments. It’s coming to terms with this new environment. It’s grieving what has been lost and admitting I’m scared about what’s to come.
It’s about making friends with the power of passing time and filling that time with something other than denial.
Filling the time by hoping to hold our breath through it might seem easier in the short-term. But then we’ll wake up fully ill-equipped in the state of new normal, because we won’t have gone through the adjustment in Limbo to prepare ourselves. We cannot skip this step. We cannot jump from old to new without a period of transition, which can become a period of metamorphosis if we only let it.