I woke up the day after Olivia died, and everything had once again changed.
The previous morning, we woke up as "usual," our "new normal," exhausted from another night of sleeplessness, anxiety, close calls, trying to help her keep medicine down, crying, having to take each moment one-at-a-time just to make it to the morning.
For over a year, many nights were like that. We didn't know how many more nights, how many more years, would be that way.
24 hours later, we woke to an entirely new reality. It was all over, just like that.
I remember that morning vividly. There was sadness from the loss of Olivia, but it was dull and distant. Mostly, surprisingly, I felt peace. We'd gotten used to living without sleep, without many choices, with extra anxiety, running on adrenaline, and now, just like that, it was behind us. The pain of grief would come later, but that morning everything felt so clear and so peaceful. Morning had come.
I don't know how or when the situation with COVID will change for us, but I do believe the way things have been will pass. COVID may still exist, but like other things — flu, cancer, etc — it will move from being the thing to being a thing. I hear people say, "this is the 'new normal,'" referring to how things have been the past six months, but that does not resonate with me. We're always looking for "normal" but "normal" never comes because life is always changing. That may be the only thing we can be truly certain about. There is no "normal," as long as we're alive.
As these months go on, most of us seem to be falling into one of two groups:
- Those of us who are hunkering down in our "new normal," learning to connect digitally, accepting "distance" as a good word to describe how we should relate to each other, even learning enjoy this new way of life and making plans for this to be the way it is from now on.
- Those of us who are holding our breath until COVID is over, essentially suffocating ourselves, because no one can hold their breath for six months.
But there is another option available to us which is neither hunkering down, nor holding our breath: To be fully with life the way it is now while remaining open to the inevitable changes of life ahead. This openness toward today and tomorrow at once can also be called rest... or trust.
We can rest in each moment. We can rest in the difficult seasons, taking each moment as it comes, knowing that, while some moments are difficult, these moments are not all bad... some of them are very beautiful.
For the past 6 months, in the midst of a global pandemic, many beautiful moments have passed us by while we've hunkered down, getting cozy with COVID, and distance, and digital as our "new normal," or while others of us have held our breath, just counting the days and killing time until we can finally "get back to the way things were." Meanwhile, there has been so much beauty available to us in the closeness with immediate family, in the slowing down, in the quiet, in the stripping away of so many things that weren't working "the way things were." This has been a season of winter, where everything has stopped, where all is quiet, where plants with shallow roots are allowed to die, but where, under the surface, life is preparing for a new season of growth.
Olivia's life was difficult, but there was so much beauty in the closeness of our immediate family, in the way our community supported us, in the not-doing and the not-knowing. It was the most beautiful year, and it has led to explosive growth.
This winter season has purpose. But it is only a season.
This is our new normal: There is no "normal." There is no sense in hunkering down. Things will never stop changing. And there is no need to hold our breath. Life is still here, in these moments. In these moments, we can choose to breathe deeply.
I don't know how or when things with COVID will change, but I do know they will change. No night lasts forever. But the night does have purpose. Let's not miss what this night has for us. Also, let's not get too comfortable in the dark. The sun always rises, and the night is over, just like that.
Morning is coming.