One of my favorite songs in the last several years is James Bays' "Hold Back the River". Fifty different listeners could give fifty different interpretations of the meaning of the lyrics to that song, and James Bay himself has said that the song was written during an emotional fugue when he felt disconnected from his friends during a long tour. But I am going to focus on the opening line of that song, "Tried to hold you close to me, but life got in between...."
Isn't that the way we all are feeling right now? We had our routines, we each had our comfort zones, we had our plans, some of us may even have had our bucket lists, but life (in the form of COVID-19) has gotten in-between. And, unlike a trip to the dentist office, or an unexpected visit from your least favorite distant relative, there is seemingly no endpoint in sight to give us hope. Just the realization that, no matter how much we all try to claw back small parts of our prior social lives through substitutions like ZOOM or Face Time, none of us are in Kansas anymore. Except worse. In "The Wizard of Oz", at least Dorothy left a world of black and white to enter a world of technicolor. We are the opposite, living in a new world where it feels like one-third of the color palette has been replaced with a drab charcoal gray.
Add to that unsettling brew a key ingredient--anxiety. It weighs on many of us like a rain-soaked wool overcoat. It is omnipresent--sometimes I feel like it is an unwanted, silent companion as I go about trying to find some sort of normalcy. The last time I felt this anxious is when I was on a cliff-side walk in Santorini that hugged the caldera--or when I just knew the Saints (or the referees) would break my heart at the end of the season.. If you aren't a little bit anxious right now, well, I guess I envy you, but I also don't believe you. Because this is an anxiety-producing virus and anxiety is in fact the new normal. And, with social distancing and all, our support groups and the comforts that can come from simple human touch are frustratingly denied us.
But, all is far from lost..... let me hearken back to my favorite lyric fragment "...but life got in between." Yes, we are on a stay-at-home diaspora not of our own making, and we want our lives back. Like you, I want to go to Saints games, movie theaters, restaurants. I want to fly on a plane again, travel abroad (although China is off the bucket list :)). Heck, at this point, I would settle for a weekend trip to Manhattan without having to first quarantine for 14 days. Yes, life has gotten in between, but that is the point, we are still alive, and we can use this time, if not to remake ourselves, then to find new parts of ourselves. Case in point is this blog. For years, many have encouraged me to write a book--and I am close to doing so except so many of the characters that I have developed so far bear an uncomfortable resemblance to folks that I know or with whom I work. And that could be awkward at a firm holiday party. So I have used this time to put together this blog, and my readers have been kind enough to humor me in this endeavor.
Now, many of you do not have the luxury of time that I do--you have children to raise and educate, parents to care for, other pressing commitments. Those are heavy burdens indeed, not to be minimized. But there will be crevices in time even during this pandemic when you will have the opportunity to experience something new, or learn something about yourself, your family or your friends that you may never have learned but for this shared time in the wilderness. And you will be the richer for that knowledge.
But I still want my Saints games back.