Relephant read: Elephant’s Continually updated Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon
Dear self, dear friend, dear stranger,
I know you have this tendency to like to place things neatly into baskets. This tendency to want to label that which is standard and nonstandard, acceptable or not acceptable, normal or weird.
I know you have this sometimes overwhelming need to find the bright side of things, the reason that something might have happened, the positive in all the sh*t.
I know you sometimes feel like you need to have it together. You’ve got to be strong, you say, for yourself, your lover, your spouse, your children, your family, and friends. You’ve got to be strong for your coworkers, for the strangers ringing up your groceries and delivering your mail, for the imaginary but somehow real world on the other side of Facebook and Instagram or an Elephant Journal story.
But, sweet human, sometimes strength is found in allowing yourself to grieve. Sometimes strength is found in sharing that you’re feeling weak and beaten down. Sometimes strength is found in releasing the attachment to what you no longer have (if only temporarily) so that you may clear space to show up and hold others in the capacity you want to.
We cannot hold others if our hands are full with the things we cling to.
My dear human, it is okay to grieve the things that you never thought you’d miss:
It is okay to grieve the cubicle in the office you wanted to get out of to work from home.
It is okay to grieve the loss of the sound and distraction of the coworkers that you didn’t know you appreciated so.
It is okay to grieve the loss of the job you thought you hated, and all the time that it sucked away from your interests, your passions—passions that are, right now, sometimes hard to remember.
It is okay to grieve the loss of the hum of the traffic that you’d normally be stuck in at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. Yes, even if you know it pollutes.
It is okay to miss the busyness even if you know that you needed the time to slow down, and it is okay to miss the calm, the quiet, the alone of what the house was like when the kids were in their dorms and your lover needed to stay late at work.
It is okay to miss missing your spouse, your kids.
It is okay to grieve the you who you were—or at least the you who you thought you were. That patience! Where did it go? That stability, that can-do attitude.
It is okay to mourn your trademark ability to always give of yourself (often, too much), to practice compassion, to be positive and supportive, or to tell it as it is. Yes, even if you know deep down you still are these things.
It is okay to mourn every single little death of your personal traits—the deaths that occur in the moment that you scream at the cat for meowing “one more time,” when you look at the five messages from that one friend and you just can’t be needed right now, or when you, straight shooter, want to tell them that their lover is a piece of sh*t, but instead only whisper that it’s going to be okay.
It is okay to grieve the loss of the idea that you were social, or antisocial; that you didn’t need people, or that you just possibly might die without them. It’s okay to grieve being “unique” or a part of a fairly unique introvert or extrovert club as we come to find that we are all, mostly, somewhere in the middle.
Every time that you think, “That’s not me,” every time you ask, “Who am I,” it is okay to grieve.
My dear human, it is okay to grieve the little things.
It is okay to grieve drinks at a bar, first dates, and anniversaries out on the town, getting too drunk, and waking up the next day needing a little hair of the dog.
It’s okay to grieve dressing up for someone other than yourself, or your roommates, or your kids, or the dog. It is okay to miss showing off your style. It is okay to grieve fashion mattering at all beyond whether or not you’re wearing a face mask.
It is okay to grieve Good Will, Buffalo Exchange, and (despite that my boss will disagree), it is okay to miss HomeGoods.
It is okay to miss the exchange of a glance with someone new, or a walk with them less than six feet apart. It is okay to miss the “accidental” intermingling of fingers and palms for the first time, or kisses with a stranger without thoughts of contagion in the back of the mind.
It is okay to miss a trip to the local shop to get your favorite incense or choose just the right stone for these stressful times.
It is okay to miss conversations on the phone that don’t turn into something about corona.
Hugs. It’s definitely okay to grieve hugs.
And convenience in any shape or form.
You have the permission to grieve the days when you could forget things at the grocery without feeling guilty for needing to visit before two weeks has passed; the ability to not have to think so critically about the items on your list.
It is okay to grieve that you can’t just plop into a chair on the patio of some new restaurant after a long walk, or jog, or run, or bike ride to a new part of town; that you cannot people watch.
It is okay to grieve not being angry when someone brushed you on the street or the crowded local trail, or to grieve the day that you didn’t have to equate human to illness.
It is okay to miss not giving a sh*t when the neighbors have a party and there are definitely more than five people there. It’s okay to grieve feeling young and invincible as you fight that “kids these days,” thought and realize you are no longer 24, but 34 or 44 or…
It is okay to grieve shelves full of toilet paper, and Clorox wipes. Even more so, it is okay to grieve the days when you didn’t f*cking care.
My dear human, it is okay to grieve the plans postponed or ruined.
It is okay to grieve the June family wedding when it’s moved to August, the high school or college graduation ceremony that will never happen.
It is okay to grieve that you couldn’t celebrate your divorce with your girl or guy friends, or your birthday with the pal who was supposed to fly in.
It is okay to grieve not being able to watch your sister labor, or coach your wife as she pushes out your firstborn (or second or third). Cry! Let out your own not-so-baby wails.
It is okay to grieve the ability to make a solid plan. When the uncertainty of whether your job will be around creeps in, when wondering if your industry will recover and allow for you to work toward your dream position, when “I don’t know” weighs hard, it is okay to grieve.
It is okay to grieve the postponement of that adventure, the before-corona relative ease of finding and moving into a new place. It’s okay to grieve the old days of just jumping in a car, or on the bike, and doing.
My dear human, it is okay to grieve “freedom.”
It is okay to grieve access to public lands and national parks, and the lines of that old song, “This land is your land, this land is my land.”
It is okay to grieve drives without the traffic sign screaming at your conscience, “critical travel only,” when your explorer’s soul “needs” to see, to feel, to smell something new.
It is okay to grieve the right to gather for the ultramarathon you’d been training for, for months. Yes, even if you’re grateful for your health. Yes, even if you know the air in your lungs is the air someone else might be struggling to get into their own. It is okay to grieve.
It is okay to grieve the business as usual of nasty partisan politics heading into a critical election, or any sense that our world is functioning.
It’s okay to grieve the naivety of thinking we weren’t quite so broken.
My dear human, it is okay to grieve the illusion.
The illusion that your relationship wasn’t as broken as it is, or that you were a better parent than you currently think you are.
The illusion that we were conservationists, or preservationists while we drove our cars.
The illusion that we were less selfish than we now know we are when forced to sit with ourselves longer than we have in a long. time.
It is okay to grieve the ideas that we used to allow ourselves to have. It is okay to grieve the hope that we lose every day that we continue to be unable to responsibly reopen our global economies when we know people’s livelihoods depend on it, but also, so does our collective, global health.
It’s okay to grieve the illusion that we were ever in control, that we could ever truly plan, that we were ever truly safe.
It’s okay to grieve our optimism as we come to realize that it isn’t healing the world, that there’s a lot more action to take, that action takes effort and we
And, too, it is okay to grieve not needing to grieve.
But I do hope that you will not run. That you will let yourself feel.
One day, things will feel just fine. You’ll have fallen, if only for a moment, into a new normal. You’ll begin to take comfort in that, for once, you finally understand that there is nothing real that we can grasp on to aside from the now. And that will be a beautiful moment—a moment to just be without your grief.
Another day, you will wake with the world seated on your chest, with your attachments tethering your body firm to the ground. You will cling to what you want, what you thought you had. And that too will be a beautiful moment—a moment of suffering so that you may remember it is time to let go. And in those moments, remember, it is okay to grieve.
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again.” ~ Pema Chödrön
What’s not on this list that should be? What are you missing?