Despite the darkness, I still see you

“Mama said there’d be days like this…”

Yes. Mama did say that. She said there would be “days.”

Not weeks.

Not months. 

In fact, Mama had NO IDEA there’d be times like this. She didn’t have words of wisdom from years of experience to soothe us through the kind of world we’re living in right now.

My sophomore year in college in northwestern Massachusetts, we had a blizzard on the 4th of October, November, and December. That middle snowstorm was accompanied by a blackout.

As you can imagine, we college kids without typical real-life responsibilities didn’t take it so badly. In fact, we did a darn good job of making the most of it.

We took over the common areas of our dorms, where there were various forms of competition, ranging from "manly" pillow fights in the pitch black:

to my forte, foosball, by candlelight:

Once the adrenaline (and, probably, the alcohol) was spent, there was further avoidance of studying in front of the living room fireplace:

breaking down whatever wood we could find to keep the fire burning:

Once we ran out of pizza boxes -- and, considering our age and state of mind, probably some broken furniture -- to feed the flames, my roommate and I begrudgingly made our way back upstairs.

There, we encountered our neighbors, reading by generator-powered EXIT signs in the hallway.

These were seniors who couldn’t afford to lose a single day of work toward their Fall semester theses. And since they had no idea when the power would come back on, they did what they could to keep making progress through adversity.

From a note scribbled on the back of one of these photos, I know that November blackout lasted only a couple of hours. When we discovered COVID-19 had made it to American shores, we were told we’d get past it in a couple of weeks.

That was March -- when we, the adult versions of those carefree college kids, created what fun we could with the time we thought we had on our hands. There was baking, and puzzle-solving, and Netflixing.

But here we are in July.

To a large degree, our lights are still out, but we’re increasingly expected to keep working on our adult-life versions of senior-year theses without knowing when the semester will end and whether grad schools will even exist by the time we graduate.

Oops. Have I taken the college metaphor too far? Sorry. I got caught up in those purple mountains' majesty.

So, tell me: Has your life since Corona gave you the biggest hangover you’ve ever experienced been an ongoing Martha Stewart episode, with no morning alarms and nothing but building family bonds?

Yeah, mine either.

Our current reality is, well, not like any reality that has ever been.

It’s hard. And weird. And eye-opening. And uneven. And enriching. And despairing. And, and, and --

-- in short, it’s anything and everything, in alternating waves.

And we all feel like we’re going it alone. Yet, when we have the courage to open up about it, we hear from others that they’re going through the same thing.

In other circumstances that would be a comfort, because it would mean there was at least one person out there who had come out the other side and could tell us it will be okay.

But not this time.

We all keep riding this rollercoaster -- on our own in the very first car -- no longer waving our arms in the air, staring down the successive loop-de-loops and twists-and-turns, hoping each one will be the last and we’ll soon make a safe return to the station.

So, maybe this isn’t a time to reply to a complaint with, “Oh, gosh, me too,” or “We’re all going through this.”

In this moment, when none of us has the answers yet, maybe it would do us more good if we look each other in the eye (from 6 feet apart, of course) and just say, “I see you, and I’m SO sorry you’re dealing with this. It really, really sucks.” 

That response doesn’t solve anything, I know. But at least it may remind the person across from us --

who’s full of pain, or fear, and doesn’t know how to make it through --

that they’re still here, that they’re not invisible, and that their problems, even if universal, are real and their unique experience and feelings around them are important.

In that vein, let me (hopefully not be the first to) say to you, dear friend:

“I see you, and I’m SO sorry you’re dealing with this. It really, really sucks.”


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