There's Beauty in the Valley: 2021 Birthday Reflections

I was standing in line at Joe Fresh the day it opened after our last lockdown. It was a long line, so many of us itching to do something that felt close to normal. I noticed a woman approaching the line, mainly because she looked uber-confident, and was wearing an all-white outfit (something I'm always in awe of) and beautiful gold sandals. 

She stopped, turned towards the line, and started yelling. Loud and fast. Arms flailing, pointing, angry. It was a really intense monologue about various eastern European governments, sex, prostitutes, corruption, all peppered with swear words and aggressive attempts at making eye contact with everyone around her. She proceeded to walk back and forth spewing her unfiltered newsreel of shocking headlines. The little girl behind me had no idea what was going on, her dad reassuring her that "the lady is just an actor doing a play". The rest of us tried to look cool and were reassured by the salesperson who stepped outside to tell us that security had been called. 

And then out of the corner of my averted eyes, I saw a man approach the woman. I could feel us all turn towards what was surely going to be a confrontation. She stopped pacing, caught off guard by his attention, a momentary pause in her monologue. And he said simply, softly, without tone, "Are you okay?"

Her eyes met his, with a wince that indicated both pain and connection. And it looked like she took a deep breath. She then proceeded to walk away as if nothing had happened, the yelling ceased. 

Compassion and empathy can save the world.

Adapting is the New Name of the Game

There's so much anxiety right now for so many different reasons. The stress of getting the vaccine. The stress of people not getting vaccines. The "post lockdown" feeling of FOMO and of life speeding up but having no idea what you want or where you fit in any longer. The impulse is to drift back to normal or the new normal (whatever that is), but there's fear around that too. What if our respite is short-lived? What if the vaccines don't work with this damn delta and whatever else is on the horizon? The uncertainty is overwhelming. 

The anxiety around things opening up has been huge for me, as it was happening around the same time that my life got thrust into one of its inevitable valleys. Being in a bubble of lockdown at the start of this low point was oddly comforting. It took away the external stress that had plagued my life pre-covid. But suddenly everything felt like it was going at warp speed. Expectations crept in, of myself and from others. 

We've all been under a huge strain, whether we realize it or not. It underlies everything. It's a buzz in the air, a rumbling in the earth below our feet, a sense of unease at our core. We've been adapting almost daily to major changes in our routine, our fears, our hope. It's exhausting on top of everything else that requires our attention and the general state of the world. This screaming woman pacing the line at Joe Fresh was an outward manifestation of what I'm sure is brewing inside all of us. 

We all need to give ourselves compassion and recognition for what we've been through and survived. 

Uncertainty is Part of the Deal

Everything feels so uncertain these days. But as anyone who's ever reflected on mortality knows, nothing in life is guaranteed, and every minute is a gift. We remind ourselves to enjoy the moment and not take anything for granted. But we do. We still assume we have time. That we'll get to the place we've dreamed of, and then everything will be okay. That COVID will end and we can go back to normal. This is sometimes referred to as "Future Porn". I'm a sucker for it. I dream about the end goal, so impatient to see what's on the other side of that goal, instead of enjoying the steps I'm taking to get there. Too scared to make big life decisions without more certainty of a positive outcome.  

But even in the middle of this uncertainty, in the depths of a valley, there's beauty all around...

Beauty in seeing what we're capable of getting through.

In a string of lights on a steamy patio. 

In the smile on my niece's face when you catch her feet while she's swinging away. 

In a good cry that releases weeks of pent-up stress.

In the birds that chirp and fly and sing no matter the weather. 

In a stranger calming a woman in distress with the simple words "Are you okay?"

It's okay to enjoy moments even when you're in the valley. 

Euphoria is Everywhere

I just had my second covid birthday, and I did what I do, which is celebrate the joy of life. Because even in the valley I was in, it's a beautiful thing. A random, stardust-filled, luck-of-the-universe-to-even-be-here kind of life. I thought back to the start of this pandemic when even going outside to get some air was like an intense ASMR experience, defined as "low-grade euphoria" characterized by "a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin". Everything felt amazing, and it was all I needed. It's all any of us really need. Every day is a new day full of fresh moments.

As we all move forward in this state of uncertainty, here's hoping we can all open our eyes to see the moments of beauty in each of our respective lives. That we ask each other if we're okay. And that we continue to have compassion for each other and ourselves.

I hope everyone enjoys the last few weeks of summer!


Sandra Oreskovich said…
Beautiful, poignant, and uplifting. Perfect really.❤️