Yesterday, I put my seven year old son on a bus, and sent him off to school.
It was harder than even the first day of kindergarten had been.
I didn’t have to steel myself to do it – I’ve already become part steel. I’ve tempered so much of my softness, in the absence of hugs, of loose gatherings with friends, of large intentional gatherings designed to celebrate unions and births and lives well lived and now come to a close. I’ve allocated the smallest room, infrequently open, within, to store up all the disappointment and loss and uncertainty this pandemic has engendered, and I have gotten on with things, I have practiced gratitude, I have been acutely aware that I am living on the lucky side of this experience, and also, that there’s been work to do, that has to be done, and one must get on. So some part of you becomes steel – disciplined and distanced. And the other part, maybe is so soft, it has to shelter at home, in a burrow. Anyone else nursing a deep inner schism?
I overshare online, offer emotional intimacy with work colleagues who I’ve never shared a drink with, but am now zoomed into their living room. And then when I encounter actual real life humans, I feel more socially awkward than ever. And can barely remember the social niceties of small talk.
I sent my kid to school, to a situation that is unknown, a class of new faces, full of new protocols that I’m probably never going to be privy to, because he doesn’t debrief the way I really would like him to at the end of his school day (“so tell me *everything”), to navigate a risk that is invisible and unquantifiable. Some friends have opted for home-schooling. Some are still on holidays. Some are transitioning in.
How do we do this? How do we be as strong and as soft as we need?
My friend E said, as I shared my thinking about school with her, “there’s no right way to pandemic.”
Literally, she wrote:
“You can’t fail at pandemic-ing, just as you can’t fail at birthing or dying. But you can stop picking on yourself.”
Good thing it was an email, because if she’d been standing in front of me, there wouldn’t have been enough steel to keep me from hugging her for that.
Maybe, instead of channeling steel, I need to go and hug a few trees – steadfast and supple, strong and soft, rooted and still dancing.
Maybe this is how we bridge the schisms within – one generous step at a time.