I woke up thinking about Valentine’s Day a year ago today. I’d been a little mopey that morning; I love Valentine’s Day in all of its Hallmark holiday corniness, and I was longing for the presence of a special somebody in my life.
My yoga teacher invited me to join some of her teacher trainees for a special part of their curriculum that evening. They’d be making garlands with fresh flowers, sharing candy, talking about Bhakti. She assured me it would be low-key and sweet, and it was.
Today I’m thinking about how all of that feels like another lifetime. Specifically, I’m aching for community spaces. Places where one can—could, back in the pre-pandemic days—experience a sense of belonging and love outside of the home or the family unit. Yoga studios have always played this role in my life. Other people find it in houses of worship, AA meetings, support groups, runners groups, birding clubs, you name it.
Bringing those spaces online has been a godsend for many of us. But it’s not the same. There’s something undeniably powerful about the collective energy that is created when a bunch of people breath, move, and interact in person. For me, this kind of collective energy has often been very healing.
I’ve lived alone for many stretches of years. I’m good at it, and there are some things that I appreciate about it, but in my thirties it’s felt more lonely than it has fulfilling. My yoga life, and specifically having a sacred space to practice and be part of a collective, was a really important counterbalance to my solitude.
Valentine’s Day last year wasn’t long before that strange, terrifying week in March when we went from nervously wondering whether we’d need to quarantine for a couple of weeks to a sudden, mandatory lockdown with no end in sight. I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since that happened. I can’t believe how different everything is.
I was talking to someone this past week who pointed out that all of the declarations of “things feel a little different this year,” while well-intentioned, can sting when one is at a particularly low moment of pandemic life. Things aren’t a little different. They are very different. My day-to-day life changed much less with quarantine than that of most of my friends (no kids to homeschool, no office to stop commuting to), but even so, the before and after is stark.
There have been many mentions of grief this year. I’ve used the word frequently myself. When I say it or write it, I’m usually referring to grief for human loss, the many lives taken this year by the coronavirus.
But we’re all experiencing another kind of collective grief. It’s sorrow for life as we knew it.
Things will get better. The world will open up again. We’ll establish the “new normal,” and we’ll find contentment within it, because that’s what human beings do—we adapt. But we won’t get life as we knew it back. By the time things recalibrate that life will be in the past. Even putting Covid aside, it will no longer be the life we’re living.
We never got a chance to say goodbye to that life. We may not stop to consciously bid farewell to stages of our lives as they shift and change, but rarely are we yanked out of a current reality without warning. In that sense, this grief feels like mourning a sudden death, something unforeseen and shocking, rather than a loss that we were prepared for.
The pandemic has made me appreciate so many things that I never thought to register as special or worthy. Everything about being a part of a yoga community, of course. Crowded coffee shops, where I so often like to sit and soak in the big city energy. Bustling restaurants at the dinnertime rush hour. Live music and live performances, random hugs, human touch.
I even miss things that I used to do reluctantly: parties, networking functions. After ten years of complaining about weddings and how exhausting they are for introverts like me, I found myself bawling as I watched Plus One on Hulu, lonesome for sloppy wedding toasts and sweaty dance floors and staying out late.
That’s why it’s so important for us to grant ourselves grace, patience, and kindness as we journey through these less-terrifying-but-still-uncertain times. In addition to everything else we’re grappling with, we’re also processing the loss of a phase of our lives that got cut short. It’s good to maintain a sense of hope for the future, but it’s also important to continue making space for our grief. With grief comes anger, pain, yearning, and any number of unpredictable feelings.
If you, like me, keep thinking you’ve adjusted to present circumstances just before you’re hit by yet another wave of loss and longing, that’s OK. It’s how sorrow works. And one thought that keeps me going is how different it will feel to re-explore some of the things and experiences that I took for granted just as soon as I can.
Rediscovery, a new perspective, a new chapter: these are the things that I look forward to in the phase of life that comes next.
Happy Sunday, everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day. Here are some recipes and reads.
Vegan buttered noodles are everything I want/need in my life today.
Nothing like a good, veggie-loaded nourish bowl.
Jessica’s creamy vegan mushroom soup is just the thing to stay warm with this winter!
Double dessert, because Valentine’s Day. First, I love the flavor of butterscotch and can’t wait to try the vegan version of Alanna’s beautiful pudding.
And second, I can’t imagine a more festive, sweet, heartwarming treat than Natalie’s raspberry dark chocolate cupcakes.
1. A dimension of the pandemic experience that I hadn’t thought of: how it must be harder and scarier than ever to be the parent of a baby in a NICU. And how difficult it must be for doctors to determine the best protocols.
2. A little piece on how doctors (specifically, cardiologists) are trying to help their patients manage outlook as part of staying well. I like this emphasis on supporting patients’ mindsets, and it’s something I work hard to bring into my private practice, too.
3. Maria Konnikova’s series of articles on sleep for The New Yorker isn’t current. But I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been sleeping badly through 2020/2021, and I’ve enjoyed rereading it. Three parts: falling asleep, sleeping, and wakefulness.
4. The quietest flu season in recent memory—though this may mean a more virulent season in the near future. It’s all pretty ominous, but an interesting look at the way that viruses wax and wane in proximity to each other.
5. And finally, just for fun, everything you wanted to know about being a dog in the White House.
OK, friends. Signing off for the day, with big plans for chocolate bundt cake tonight. I hope you feel loved today. You are loved.
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