Let me tell you a realization I had this morning. Actually, maybe it wasn’t this morning. Maybe it happened in my dreams overnight, because it was there in my head when I woke up. The realization is this: I’ve spent the last few days inconsolable with the idea that things will never really go back to the way they were, that our lives and our reality will be forever changed in ways we can only begin to predict.
That’s the wrong way of looking at it, though. That’s the viewpoint of the people who drove their cars to Lansing to protest the lockdown because they want to be in control. They’re not in control. WE’RE not in control. The future has always been unknowable, but we’re all in mourning over the death of the illusion that we can know its basic outline.
I’ve already been through this once, though. I’ve already been through an unpredictable event rampaging through my life and upending everything I had taken for granted. I came out the other side a better person, living a better life, a more authentic life, a life rooted more firmly in the truth than what I wanted the truth to be. It took a long period of mourning to get there. We will all have a long period of mourning for the way things once were. But on the other end, we have the opportunity to live more authentically, with more appreciation for how fragile our realities are, with more appreciation for every single moment we get to spend with the people who mean the most to us.
Don’t cling to the past. Don’t drive your kids over to their friend’s house because that’s what you do on a Saturday. Don’t go to your neighbor’s barbequeue because there’s only going to be a dozen or so people there anyway and what the heck, it’s spring. Instead, look forward to the future. Look forward to the time when you can hug your parents again because you didn’t make them sick, when you can party with your friends because they weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time, when you can go on a first date and make out with someone you’ve only just met because they’re still alive for you to meet. Look forward to not knowing what else will arrive with that future, because the unexpected is a gift that reminds us we’re still alive.
Terrible things are happening. Terrible things are GOING to happen. That’s a fundamental law of a chaotic universe. It’s OK to feel sad about that. It’s OK to feel angry. It’s OK to feel bored because you’re stuck at home doing the same things day in and day out, waiting for something to happen. But take heart that at the end of all this, something WILL happen. We don’t yet know what it will be, but that’s not cause for despair. We can’t control the future, but we can control how we act today, and how we act today helps tip the scales on whether or not the people we love are there in that future to be as surprised by it as we are.