The Times We Need

The Times We Need - image  on

Lately, it seems like even the good days are burdensome.

I walk the halls of my two-thirds empty school building when the day is done and, muffled, ask through my mask, “How was your day?”

“Good…no complaints,” I hear in response. But all of our eyes tell the same story; we’re wiped.

I have had lots of lessons with English classes lately that have given me life. I hadn’t really missed being around lots of people and rather dreaded leaving the safety of our family’s cocoon, but the feeling of a job well-done was sorely missing. So, it’s hard not to find a bounce in my step that hadn’t sprung in quite sometime.

Bounce or not, though, the exhaustion and turmoil is seen in everyone’s eyes. The drain of daylong screens. The emotional anguish when the only response is crickets and joyless eyes. The overwhelming dread that, despite hours of planning, a simple glitch can throw the whole lesson out the window in a quick moment. The strife of unfulfilled connections with the students sitting in the room with us. The bleakness that we’ve only been at this for a month and it feels like six.

And these larger feelings don’t speak to the smaller, less important but gnawing sensations that occasionally rise to the top. “Why can’t we use the Pit?” “Why can’t we sign out books?” “It’s not even as bad as the flu; why do we have to go through all this?” It’s all too much to argue and reason with.

The challenges of life carry such a weight and noise that it’s impossible to ignore them, but the harmonies fly around so lithely and loose they’re easy to ignore.

So, while it’s all too easy to hold on tightly to the awfulness and dread, we must find time to dig – daily – to find small joys. Beautiful birds and brazenly red leaves, a brief laugh and warm mug of coffee.

I like to think that this is why humans have clung so dearly to holidays. They’re really ritualistic constructs designed to allow us to recognize – whether by resting and restoring or celebrating and rejoicing – a moment in time. To remind us that we’re alive and we’re taking part in shared experiences.

And I also like to think that life likes to throw holidays at us at just the right time.

With the turning of leaves and the crisping of air comes a vivid reminder of my anniversary and, just as if someone knew that it might be the perfect time for Meg to take part in some deep introspection and appreciation, we are gifted with our tenth year.

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There’s something about those round numbers, isn’t there? As if we’ve done something. We’ve really DONE something. Looking at our three children and their various stages of life, our two mischievous yet precious cats, and the fact that we, ourselves, have definitely reached an unspoken stage of our own lives (ones with gray at our temples and aches and pangs in the morning), we really have done something.

But, this year more than any the celebration holds so much uplifting importance. Most can agree that 2020 has been absolutely awful, but there’s good to be found.

The meaning of strength and fortitude behind a tin wedding anniversary is no accident. We have discovered over the past 6+ months how much we can get through together. How much we can rely upon each other when we hit our respective bottoms. The fact that we do, indeed, still work well together. That our family is, ultimately, the very most important thing to all of us.

And, most importantly, our bond of friendship – best friendship – is stronger than ever.

So, in times of COVID-19, when we’re still keeping the reigns pretty tight on our social distancing and limiting non-essential travel, how does one celebrate their tenth?

Pretty low-key, actually. Same as birthdays, same as holidays. But the beauty and meaning behind the day gets to have its own spotlight that way, and since we met and fell in love doing community theater together, isn’t that appropriate? So, no trip to Vermont. No special night out. No pile of gifts. And it actually sounds lovely.

Lots of reflection and looking through photo albums and answering sweet, curious questions from the kids. Maybe play some Vitamin String Quartet and a handful of favorites from our reception to have a dance party with the kids. We’ll order a nice meal in and give the kids hotdogs. Maybe I’ll make an apple pie like my mother did for our “cake cut.”

We’ve already started chatting and contemplating about who we were when we met, the things we did when we were dating, the feelings that evolved and continued to support us through several phases of life. One thing that stands out is the simplicity of it all. Of course, it never feels simple when you’re in the thick of it, but given the turmoil of life now, it’s helpful to see things – then AND now – clearly.

The simplicity and quiet joy is exactly what life calls for at the moment, and I’m so grateful for the gift of it.