Happy New Year!
“So in a lot of ways, what has happened over the last several weeks is challenges and structural problems here in the United States have been thrown into high relief. They are the outcomes not just of the immediate moments in time, but they’re the result of a long history of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and institutionalized racism that too often had been the plague, the original sin of our society. And in some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they’ve been, they’ve also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlining trends, and they offer an opportunity for us to all work together to tackle them, to take them off, to change America and make it live up to its highest ideals.”President Barak Obama – June 3, 2020
“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it. It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”Michelle Obama
“Dehumanizing people debases us all; humanity is beautifully and almost infinitely diverse. The bonds of our common humanity must overcome the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices.”President Jimmy Carter – June 3, 2020
Articles I have found helpful:
New Yorkers are a resourceful group for the most part, but we are also impatient, easily distracted, and busy. We are very, very busy. Don’t ask us what’s our hurry, you’ll be met with a bleary-eyed scowl of contempt. Don’t believe me? Ever walked down a street in mid-town Manhattan in the middle of the day? Everyone is rushing. People dart, purposefully, in and out of any who seem to have all the time in the world – aka tourists. You take your life in your hands just to walk a few blocks. At least this was the case before. Before #stayathome was a thing. Before our streets looked like this…
You can always tell the New Yorker from the rest of the pedestrians. We’re the ones who are waiting for the light to change like race horses out of the starting gate, jockeying for position, ensuring we’re the first to begin crossing seconds before the light actually changes, because that’s what we do. It’s in our blood. Even those of us who weren’t born and raised in New York City, that need to get across the street before the rest of the pack, and don’t kid yourself, it is a need; it’s part of our DNA. It’s probably what attracted us to NYC in the first place.
So telling us that we must stay home, not for weeks, but for months and months, that we mustn’t venture out unless we are in need of something essential, which might explain the run on toilet paper (for actual reasons see note below) merely an excuse to leave the house – is cruel and unusual punishment. Picture a race horse cooped up in a tiny stall for months on end and you’ll get a good idea of what it’s like for NYers. By the way, race horses are routinely given small animals to placate them, like a goat, sheep or chicken and though we’re not allowed to keep such animals in our homes here in New York City, dog walking has never seemed more enticing and exciting.
Which also explains why a trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s feels like a thrilling adventure. My husband and I refer to it as a “date”. As in, “hey honey, want to go out?” And the other responds, “Absolutely, which will it be?”
“I was thinking of shaking things up!”
“What do you say we head over to Gristede’s just to take a look.”
“Going downmarket, are we?”
“I can do Wholefoods, just thought it’d be fun to spread the love.”
“Absolutely! Gristede’s will be fun!”
And off we go, hand in hand, reveling in our courage and sheer inventiveness to try new things, still, after so many decades of marriage.
This is what the lockdown has done to us. We are a changed group. New Yorkers, known for their edginess are becoming downright pedestrian. We wear sweatpants and wander around in slippers, our hair unbrushed, sometimes for days. When we venture out we stroll, no longer needing to rush, we stop in the middle of the street to take photographs of flowers and our city, now unrecognizable. We smile at each other, even stop to chat with complete strangers. We even wave to our neighbors. People we’ve never exchanged two words with, we now know their names and the names of their children and pets. We know intimate details about each other, such as whether we tested positive for antibodies. I’m telling you, it’s a changed world…
*Fun Fact: I did a little research and learned that one of the main reasons there continues to be a run on TP is due to the fact that everyone is now at home and not going into their offices, which stock an inferior type of TP, versus the coveted TP most of us prefer. Evidently the machines producing the inferior, industrial brand TP are different from the machines churning out the more luxurious, cushiony and soft TP we use at home and therefore the production is not able to keep up with demand. For those of you wanting to know more – https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/04/08/coronavirus-shortage-where-has-all-the-toilet-paper-gone/2964143001/
I’m not sleeping much these days. The up-side is I’m getting a ton of stuff done. Also, photographs of empty New York City streets, though eerie, have a certain grace to them. I only venture out every few days, but when I do, I’m struck by the same things: the exquisite beauty of New York City, the increasing number of people wearing face masks, the amount of space people are keeping between themselves and others, and the absence of noise.
Someone on social media posted an image like this one, with the caption (I’m paraphrasing) – Remember these? They’d be good to have right about now.
Every morning I go over the things I’m grateful for. It’s a routine at this point, something I’ve been doing for more years than I can count. Only now my list has increased exponentially. Things I once so took for granted as to not even make the list, are now at the top, among them are: electricity, food in our refrigerator, my husband’s breathing next to me during these early morning hours when I cannot sleep, but keep hoping I will be able to, the sound of sea gulls calling to each other, a friend texting or calling to check in, the little snoring noise our cat, Merlin makes when he’s curled up next to my head at night, knowing we have enough toilet paper for the next week, who knew that would ever make the list!? All the people in my life whom I love. The list is long. I’m so grateful.
Gratitude and fear are not easy companions. The fear may still be there, but its power is greatly diminished. The other day my husband and I were discussing fear and how insidious it is. He reminded me, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s going through it.” Here’s to courage, and noticing those thousands of moments of joy and beauty in every given day.