My father told me this morning that, after three months of fear-mongering speculation coming from all fronts, we find ourselves as confused as in the beginning of February. “Everyone has something to say, no one can really say what’s up, and everything we think we know has been put to the test”. This is uttered as we clean the table, moments before my nephew is done with his preschool online class and ready to sit for his morning homework session through his mom’s laptop. We both make space, half finish our coffee and get ready for another day inside the house.
Before I even write this down I know that I am not doing it to add anything to that conversation. I have nothing to add beyond well intentioned “Stay safe!” wishes and the details of our own story, which I am sure have nothing of spectacular. Our case is being repeated by the thousands in different houses across Mexico, and with all kinds of variations across millions of homes around the world.
Our losses, although painful, seem so small, so frugal in comparison to the things we still have and used to take for granted: our health, our lives, our dear ones. We feel grateful for the things we still have.
And before I even write this down I know that I am doing it because this all-consuming event has grown so big and so scary that thoughts sometimes become overwhelming. Thoughts of this nature cannot be placated by anything but, I believe, a big breath and a big effort to put a good chunk of it in words.
I believe we have done as much as possible to avoid the illness. We are six people living in a small two-story house. There is not enough room to keep social distance while we eat and pass the time. Three of us have jobs that we got to keep during these quarantine, although one of us is asked to still leave the house ever so often. We are unscathed; constantly thinking about money and the future, but healthy.
Since March, some family members that we regularly saw around have visited us, especially at the beginning of this and during the last two weeks. Mainly to see my nephew and also to unburden themselves from these stressful times. I could have counted how much they visited and when, reset the fourteen days mental countdown every time something happened. I could have, if I had kept the mentality I was festering during the first month.
The beginning was the hardest for me. The mind-blowing repercussions of this seemingly irreversible and invisible force, indifferent to who you are and what you want. Just one more thing to consider during a time in my life that was rapidly changing due to decisions that have been running their course for more than two years now.
Should I stop everything? What was I trying to prove and what was the point of executing a plan in a world that had no space for any of that?
Everything seemed banal and urgent at the same time. And inside, gradually, anger. Outrage towards anyone I knew who was being reckless and putting us — me — in danger. Driven by fear, I quickly established in my mind certain unmovable rules for survival, waited for others to understand them by osmosis and exactly the way I did. And then, inevitably, I felt betrayed when the people around me did not follow through.
I soon realized that my apparent cries of concern were nothing more than veiled self-preservation. I opened my eyes to the reality of others and saw how fragile our lives really were, but also how strong our bond could become if we just understood that we cannot control everything.
As I look back to those first weeks, a biblical reference comes to me right now. I had a small golden book of Bible stories I really loved, especially because of the illustrations. They were usually colorful but crude, anatomically accurate and with unfiltered expressions of divine bliss, kindness, lust and hate. One of my favorite stories was the one about Moses and his long journey to the Promised Land.
How his face changes! How inexorable he looks as he lashes against the infidels who abandoned God while he was away at Mount Sinai. How mighty he looks as he stares down at them. And how human, how humbled he looks when, after so many years traveling, he is told that he will die before arriving to the Promised Land. The illustration shows part of his face as he sits at Mount Nebo, no longer angry. Peacefully he stares. I used to feel infinitely sad as a child. Why couldn’t he get his just reward? But the question has changed and multiplied.
What should we strive for, beyond righteousness? Why should we keep our faith on humanity? What must we do to take all of us to a better future? And what is worth, truly worth fighting for?
I have also prayed a couple of nights when I couldn’t sleep. More than an answer to my prayers, I was looking for someone to listen to me in the silence of the night. I wanted to reassure myself that I could talk to God, who is myself and lives within me and all around. It is whatever I chose to be and everything I cannot choose to change, but is. It had been years since I had prayed, and I understood what I had missed.
There are people who are strong enough to envision the consequences of this pandemic, who along with handling their own personal lives have also taken to analyze and exhort change and not let people forget that the world can become better, that we must not forget the lessons we are learning from this, the warnings that have had a long way coming, that have always been real but now are here, beyond smokescreens and rush hours.
I am not strong that way. Still, I think I could be. For now, I appreciate the good days and learn to battle the bad ones. Small wins every time.
I am aware that this might not be the most heartwarming article to begin my postponed writing project, but I feel it is meaningful. It is something I will remember I wrote, during one of the most bewildering years of my life. So far, that is. I wonder, like all of you, where all of this is heading to.
New posts on life, communication, media and studying every Tuesday (English) and Thursday (Spanish) at noon, starting may 12, 2020.