The day is nearing its end. The traffic is hushed, the wind wafts softly through the leaves; the birds are singing their evening song. The heaving world is moving into stillness. I sit on my patio and exhale the remains of another day, take a moment to unwind beneath a purple sky pin-pricked with starlight, and bask in the calm of a haunted world suspended between darkness and light.
One day we heard about a virus on the morning news. It seemed like it was far away from us, on the other side of the world. We heard about it, we sympathized, said things like “how awful”, and then we went on with our lives. Within weeks the virus had traveled around the world and landed in our own backyard. An unprecedented time, in our short history, darkened our skies and flipped our lives upside down.
Businesses closed, people lost their jobs, their livelihood, and their lives. Fear and hate swelled in neighborhoods; blame was placed at the doors of those thought responsible. A new kind of anxiety grew, not from the busy demanding life we once knew, but from a tomb-like silence that swept over the streets. Threatened by an invisible enemy, it left us in a perpetual twilight, thinking about all the things we lost that encompassed our lives.
Weaved between the threads of heartbreak and the economic destruction that befell our families and friends, were moments of beauty and restoration. Nature was granted time to restore its balance, while humans took a step back; it forced us into a quieter life, and made us focus on what is really important – not the things we could buy, the places we could travel or the money we can obtain, but the time to reflect on ourselves, discover the resilience of our ancestors, find the joy in simple things that get lost in our pecuniary world. It forced us to build stronger connections with friends and family; to look at ways of remodeling our lives. We stayed home, cooked our own food, put down the phone, read books, and explored the beauty of our own neighborhoods. We listened to nature for the first time. We were forced to slow down, to breathe, to figure out a new way to start life again – will it be the same life? Should it?
When the world changed in a heartbeat, we did what we have always done – we adapted. Those of us with chronic disease already knew how to survive an altered routine. We were given the chance to teach the rest of the world what we already know – how to slow down, how to engage in self-care, how to step gracefully away from obligations that don’t serve us, how to find the strength to get up the next morning, put a smile on our face and carry on. The things we are enduring now make us stronger. We will be better prepared the next time the world flips upside down – as it will.
This extraordinary time will not last long – eventually we will return to the demands of a busy world. We’ll mourn our old lives and the loved ones we lost; we’ll assemble our new survival kit. But for now, I’m content to hang out in the twilight a little bit longer, listening to the space around me, taking the time to heal, rejuvenate, and respect the new terms of our world.
Stay well everyone.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.