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When Everything’s Gone to S%#(*

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I have spent the last couple days trying to write a fabulous post that will help all of y’all feel better about living through a pandemic. You know, something that isn’t so pie-in-the-sky that most of you lawyers would eye-roll past, but that still inspires y’all to look for some deeper meaning and wisdom in this crisis. Something that will help you dig down for what you really want your life to be in 6 months or a year.

This is not that post.

The truth is, I’m struggling as much as anyone else right now. Trouble focusing, feeling OK one minute and crying the next. Not wanting to work at all. Spending way the hell too much time on Facebook, and in chats with friends, even though that often depresses me as much as keeps me connected. Oh, and TV watching. I’m considering upgrading my Hulu account every other hour. My chocolate consumption is . . . unwise.

No Music, and I’m Crying

Which is why, this morning, I was outside gardening in the rain.

In the spring, two of my profound joys are mucking around in my garden, and getting ready for Easter with many choir rehearsals. 

I realized several days ago that the likelihood of having Easter services was about .0005% of a chance above nil. No live services means no choir joyfully processing down the aisle in song. Or at our church, no singing the Hallelujah Chorus right before the end of the Easter service. I’ve sung that for a decade now, every Easter. I’ve gone from abject terror to absolute delight about that, over the years.

Episcopal choir in black robes and white cottas, on dais, holding music folders
St. Paul’s Episcopal choir, Franklin TN

Merely thinking that we wouldn’t have choir, I was OK. But I actually typed that out in a chat with friends, and I started tearing up. Singing is one of the greatest joys of my life. I didn’t start singing with a choir until 2008; before that, it was the radio and me, baby. 

I had no idea what I had been missing all my life.

Now, I do know what I’ll be missing. And I’ve been pretty depressed about it.

But it’s just this one time, right? Many things that are much more important are also going AWOL in all our lives right now. So why was I sobbing about singing?

It’s All About that Grief

Finally, I realized: I’m grieving.

For the foreseeable future, there won’t be rehearsals. That means no time with my choir family, who are cherished, maddening, hilarious, eyeroll-inducing, and so many other things. Plus, there’s the real joy of making music.

Then, there’s the other parts of this spring I was really anticipating: Finally going to Keeneland on my college alumni racing day, which I have never been able to attend; seeing a dear friend who was coming to visit Nashville with her daughter to look at a local college; seeing my son at his school guitar concert. 

These were some of the bigger emotional milestones in my life vision for the next couple months. And now, in less than a week, it’s all gone to the compost pile of our lives. 

Future Haze

It is a kind of death. Just like when someone you love dies, suddenly we are faced with a very different future than what we imagined. When someone dies, it’s disorienting and shocking, but at least the rest of the world stays roughly the same. 

Now, not only are all of the pleasant expectations we had being destroyed, the rest of the world is morphing into something radically different than it was just weeks ago. And it sure isn’t looking like a fun, new reality.

Here in Nashville, it’s also been overcast or rainy since February 1 for all but a tiny handful of days. I’m like a solar light; without sunlight, I start to fade and lose energy. No sun also means little to no gardening time. One of the best ways to soothe ourselves is to get outside, and I haven’t been able to do that much at all.

The Crazy Lady in the Rain

Today, though, I decided to seize a window without rain, and gave my rose bushes some badly needed pruning before they get so overgrown I would be bleeding copiously if I tried to hack them back.

Then, I decided to pull some weeds. I love pulling weeds, because I get this absolutely visceral thrill from prying them out, roots and all.

garden bed with a small pile of pulled up weeds in middleOf course, it started raining. I decided I didn’t care.

So there I was, an overweight, middle-aged woman squatting in a garden bed, digging into the dirt with my bare fingers, while the sprinkles intensified. If someone were filming my life, this would be the scene where I’d finally lost my mind.

But instead, it was the scene where I finally found some calm and peace. 

So What Now?

What does this mean for you lovely souls who are still reading? 

Give yourself permission to grieve. We have lost our familiar routines and pleasures, and instead are being plunged into some frightening uncertainty none of us have ever lived through. It’s a monumental loss, and it’s terrifying.

Remember that grief is very weird and very personal. Sure, there are stages of grief, but that doesn’t mean everyone experiences them the same way, at the same rate, or in linear order. You bounce around from denial to acceptance, then loop back to bargaining, etc. Give yourself permission to simply accept what you are feeling, no judgement, no expectations.

Find some way to include things that bring you joy. If this is the first time you’ve really considered what brings you joy—what a wonderful gift you can give yourself by figuring that out. 

If you know what brings you joy, but feel like it’s impossible to get right now—time to get creative. Maybe you can’t go to a raucous party with 100 of your closest friends, but maybe you can create a similar experience through Zoom, live-streaming, or even a simple multi-party phone call.

Do something nice for someone else. It’s a proven way to improve your outlook. Write a note to someone who has been important to you. Call someone you’ve lost touch with. Get some necessaries or small luxuries delivered to someone you know is struggling in some way. 

Do something nice for yourself. Get some wonderful-smelling soap, and enjoy the fragrant suds. Take naps. Splurge a little on art supplies, books, favorite foods, or plants. Read or watch something hilarious and fluffy. Whatever puts a genuine smile on your face that you can do while social distancing, just do it.

And if you’re struggling, connect with someone. If you want to drop me a line, I’m jalvey@jenniferalvey.com. I’m not a therapist, but sometimes I have a few decent ideas about how to reframe what’s happening.

Be well, everyone. Take care of each other.

2 comments

  1. Jennifer – this post is spot on and so important. Our lives have been turned upside down in a matter of mere weeks (and continues to change day by day!) and we have to realize that it’s okay to grieve the loss of certainty or at least familiarity of our pre-virus lives. When we acknowledge that we may be struggling with the big (how do you care for those already were struggling to get by day-to-day and are especially hard hit by events?) and small (will my son get to experience the pride of walking across the stage to get his high-school diploma?) changes we are experiencing, we provide space for those around us to voice their fears or concerns, which often may not be easy to do for us attorneys. Thank you for being willing to share your thoughts and provide that first inch of space for the rest of us.

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