Believing as I do that the words we use influence the way we experience the world, I have decided that rather than referring to this current situation as a “crisis” I will instead use the word “opportunity.”
I don’t mean to make light of what’s going on. My sunny outlook is entirely situational of course, and not in any way meant to downplay the very real and very serious impact of this pandemic: death, illness, sacrifice, extreme economic hardship, social isolation, anxiety, and more.
It’s just that for me and for many millions of others, doing our part to comply with stay-at-home orders means changing our expectations and our mindsets rather than enduring any actual hardship. Having to work from home, spend more time with my spouse and my cat, wear gloves and maintain social distancing, and watch a lot of Netflix isn’t exactly a crisis. It’s an opportunity.
Making friends is tough business. And it gets harder as you get older. Until one day you wake up and realize you’ve got no friends at all. As John Mulaney quipped: “My dad has no friends. And your dad has no friends. If you think your dad has friends, you’re wrong! Your mom has friends, and they have husbands.”
Well, he’s right in one respect: it sure isn’t as easy as it used to be to make friends, and every year it seems to get harder to keep the friends you’ve got. Who has the time to get together anymore? All of the conveniences and time-savers of our high-tech life have somehow only conspired make us busier than ever. An occasional text message or Facebook post is certainly no substitute for a real conversation. And although phones are ubiquitous, we use them for everything except the purpose for which they were originally designed: actually talking to the people who matter.
Did you know that in some societies it’s considered impolite to ask someone what they do for a living: it’s looked on as a backdoor way of asking how much money they make or of sussing out their social status. Rude! But here in the US, “What do you do?” is a perfectly acceptable question, as harmless and as common as “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “Paper or plastic?”
“So, what do you do?” You probably get asked that question all the time.
And for most people the response is pretty straightforward. “I’m a teacher.” “I sell cars.” “I’m in retail.” “I own my own business.”
But I always dreaded the question. Especially when it came up in conversation with my husband’s colleagues or business associates, all of whom were accomplished professionals with equally-accomplished spouses. Because my response to their simple question was never well-received.
I’m not a natural born story teller. I wish I was. I envy people who can take an ordinary event and spin it into a hilarious or dramatic tale.
But I can’t do that.
The world I see is more like an ever-unfolding documentary than a blockbuster movie: I mentally record events as unadorned facts, so when I re-tell them it’s generally without the color that might make them even mildly entertaining anecdotes. As you can imagine, I’m not the life of the party.
What are your pronouns? Do you prefer she/her? He/Him? They/them? Any of the above? Are you wondering what I’m talking about? No doubt you’re familiar with “pronouns” in the grammatical sense — those little words that refer back to a noun mentioned previously: he, she, it, they, etc. But maybe you’re not familiar with the idea of choosing one’s pronouns and then sharing that choice so that others know your preference.
I have mixed feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. (Naturally. Because I have mixed feelings about pretty much everything.) On the one hand, if you can identify something about yourself that you feel like you can change or should change, what are you waiting for? Why on earth would you wait until January 1st – an arbitrary date on the calendar – to change it? You should start ASAP. Every day is the best day to become a better person, fulfill your goals, live your best life.
On the other hand, there really is something about the new year that makes us want to start fresh. Like the odometer rolling over to 000000; it feels like a brand new car. There’s a new calendar, a blank page, the next chapter of our story is waiting to be written; why not begin it with fresh goals and aspirations. The new year is an opportunity to create a new and improved version of you. So if you’ve got something in mind, then it seems like 01/01 is a pretty good time to start being a better you.
Last weekend, like so many other people in so many cities and towns across the country, I attended a vigil to remember the murdered victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and to add my voice to the other voices raised against hate and bigotry. The program was filled with more than twenty speakers: leaders from different faiths from all over our region stood to offer support and share their thoughts on the tragic event: leaders of the Muslim faith, Jewish faith, and Catholics, and Christians of many different denominations. They shared stories. They read from scripture. They asked us to pray for the victims and their families. And they asked us to pray for healing and for peace.
And as I sat and listened to them speak, I honestly found no solace in their words. I heard no hope. Reverend Steve from the Episcopal Church told us that he (of course) prays every day. In the last few years, he said, he has added “Please let there be no mass shooting today” to his daily litany of prayer. “Most days, God answers my prayers” he said. “But not every day.”