Covid 19—the Never-ending Story
“When you go out and see the empty streets, the empty stadiums, the empty train platforms,
don’t say to yourself, ‘It looks like the end of the world.’ What you’re seeing is love in action.
What you’re seeing, in that negative space, is how much we do care for each other…
Let it fill you and sustain you. It isn’t the end of the world.
It is the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness.”
from the Belfast Corona Virus network, Feb. 2020
People like events. Events occur with a beginning/middle/end. We like a good story, or a sporting contest (who won—and we know the score), or a family reunion when all our relatives leave on Tuesday and we can “put things back to rights,” as my mother used to say.
When the Covid-19 Pandemic started, it was articulated as an event, a huge global occurrence playing out on the world stage. It felt like we were all living in a disaster movie, complete with spooky music and escalated voices on the news. The virus was a sneaky monster, microscopically unreal, but lurking everywhere. We watched in astonishment as the modern world came to a sudden halt. Lots of real-life drama was generated in Act One watching healthcare systems near to collapsing under the load of need, and heartfelt relief was provided by stories and gestures of kindness and support.
But now, in its second year of ongoing disruption, the pandemic is not behaving properly. The plot is very unclear, unmanageable subplots are bobbing like container ships at the edges of ports. The story needs serious editing. It seems stuck in what my editor refers to as “the muddle of the middle.” Well, if we are even in the middle. And in the early summer of 2021, just when the vaccinated were dashing toward the exits and a promised return to normalcy, Delta variant cancelled Intermission. Anti-vaxxers cancelled civility. Misinformation cancelled confidence. We don’t know where we are or how to live our ways forward. And now, Omicron (OMG) brings on another winter of uncertainty. The muddle indeed!
Oh, a new reality is dawning. The pandemic is not an event: the pandemic is a shift.
A shift is a much harder experience. We don’t know how long it is, how big it is, or what consequences it enforces. We don’t know if it actually ever comes to resolution in which the protagonists have triumphed, good has won the day, the dust-up of drama has settled, and we can finish our popcorn and eye the satisfying announcement, THE END… In a shift, is the end just THE BEGINNING? And beginning of what? And what just ended? And who am I in the muddle of this? How can I make story and meaning when everything keeps changing? And what happened to the camaraderie when we were cheering for team humanity?
I want opera on the balconies again and clanging pans for nurses, and poetry about togetherness, and thoughtful pieces about how this might change our lives for the better. I want to believe that beautiful declaration of the Belfast Corona Virus Network, “It isn’t the end of the world. It is the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness.”
Yes, and it is the end of the world: the world of putting off facing our accumulating crises, of luxuriating in our fantasies that some other generation and some other time will require sacrifices but we can keep driving our cars, shopping at Costco, and sustaining economies reliant on citizen over-consumption.
Shift is admitting we are standing at the edge of forces in Nature and human nature we have never lived through before. The pandemic is the messenger–along with social erosion and violence, floods and firestorms, tornadoes for Christmas, and governments that barely function on the standard of “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We are living inside a contagion of social variants and the longer we fling our attention from one false flag to another, the more these variants multiply and the more serious the threats become.
Shift asks us to live by our moral compass and help one another remember our best selves. In spite of the the news and dire predictions, I believe most people can access shared human values of preservation and altruism, love for children, empathy for each other’s challenges, compassion for suffering, desire for balance. All of us wake in the morning trying to orient ourselves and figure out how we’re going to get through the day in a world that won’t stop wobbling. Take a breath. Stretch. Ask for guidance: listen. Write it down. Make a bit of story to step into the day. Tell someone how you are; listen to how they are.
There is no predictable path: we are making the path we predict.
The outcome is not decided.
We are deciding.
The first part of this blog is an edited version from the foreword I wrote for The Story Circle Network’s 2021 anthology series, Real Women Write. This volume is titled: Beyond Covid: Leaning into Tomorrow, edited by Susan Schoch, the book contains prose and poetry by over 50 women reflecting on their personal journeys through Covid times. It was an honor to provide the foreword, and with Susan’s permission to include some of it here and spread word of the book.
Thank you for this, Christina. Our post-Depression, post-WWII generation is not well-versed in national or global “events.” I think we are a little shocked and even resentful that one has come after us at this late date. It’s hard to see the beyond from the muddle of the middle. I daresay, whatever the shift leads to, some will continue to fight the changes bitterly and some will work hard to build a better world from it; until one day whatever comes is the next generation’s way of life. We each have to choose for ourselves: sour grapes or fine wine.
Well said, thank you. You both speak with wise clarity.
Christina, these words played in my mind like a symphony. Thank you. The framework you placed on the pandemic, shift not event, helped me to step outside of our “wobbly” world and look back at it with awe, hope, and great concern. I am going to quote this wisdom often as I continue to try and find my story and give it new meaning. I am going to be more conscious of the path I am choosing as we make our way forward. Much love to you!
Wise words which invite wise action, each and everyone of us in our own unique ways, given the circles of connection and influence to which we relate. Thank you.
I am SO grateful to be ‘muddling in the middle’ in this-space-between in this constellation of love and connection.
Wise words inviting wise action, each and everyone of us in our unique ways. Thank you for articulating the ‘shift’ we are experiencing so thoughtfully.
I am SO grateful to be in the presence of this network of love, connection and conviction.
Thanks for the summing up … right up to this day … and the image of standing at the water’s edge with all the questions being pondered in the heart. What will I do, what choices will I make, how much love and kindness can I extend all around me? The words from you and Ann are like precious jewels in a bucket of sand (not that sand is not also precious).
Astute post Christina! Thank you.
I love this. I am also envisioning a tunnel. And we thought at first there was a light at the end, but we discovered the tunnel has curved or maybe split into two (more?) directions. And now what? We don’t know. And that is so angsty unless we can learn to trust ourselves in the uncertainty and lean into possibilities. And that is what I try to do. Thank you for capturing these times so beautifully!
So much yes. I’m learning, yet again, to be okay with “I don’t know” and the curves and the shadows. I do that by being okay with me and my place in the world. By showing up with the other helpers. Being love. Thank you, once again, for your powerful insights. XO
As I read your words, Christina, I imagine myself sitting in circle at Self as Source. I see you teaching the arc of story. Evoked in the reverie is the “sensing in” – one I’d speak with leaders navigating ever changing complexities – that our human way is to search for patterns and make meaning (aka find comfort, certainty, control) by describing and naming the steps along the way, like the story’s arc, the caterpillar’s metamorphosis.
A felt sense, in that feminine way – diffuse, inarticulate – that when we do so, too soon – perhaps our way of trying to gain a foothold in what’s actually quite slippery and ephemeral – we might be aborting a process vaster and wiser than us. And to our loss.
Now, it seems, is time and the place where the art, the poem, the story, the prayer, the silence, the thank you, the kiss, the embrace may comfort, soothe, sustain and help us find our way.
I think you have given me a way into my own, belated, writing this week.
With my thanks, a kiss and embrace…
Your message, Christina, is the music from the balcony I needed to hear today. 🙏
Well, that is lovely, thank you.
I just had that book arrive in my mailbox last week and I started reading last night. (I ordered it after Gretchen mentioned it in a post.) Always so grateful for your wisdom. “A shift” is such a perfect description. Thank you.
Thank you. Very thought provoking.
Our third grandchild was ushered in with the pandemic just becoming. Her second birthday is fast approaching and I am aware of the waves of joy she shares with the entire family with her lust for life. We all move on to do our work so that her life will continue to find joy.
What a balm for an early morning read. Thank you for words that read like poetry to my oft-troubled soul during these times.
Thank you for such an insightful article. Perhaps the shift has been happening inside each of us all along. As I look back on what has changed for me these past two years, I note many changes. My life is simpler. I don’t feel the need to run around all over, but have learned to be happy and satisfied where I am (most days!) I have more time for meditation and prayer. I appreciate the miracle of waking up to a new day and saying “Yes!” to the sky, trees, and creatures around me. I have learned that love really is stronger than fear. I have learned that when my world wobbles the best action is not to hang on tight, but to let go. Some days I forget all this, but in all shifts transformation is possible. I only hope that I can somehow manifest these changes for the betterment of our world.