It is March. Again.
That’s it. That’s all one needs to say this week. You know what I mean. Just thinking about it evokes a certain reaction; a realization that it has been a full year since we began living the way we live now. Even with hope coming – loved ones getting their shots, the promise that if we do this just a little longer, we can see the end of the tunnel – I can see and feel it hitting many of us with a new wave of thoughts and feelings. We are realizing that ‘before’ is now quite some time ago, and that ‘after’ is something that we thought, when this started, we’d be at by now.
I wish I could sit with each and every one of you individually to acknowledge what you are struggling with – because I know that almost every one of us is struggling in some way, whether we are sharing it with each other or not. What I don’t want to do is to try and tell you how you should make sense of all this, how to feel and think in this moment; because while this is a shared trauma, we are each experiencing and struggling with it in our own ways.
What I do want to do is to share three thoughts I am holding close to my core as we mark this point in the calendar:
- The very fact that I am currently writing this, and that you are reading it, means we are here, unlike some 520,000 Americans and 2.5 million people around the world. That’s a staggering loss, too many to name. As we mark this moment, we need to remember them. I’m so proud of my friend and JCRC board member, Alex Goldstein, who in the very earliest days of the pandemic started the twitter account Faces of Covid to share their stories. It’s been a spiritual practice of sorts to scroll through the many faces every day. In memory, mourning and loss, I’ve also noticed my own gratitude – for being alive, and for having what I have, when there’s been so much suffering. Grief and gratitude, together in tension. I also recommend his new account, Two Shots in the Arm, which shares photos of people across the nation receiving their vaccines.
- More than almost anything this year, I’ve missed the small interactions: the unscheduled hallway conversations; the five minutes in a corner at a reception; the lingering after a meeting. Not for the first time, earlier this week a group of our Jewish communal leaders met with a public official, this time with Rep. Jake Auchincloss. There was no hanging around eating cookies for 15 minutes before he arrived, no chatting afterwards as folks took selfies. Later that evening, he and I debriefed. He described that absence as a loss of space for building social capital. I think that’s right, and to a significant extent we’re all leaning into the social capital we built ‘before.’ We’re going to have a lot of rebuilding to do, including weaving new bonds and connections.
- With Passover around the corner, I’ve been thinking about what our Jewish tradition can offer in this moment. There are many lessons, but one that feels relevant to me is the longitudinal nature of how we deal with suffering, time, and memory. We were slaves in Egypt for a couple of hundred years over 3,000 years ago; that memory is still baked into everything about who we are and how we see ourselves as a people. It took forty years in the wilderness, a generation, to forge a new post-slavery nation raised with the story and experience of freedom. A year is a long time; and if we had been explicit last March that it would be a year, or more, we might not have been ready to handle that information. But in the scheme of thousands of years of carrying stories, memory, suffering and challenges, a year will – in time – be a moment; a hard and memorable moment, but still. It’s what we do with those moments, how we shape the memory of them, how we tell the story of this time to inform who we become and what we build next, that will matter as much, if not more.
I feel grief, and gratitude, as we mark this turning of the calendar. I am here to hold space with all of you for that marking. I look forward to deepening the connections between us that have been strained by physical distance. I hope we are soon at the point where we are sharing our stories about this time, and learning from those stories so that together, we can shape our next ‘normal’ from the memory of this time, one which should never have become normal.
That’s where I am right now. Where are you at in this moment?