Community//

A Vocabulary for Unprecedented Times

It’s been six months now since the Covid19 pandemic shut down the world as we knew it. In the U.S. 200,00 people have died, worldwide we are nearing 1 million. Many died without the comfort and company of loved ones at their side. For loved ones, being excluded from the dying room and forbidden to […]

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It’s been six months now since the Covid19 pandemic shut down the world as we knew it. In the U.S. 200,00 people have died, worldwide we are nearing 1 million. Many died without the comfort and company of loved ones at their side. For loved ones, being excluded from the dying room and forbidden to gather in their in-person communities afterwards, has meant the interruption of centuries old rituals known to aid the processes of grief and mourning. No wonder that the word “unprecedented,” (never before know, unparalleled) is being used often to label and describe so many of our experiences in these times. 

Where were you when the shutdown occurred and what was your first reaction? 

It may not have been the exact same day for everyone but sometime in the middle of March the world as we knew it in the U.S. stopped in its tracks. A colleague pointed to March 12th as the day it happened for him. He was in a meeting when it was announced that someone in the company had tested positive for the virus. When I checked my calendar for that date, I had already held my first InterPlay rehearsal gathering on-line. 

When I got the news that the virus was in the U.S, my reaction was immediate and dramatic. I looked at the computer screen in front of me and said out loud to myself, “Given your age, you may never be able to leave this room again for the rest of your life. If you want a life, get over your deals with technology and get good at zoom.” And I have, and it’s been the best part of sheltering in place. Can you name something that’s been a good outcome for you from the shutdown? Having weekly zoom sessions with my eight-year old granddaughter is enriching my life and I hope contributing something positive to hers. Since much of her home schooling is on-line, she loves it when what we do can “count for school.”  

As unprecedented events have multiplied and intersected with one another–the reawakening of a century ‘s long fight against racism and for social equity and justice, climate-induced weather incidents, (fires, floods, and hurricanes) wreaking havoc on the homes and lives of fellow citizens, and now, in a most conflicted and divisive election season, a vacancy arises on the Supreme Court. We are definitely in need of an enriched vocabulary in order to name, own, and communicate about our lives in this unprecedented time. 

I’ve known what an anomaly is, but never heard of something being anomalous, (inconsistent with the common form or rule). It’s a great word to use as we dive deeply into the unknown. Since mid-March, with each additional unprecedented event, the future has seemed so unforeseeable to me that I’ve found myself bringing my focus closer in, to just where I need to see to place my feet as I walk forward. What in your life would you say has been particularly anomalous? 

Getting upset and frustrated has occurred more often lately then I care to admit. I found the word discombobulated to fit when something seems to make no sense at all. Dealing with the office of a health care provider is an example that comes to mind. Their phone system instructs me to “press one” and then provides the message, “incorrect submission.” Pressing two, I get the same response. I mentioned the problem when I had to pick something up in person from the office. A week or two later, when I tried to call back I got the same automated response. (Picture me grabbing a clump of my hair and gesturing like I’m trying to pull it out.) 

Another word for our times is forlorn. It seems to encompass much of my reactions to my dear sister Pat’s situation in a memory care facility in the Boston area. Of course, I am lonely and sad because I can’t visit my sister or even be in touch by phone or zoom. The situation is made more difficult because the facility only offers a conference call at the exact day and time I am teaching a class on-line. As my nephew and I try to find ways around the restrictions of covid, (no, the music therapist can’t come on campus) and the limitations of the facility and staff, (the slots for family visits in the parking lot fill quickly) and there never seem to be one available for Pat. I am bereft about how bleak her situation is, and thus, both she and I and my nephew are forlorn.  

I found some encouragement in a Brazilian word I was unfamiliar with, Saudade. It speaks of a deep nostalgia for what we miss–friends, social life, family, familiar places. It seems surreal (another word for our times) as with masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing, we gather with another couple on their screened in porch, In the light from table candles, our conversation turns to remembrances of vacation trips we’ve taken, and if we could, where would we like to go next. What do you miss the most in this life of restriction and isolation we are all living? 

For me, so much of what I love and what feeds me happens in community. The word solidarity represents what’s hardest to live without. It seems uncanny that I have been able to find  on-supportive community on-line, through this technology that had so threatened and perplexed me only a few months ago. I hope that you have been able to find a bit of community through your technology devices as well. Let’s take a deep appreciative breath together on that.      

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