I’m in the drive-thru, behind a long snake of red taillights, waiting to place my order. These days I never know if an establishment is open for dining in or if there are other rules in place I’ve lost track of since I stopped force feeding myself a steady diet of news. The drive-thru is usually the best option, except when an establishment has closed early, like the one I stopped at two-and-a-half hours ago when I really needed caffeine.
There’s a scrolling marquee on a building across the highway—a pub and restaurant. Help Wanted. I see these words on posters tacked to shop windows, on sandwich boards out front of businesses, and now here—in lights. I won’t speculate on the reason behind shortages of employees that require businesses to reduce hours and services while, at the same time, other people are losing their jobs for for non-compliance to government mandates. It’s an upside down inside world, and I’m weary.
My car has finally inched to the front of the line and a masked young man extends a device on a long pole through a plexiglass barrier that I tap a plastic card on and voila, my order is paid for. Then I wait. It turns out to be one of the longest I’ve waited for my order in a drive-thru, but no worries. I watch the scrolling red Help Wanted words and think about the fact that this isn’t the same world I grew up in and it’s not the same world my children grew up in but it is the world my grandchildren are growing up in. This groaning, changing, confusing world is the one we’ve got now.
I remember a song Carolyn Arends released early in 2020 when the madness was just starting and we were all sequestered in our homes, called After This and bittersweet words in the refrain that brought me to tears then, and still give me a lump in my throat.
After this, the sun will be shining
And all we missed, will come to us in a whole new light
And then may we never waste
The sweet gift of a warm embrace
When at last we are face to face
Unbelievably, after after nineteen months, we still haven’t reached the after. And, man, I’m weary. I’d bet money that you are too.
In the early days, we talked about how the world wouldn’t be the same after this—and it won’t. We asked ourselves how we ourselves might be changed through the trial. Now we challenge ourselves, our behaviour and beliefs, and ask “is this who I want to be?”. We’ve lost a lot. We’re still in the middle but we’re already grieving. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Over and over again like a marble spinning on a roulette wheel we bounce from phase to phase praying we’ll land on a space that kicks us out of this perpetual grieving.
Letting go is hard. I think of tears in my granddaughter’s eyes as the pressure of the move and the ache of leaving her home took hold. I think of the day when I was her age and we left the home we’d lived in since I became part of the family and how I walked alone with a lump in my throat through every empty room gathering memories and tucking them safely inside to take with me into the unknown.
Once we let go, we can extend our reach toward what comes after, but the letting go is hard. It hurts. It’s scary—terrifying, actually—and we’re in the midst of a long letting go; no wonder we’re tired. I don’t claim to know a lot but I know for sure that what was isn’t what is or will be. I’m kidding myself if I’m waiting for “things to get back to normal”.
The masked man appears at the window and extends his hand through the window with my order.
”Yup. You have a good evening.”
We see a lot of discord these days and every encounter we are part of or observe chips away at something within us. Maybe simple pleasantries help counteract the turmoil and in some small way heal something in this broken world. Maybe a butterfly flapping it’s wings can influence change around the world. Maybe maybe is all we’ve got right now and it has to be enough.
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Here’s a link to Carolyn Arends’ After This.