No matter what else has happened in the last two weeks, I’ve had an incredible run of good housing karma.
Those who wander know this is no small gift from the travel gods. We’ve all weathered the lost reservations, the hair in the sink, the loud party next door, the weird smell in the drywall, the sounds like small feet you can’t locate. Since I hit the road on Christmas Day, though, I been blessed. A cozy one-night nook in Nashville, a tidy hotel in Charlottesville, a sweet and cozy Airbnb in Annapolis, a swanky city version of same in DC, and now the most gorgeous little cottage back in Cville.
I would be grateful for this run of good luck under any circumstances, but I could cry when I think of the fireplaces and microwave popcorn and movie channels and clean sheets and thick comforters and tasty coffee, to have had the privilege of some real nests in the last week.
I mean, it’s been rough, am I right?
I woke up in Annapolis with a fever and began a completely fruitless multi-day search to find out if I Had It. No appointments at the clinics, no rapid tests in the stores. At one point, I drove to a newly opened, no appointment needed testing site. Shivering in my sweatshirt and winter coat, I arrived one hour before opening, and there were already hundreds of people in line. Standing in the unseasonably warm rain, many of them were coughing and clearly unwell. I drove back to my bed and my lemon tea. By the time I got my hands on a rapid test a few days later and found that I was indeed positive, I was on the mend.
In those five days, in a borrowed room and alone, I spent time chatting and texting with the friends I couldn’t meet in person, and with many other people too. And oh man, did this new year arrive with a lot of anxiety, sadness, and true roaring grief for the people in my community. From the logistical and professional worries of more cancelled performances, to the stresses on kids and parents of either more online school or no option for online school, to the sheer crazy-making day-to-day of not being able to find out whether we are infected, to the wide experiential gaps between those who can comfortably pivot and those who don’t have many options, to the impending anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, to the constant Internet screaming about all of it – it seemed that every corner of my world was groaning under the weight of the dawning year. When a winter storm moved through Virginia and stranded motorists on I-95 for more than a day, it seemed like an illustration of everything broken.
But there were individual stories as well which made all of the above look like mere inconvenience. A beloved friend’s husband passed suddenly of a heart attack in his mid-forties, leaving her with their two young children. A friend from college lost everything in the freak wildfire outside of Boulder, Colorado. Dear lives changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. All the beauty of what is following now, their huge community of friends gathering to give and to organize and to help, can’t change the brutality of what has passed.
And there it is, I guess, the thing I’m searching for this evening. Nothing erases the sorrow, pain, damage, and unfairness of what has gone before. The only thing you can do is choose your next action., and that choosing is so hard under prolonged stress. That’s a reason we need each other so much, not because we can fix things (mostly we can’t), but to encourage and reassure each other to take the next, small, better step. To inspire the will, to move in compassion and love. Sometimes, other people will even do the work we are too weary to do. Sometimes, they’ll forgive us until we’re able to forgive ourselves.
If any of us find that, ever, even sometimes? We are luckier than I know how to describe.
As someone else’s fireplace warms my feet tonight, I feel like I’m a child learning the language of gratitude, undone every day by its magic, possessing no words big and bright enough to say what’s in my heart.
Wherever you are tonight, I hope there’s some good chair where you can bundle up.
And stay a while.
And just rest.