The Space We Still Share

Friends, we are all struggling no matter where we are. But I’m having a hard time with tone-deafness.

For the people in less-afflicted areas, I’m glad for your nature communion. Sorry you’re tiring of TV offerings and snack options and that your trip was cancelled. Mildly amused by memes about how your hygiene and health routines are suffering. Even glad for those who are embracing this time as an opportunity for “radical self care.”* But speaking as a New Yorker I can’t walk a block without stumbling over a homespun sidewalk memorial for a neighbor who was just felled or an ambulance whisking someone else away.

So many people I know are sick, people I love and admire in my immediate world. It all hurts, even the deaths of the people you didn’t especially care for. And then of course there’s the terror of your personal welfare. The fear of the many unemployed. The fear of our deplorably unprotected essential workers. Most New Yorkers have no safe outdoor space whatsoever and for those of us who don’t have a second home or family we can run to, what is happening in real time is unfathomable. Because for many of us there is no other place.

Either we were raised here or this city welcomed us outcasts and it was here that we finally found a home. We loved that we were all crowded together–in it together–even when we complained, and now that has been ripped from us though we’re still all crowded in the same place. Only now it’s not “crowded.” It’s “caged.” And I’m relatively lucky as a New Yorker. I have enough food in my fridge, savings to get me through a few more months, framily support.

I am not saying anyone should feel guilty, it’s a useless emotion. I am saying we should be careful about what we put out there. Especially while so many of us are sick and dying and grieving and losing everything we thought shored us.

Don’t abstract this trauma. Don’t expect “good vibes only” when some of us legitimately feel a roaring black hole of loss and rage and fear. Don’t expect us to be available for business as usual while our entire worlds are tumbling down around our heads.

I send love and I feel yours too. But we are all going to have to take it up a notch in terms of how we compassionately and consciously hear and tell our stories–me included. A new etiquette is required–a new social contract for these no-contact times–and we’re just going to have to fumble our way through. Patience is the new praxis.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy