A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly. — Desmond Tutu
When something as unpredictable and devastating as a pandemic sweeps the world, it leaves scars so deep it’s impossible to blot out. As I write, I can feel the raw sting of pain from my own scars, having recently lost a loved one to the cold, cruel latches of Covid-19. It’s hard.
If you’ve been here, as I suspect some of you have, you know that once the shadow of grief has lifted, you’re left with only two choices, to either die on the hill of pain, reminiscing the good old days or, muster every ounce of strength and take at least one step away from the darkness and face the light.
Both of these sucks. But everything in life boils down to a fork on the road. Do you turn left or right?
Eventually, you’ve got to make a choice, no matter how painful. And if you make the same choice as I have (more on that in a moment), you start to sense a new version of yourself pushing through the cracks like a blade of grass through the cement. With it, you become armed with lessons you’d otherwise not learn had grief not interrupted your life’s rhythm.
The point of this piece is to expose all the leafy thoughts that have been rustling in my head for the past one and half years in the hope that they can inspire you to explore how your own grief has changed you if you haven’t recognized it yet. Hopefully, my sorrow can be the pebble that will trigger the ripple you need to discover yourself.
Here’s what I’ve learned since Covid-19 hit.
It’s Okay To Roll With the Punches.
It’s been a long 15 months since I last saw my parents. To say I miss them is to understate grossly. With Australian borders still shut, there’s no hope of them visiting. Just like there’s little hope of me going to mama land with travel exemptions being so hard to get. I’m stuck here. And this is just one Covid-19 inconvenience that I have to deal with at the moment.
But honestly, I’ve made peace with this. I’m now okay rolling with the punches. At least I get to roll, punches or not. So many no longer have this chance, including people very close to me. So if this is how to keep going, so be it. I’ll keep pushing for them and me.
I hope you do the same. I hope your grief lights a blazing fire under your belly, fierce enough to keep you going, even if it means a day at a time. At least you’re still here. It’s no longer about winning. It’s about having the strength to fight. This is everything.
Losing Loved Ones Makes You Realize Who You Need To Lose.
When it all closes in, there are only two kinds of people: best friends and everyone else. — Emery Lord
It’s weird. Losing loved ones has only made me realize who I need to lose. When you lose those who matter, you only want to hold tighter to those who still do and allow the rest to fall by the wayside. It’s why I’m okay, even ready to watch people ride off the sunset with my best wishes. Just like I’m okay being pushed away from people’s lives because now, I get it.
It’s no longer about protecting egos. It’s about figuring out who your person is and holding them tightly while allowing others to figure out their people and being okay with their decisions. When something as awful as a pandemic disrupts our lives, it stops being a question of what I want and becomes what WE need and the easiest way to get it.
At times this means letting people be. As a talker, I’m all for reaching out to people, but for the last few months, I’m dialing back a bit to give people time to figure out what they need to move forward. People need space. Give it to them. Give yourself space too.
Allow yourself time to catch your breath. Build those boundary walls thicker and higher if you need to and take all the time you need. We’ll be here when you’re ready to crawl out.
Creating a Mess Is Better Than Not Creating at All.
There’s something about death that makes you give zero chills more and more. You stop being too careful, too proper, or too conformist. You start embracing, even loving your messiness and abstractness. I’ve undergone this transformation.
Before the pandemic, I used to be a master procrastinator, not because of laziness — my Kenyan mom didn’t leave me that option. She’d have chopped me into pieces before burying me under a mango tree had I turned out lazy. The procrastination stemmed from my quest for perfection.
I’d wait longer than the ducks needed to set themselves in a row to do what I needed to do. That was a decade ago — sorry, I mean 2020. Between all the upheaval and extended lockdowns, it sure feels like a decade, right?
I can’t anymore. If I need to write, get a project done, or meet a client, I get started pronto and figure it out as I along. I no longer have time to dissect everything, analyze or walk on eggshells to ensure I get it right. I’m doing what needs to be done and moving on — perfect or not.
I’ve redefined perfection not as getting it done right but as getting it done. Period. I’m done riding the over-thinking train because it’s stalled me more than moving me forward. I know most creatives contend with this. Take writing, creating videos, drawing, or painting, for example, you begin inspired and confident.
By the time you’re halfway through, your work starts to resemble the opposite of what you’re aiming for, you stop and edit, before realizing your first version was better. So you start to revert, and by then, you’re not even sure you want to continue. The muse has left the room in search of someone who’s ready to create something.
Well, I guess there’s always Netflix.
Done is better than perfect. Creating a mess is better than not creating at all. Try that recipe, write that draft, record that video, start that website and then move on. You can achieve this by simplifying the task at hand. Ask yourself, what’s the easiest way to do this?
It could be that you need to approach it from a different angle. Or, you maybe you don’t need to do everything at one go. The world won’t end because it’s not perfect. Besides, perfection is subjective.
Creating a Monument on the Graveside of Hope Won’t Help Anyone.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve smashed my head against the wall trying to find answers to the questions that run so deep within me. Paradoxical questions, which are both familiar and complex, such as why good people die. The ones we want to hold onto forever, while the idiots, sociopaths, and bullies continue to set footprints on this earth.
My belief in a loving and just God convolutes any possible answers even further. I’ve lived long enough, experienced enough pain to know that the rift between what we want to believe and what’s reality is wide. Worlds apart.
So here I am, standing on the fork in this life path, and it seems that the only way to keep moving forward is to create a compartment in my mind for questions that will never have answers no matter how deep I keep digging. If I’m honest, I loathe the feeling I get from settling with this truth. It doesn’t make me feel liberated at all. Instead, it leaves a bitter taste.
A sense of, is this it?
Still, as incredibly hard as it is, I’ve decided to still believe in the proverbial rainbow after the rain. And I implore you to do the same. Have hope that in some way, somehow, tomorrow will bring healing, no matter how long it takes. Yes, there are answers you’ll never unearth.
But creating a monument on the graveside of hope won’t help you either. You can look at your visible scars today and still fan the flame of hope for tomorrow. Choose this.
Crises are often resolved only through a new identity and new purpose, whether it’s that of a nation or a single human being. — Rebecca Solnit