I’ve been sick all week.
It wasn’t COVID… I have a test to prove that. But it was fatigue and a cough and congestion and a fever and it was no fun. Today I started feeling a bit better, and I got up and made myself coffee and walked outside. I was surprised to see how much had changed in a week.
The week before, my Mom was in town, and we explored canyons and waterfalls and state parks. We walked more than 100,000 steps, according to her FitBit, and spent much of that time outside. But in the week I was stuck inside, sick, Spring finally came.
It’s beautiful in Macon, Georgia today. It reminds me of last year, when I had just moved to the Peach State to start my new job at the Telegraph. I was excited about learning a new city and community, about building relationships with coworkers and residents. I had a lot of hope for 2020. Most of us did. But it turned out moving 850 miles away from family and friends right before a global pandemic hit brought challenges I was not anticipating.
This isn’t a cry for help, though. I am surrounded, at least digitally, by people who I care about and who care about me. I talk with my family every day, engage in a… spirited group chat with old friends and get regular video calls from Baby CJ that warm my heart. My coworkers are kind and supportive, and I’ve made new friends despite the pandemic-induced isolation. And for those of you who know me well, you understand I yearn for time alone to think, rest and relax.
I am not lonely. But I am alone.
I also know that I’m lucky. Blessed. I did not lose my job, and I can work from home. I didn’t have to furlough. I haven’t faced eviction. I haven’t had to file for unemployment. I still have never had COVID-19, as far as I know, and no one in my family has suffered from it. My friends have largely been spared from the virus. As a single man, I haven’t had to juggle quarantining with a family or balance working from home with kids learning remotely. I am grateful for all of these things.
I have wept often, for the struggle of friends and the deaths of complete strangers. I hope that in a small way, through my work and causes I’ve supported and people I’ve comforted, that I’ve done something to alleviate the strain and grief. I fear I have not done enough.
Today is the official end of winter. My dining room has three windows that look out into my backyard. They’re open right now, and I can see and hear and smell warm sunshine, gentle wind and rustling leaves, merry birds and smiling flowers. It’s springtime in Georgia, a reminder that there is always hope, even after a long winter of anxiety and fear and pain. Promises that one day soon I’ll share a round of beer with friends, or tabletop with my favorite gamers, or hold my baby nephew, or hug my Dad. That I’ll be able to watch baseball games and listen to live music and go to a movie theater and meet new people face-to-face.
I’m not foolish enough to believe that a change in seasons will end the pandemic’s threat, or heal the pain of losing so many loved ones, or bring together a nation of people that seem intent on driving each other apart. There are so many lessons I need to learn from the past 12 months. Our world has evolved in fundamental ways, ways that need to be examined and contextualized and internalized.
But some lessons aren’t so much lessons as reminders. I am reminded of how deeply I love my family and friends, and that the most valuable investment is spending quality time with the people we love. Of how even for introverts like me, human contact is so important. Of how important it is to not overburden myself with responsibilities and activities and to take joy in simple things, like walking in the park or reading a favorite book or learning a new recipe. Of how joy is not always a product of circumstances, but can be a product of how we respond to the circumstances we’re in.
Monday, Lord willing, I get my first coronavirus vaccine shot. It’s springtime in Georgia. Life is, in small ways, beginning to feel more normal. But I hope the normal we return to isn’t February 2020. I hope I take the lessons of the past year to heart. The things I’ve learned about myself, about enduring even in darkness, about being intentional with my time and resources, about what truly brings me joy, about what I truly value.
I’ve done my best to make the most out of this season in my life. I read more than 40 books last year, experienced many new musicians and movies, finished some writing projects and started another one (a science fiction book I’m about 30,000 words into, one I’m very excited to write). But more often than not, the past year has been simply about surviving.
A month into the pandemic, when everything seemed so overwhelming, I wrote out lyrics to a song and hung them in my bathroom so I would see them every day, that hope for days like today would reach me. They’re from the song “Music Box” by Thrice.
We are not alone
We feel an unseen love
We are sons and heirs of grace
We are children of
A light that never dims
A love that never dies
Keep your chin up, child
And wipe the tears from your eyes
It’s springtime in Georgia. Keep your chin up.