By Dana Gornall
Growing up as the only girl on a dead end street, I learned to keep myself entertained.
My older brother had friends that lived nearby (other boys) and I tried to play with them but they seldom wanted the little sister around, unless it involved me bringing them snacks from the kitchen. So I resigned to playing alone.
We had a sandbox framed with 4 x 4 wooden planks behind our house, and I had a small metal pail painted with Raggedy Ann and Andy on the outside, solid sky blue on the inside, and a matching shovel. As a child, I took good care of my things. I’d scoop the sand into the pail, cleanly scrape the top layer until it was level, and flip it over to make pail-sized lumps. I’d bring my Barbie dolls “to the beach” and carefully carve out a section for them to sunbathe. This could go on all afternoon.
One day, my parents had a friend over who brought her son who was older than me. Excited to have someone new to play with, I remember us all going out to the sandbox—me, my brother and this boy. It wasn’t more than a few minutes when he began kicking through my carved-out beach, slid his belly across the entire framed-in-box, making face-down sand angels. But then—to my horror—he turned my clean, metal pail with Raggedy Ann and Andy painted on the outside, upside down, bent his legs and hopped as hard as he could on top. He jumped again and again until my shiny blue pail was smashed crookedly on one side, the faces of Raggedy Ann and Andy broken. Watching, eyes open wide, I stood there in shock, my face crumpling into tears.
I remember my brother being kind of irritated with the boy and I remember the mom of that boy apologizing and scolding her son. But none of that would fix my pail again.
This was one of my first lessons in life, unexpected turns and not being in control of a situation. It was also a lesson in not allowing strange boys to play with my toys.
Since the world has declared the coronavirus a pandemic, we have been searching desperately to find the finish line.
When will it be over? When will things go back to normal? When will the stores re-open? When can I get my hair cut/colored? Will it be in two weeks? Three weeks? Will it go away in the summer?
I have been thinking the same thoughts.
We all hate when things are out of our control. As as species we invent all kinds of devices and systems to gain control over our lives. We plan. We schedule. We sync our lives and our heartbeats to our phones. And when things go array, we want to do whatever means necessary to put all the pieces back together again into our view of what is normal.
We complain and we get depressed, maybe we join protests, maybe we start blaming people. The reality is that none of these things that we do will bring that finish line any closer. Whether we are talking about a silent, invisible monster of a virus, unexpectedly losing a job, or a random boy smashing your shiny pail in the sandbox.
Things will not go your way. There will be hiccups, life will change, and you cannot control it. Kind of sounds a little like The Four Noble Truths.
1. Life is suffering
2. The cause of suffering is craving or desire.
3. The way out of suffering is to stop craving.
4. The way to stop craving is to practice the path.
Are we suffering right now? Yes. This is something none of us have experienced in our lifetimes. It’s not a war on an enemy we can see or control and our only effort to fight right now is to remain still in our homes, and wait. And the waiting is unbearable at times. Sitting by and watching hopelessly as people of all ages get sick, not knowing who will need medical intervention, who will have mild symptoms, who among us is asymptomatic, is maddening. So lashing out seems to be the easiest response.
I have an 18 year old daughter who is a senior in high school this year. She is the class of 2020, and she is supposed to be doing all of the expected senior things—prom, senior sports banquets, commencement. She is supposed to be winding down the last 12+ years of her schooling with her friends and planning to go to concerts this summer. I don’t know if any of this will happen. In one quick motion the virus has taken all of that away from her and the rest of the 2020 class. There may not be a prom. There will definitely not be a senior sports banquet and we are still waiting on how commencement will take place.
I wish I had a clear answer for her—a finish line I could mark and say when this will all be over, but I don’t.
For now we sit and we wait. We understand that life will not go as planned. We understand that while we want nothing more than life to go back to “normal,” that normal may have changed and craving for it to quickly be over won’t make it go by any faster.
I don’t know whatever happened to that boy who stomped on my Raggedy Ann and Andy pail that summer day, but I learned that when things don’t go as planned—when life gets turned upside down—you grieve and then you adapt.
I can’t tell you when the finish line will be here. Maybe we will have to buy some paint and create a few new ones. I can tell you that we will grieve, we will crave, we will let go eventually, we will sit and we will find normal again…whatever that will look like.
Editor: John Lee Pendall
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