Love in the time of Covid

Who would have ever thought we’d be on year two of this pandemic? The daily stresses, the emotional and economic costs, the deaths. The dogfights to receive a vaccine, the dogfights about the validity of vaccines. And still two years in, to mask or not to mask remains the question.

This epidemic has been the most divisive of any event I can remember in my lifetime.  And I say that having grown up in the sixties.  I witnessed the civil rights movement, the anger and controversy of the Vietnam War and political assassinations. But I have never experienced or felt the national and international division this pandemic has created.

It has been frightening, confusing and isolating. And most of all, it has left me with a deep sense of grief and loss.

Loss of loved ones, jobs and time.  College graduations, a proverbial rite of passage into adulthood, diminished to a one-by-one square on a computer screen where the sound of Pomp and Circumstance is completely absent, the whooping and cap-in-the-air throwing something a large chunk of this generation will never know. Our local grade school has a wonderful tradition of a bicycle safety exam.  Written and turf tested, it awards second graders the ability to ride their bikes to school alone in third grade. But that tradition, too, was lost to taking virtual courses on iPads in their bedrooms.

So much letting go, from the trivial to life altering. I, for one, have had a double dose of loss and isolation.  In the midst of Covid lockdown, my husband of 45 years decided he wanted a divorce. After a few months of perfunctory marital counseling, leave he did as soon as we stopped wiping down groceries with Lysol and cars were back on the road. He had taken a year off at twenty years into our marriage but we reconciled and renewed our vows.  Recommitted to each other and to raising our kids under one roof, with one set of parents.

But the second he placed his house key on the island, I knew this time was for good.

Rather than go into the gory details of working remotely with attorneys or the laborious division of assets or whose fault this divorce really is and how we got to this point after nearly half a century of being a team, I prefer to address how I have survived the loss of love in the time of Covid.

The isolation has been everywhere for everyone, but facing the fear of this disease, of death, of a life we knew that feels it will never be the same, facing it solo has been daunting to say the least.  I was married when I was barely 20. I did not have my first apartment alone, never bought my first car by myself or supported myself paycheck to paycheck.  I shared all those hallmarks of being an adult with my husband.

In the last year, I have moved through Kubler-Ross’s model of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression and I am easing into acceptance.  I am accepting the end of a commitment that I have spent most of my adult life honoring. And that acceptance has not come easily.  It took countless hours of professional guidance and endlessly unloading my tangled emotions on faithful friends who have listened with open hearts and offered hours of support until they, too, probably wanted to divorce me.

If “time heals all wounds” as my mama would say, when this pandemic is over and this divorce is final, I will be just me again.  No Mrs.  No spouse. No guaranteed date for the movies or a getaway trip to anywhere. Being married young and for so long, I have realized that, like those college graduates and third graders,  I have I missed my own rites of passage. And the unexpected luxury of being “just me.”

I have lived much of my life sharing someone else’s dreams. Now it is time to live my own dreams. And slowly but surely I am hearing a persistent, quiet voice inside that knows where I want to go and what I want to do.  I just allowed her to get muffled by my vision of  how life is supposed to be and doing the right thing.

I allowed “me” to get lost in the “we.”

That me, that little girl was born with hopes and visions of her own for the future.  And many of those I have lived.  But I am realizing that a big part of that feisty little girl, who got marched out of church for talking through the sermon most Sundays, is still in there. Fighting to be heard.

One of the most prolific and gifted writers of the 19th Century George ( born Mary Ann) Eliot wrote, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

And wisely, Eliot started by changing her first name, not her last.