One winter, when I was a student in New York City, I took a train home to Boston in a snowstorm.
At one point, in Connecticut, conditions were so bad, everyone had to get off the train and wait until the tracks were cleared enough that continuing on would be safe. By the time we were permitted to board again, we’d been waiting for hours. Everyone was cranky and rushing and vying for a seat. More people joined who had missed earlier trains. We were told this was the only one that would be making the trip that day.
My mindset shifted in that moment from: “Get a good seat” to: “Squeeze into whatever space you can find inside this train.”
For the next leg of the journey, I sat on top of my luggage in the clunky, noisy middle space between cars along with a gaggle of other weary travelers doing the same. We didn’t have proper seats, but we had a way to get home, and that was all that mattered that day.
I was flashing back on this memory recently because it feels aligned, in many ways, with the unfolding of the pandemic and where I find myself now.
At first we were asked to accept the sudden shock of shutting everything down and staying home. Then we were tasked with being patient until it could all reopen. Then came the realization that we’re not really going to reopen or return, magically, to a fully functional version of what we long regarded as normal life.
The train may finally leave the station again, but it’s not gonna go very fast and you won’t have a proper seat. Your legs will ache and the cold air will seep in and you’ll complain a lot - but this other thing will be true too, riding alongside your dissatisfaction and sadness - this blooming, unspeakable gratitude that you were allowed on the train at all. That your journey is allowed to continue when so many others didn’t make it.
So if you find yourself crammed in lately, fatigued by the long endurance of sub-optimal conditions, longing for things to be different than they still are and with no physical or psychic space to even process what’s happened since March 2020, you are not alone.
It’s ok to feel all these feelings, in their full complexity, and to keep reminding yourself that everything we go through in this life has a context. Just like every sentence takes place inside of a broader story that’s unfolding. We need the context in order to make sense of things.
The context right now is two-fold: we’re in the long, extended remix of a song we’d all rather not be hearing any longer. AND: we’re really freaking fortunate to be here with the means to listen at all.
Wherever you find yourself, on your long journey home right now, I hope there’s a spot for you to sit or lean and a window to peer out of, to watch the whole miraculous dream unspool and rush by. And I hope you know how dearly loved you are.
Till next time friends,