Living in the Present

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

Thirteen months ago, I shared what it was like to return from the future. I had just traveled to New York as part of my sabbatical travels and was in Westchester County, the epicenter of American Covid-spread at the time. Things were closing down, restaurants were emptying, people were scared. Though I had travelled most of the distance, even my mother didn’t want me to visit.

Today (May 8) I am writing from the Kansas City, Missouri airport having just visited our daughter Aviva who moved here by herself ten months ago and whom we haven’t seen since. Ilana and Micah came as well. It was the first time we hugged our children since each left home after a 3-5 month Covid-related stay.

So much has happened during that time in the world, in our Eastern Suburbs corner of the world and in our families. Much related to Covid, much not.

Now I can write: I have been to the present. I have been on a plane, masked. I have eaten at restaurants, largely outside, masked until service. I have been to wonderful museums and spent more time outdoors on the balcony of our inn and in parks.

We may use phrases as “new normal” but I think they are not only disingenuous, they are unreflective and therefore not helpful. As Rabbi Jen Gubitz writes in “We believe that re-emergence will be deeply challenging for many of us. We have gotten used to our isolation, with its quiet time and narrowed commitments. Our worlds have shrunk to a more manageable size. Our griefs have been private and profound. Experts suggest that every person who has died of COVID this year, leaves behind at least 9 newly bereaved loved ones. A grief pandemic is what comes next, they say. In a year that has been catastrophic, communal, profound, life changing and historic, grief abounds.”

Let us acknowledge that grief and simultaneously celebrate life. Let us hear Ecclesiastes, “A time for weeping and a time for laughing, A time for wailing and a time for dancing.” Which time are we in? Both. As the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai writes, “Ecclesiastes was wrong about that. A [person] needs to love and to hate at the same moment, to laugh and cry with the same eyes.” Let us challenge ourselves to laugh and cry and hug and social distance and wear masks and reveal our innermost selves at the same moment. Let us allow ourselves to be present.

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