Recent months have been rife with challenges and realizations. I’ve learned, for instance, that while masked up, I can chatter away to myself in the supermarket as I’ve always done; only now, no one can see my lips moving. I’m nearly convinced three squares of toilet paper can do the job of five — in most cases. I’ve even found an ironic silver lining in turning 60. While it places me on the fringe of the higher risk population, it also qualifies me to take advantage of the special early hours offered by grocery stores.
But most significantly, I’ve come to accept that sometimes the best — if not the only — thing we can do is simply sit tight.
I am by practice, a proactive person. It’s a life-long habit born of being, by nature, lazy. I don’t believe in procrastination, because if I don’t tackle a project right away, it’s too easy to lose momentum. This ethic’s been a driving force in sustaining a home-based business for 30 years. But my inclination to get jobs done ASAP is for naught when there aren’t many jobs to get done, as has been the case lately. The decline in work’s been enough to shake my confidence in the future of my company, leaving me certain of two things — only time will tell what happens next, and there’s no harm in keeping my fingers — and occasionally my toes — crossed.
Hanging in there and hoping have become organized pursuits. That’s what our family had to do with our son’s ever-changing military deployment. Via lengthy video chats, we shared much of his frustration as each time arrangements seemed to be falling into place, they immediately fell apart again.
It’s also an ongoing case of wait and watch — from a safe distance — with my 89-year-old mother-in-law. She was injured in a fall in mid-March, and after a brief hospitalization, was transferred to a nursing center. During the course of her rehabilitation, she tested positive for COVID-19, which delayed her release to her assisted living apartment, and kept her in isolation upon her return home. Restricted to window visits and daily phone calls, there’s little we can do to help settle her dementia-fueled anxiety. We continue debating if seeing us on the outside looking into a building we can’t enter affords her comfort or merely adds to her confusion. She often asks us if we’re coming in to visit or heading out to a movie or dinner next, and there’s no way we can make her understand that these aren’t real-life options at this moment.
Living in a world curtailed is far from new. It just hasn’t been experienced by most of us around today. The catchphrase that keeps coming to mind describing our current state was written by 17th century English poet John Milton as he was losing his sight. His painful situation inspired the immortal phrase, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Since the start of the pandemic we’ve all been required to do a lot of waiting. We’re waiting to hear when or if jobs will return; to see what businesses will reopen; to meet up with and freely embrace much-missed family and friends; to know normal again, whatever that will ultimately be.
Although we don’t particularly like it, I suspect most of us have gotten pretty good at staying put, practicing patience and keeping out of the way; and by doing so, we might have found one small way to serve.
May we serve well.
During John Milton’s lifetime, the bubonic plague visited his native London at least three times, so perhaps he had more in common with us than an understanding of the virtues of patience. Woodsboro resident Susan Writer wishes health and safety to all. Reach her at email@example.com. or visit her at Uexpress.com’s Ask Someone Else’s Mom.