We have to pass through the bitter waters before we reach the sweet
2020. Will this number ever mean anything to us but the year where everything in our world came crashing down? Will we look back on it someday and tell stories to those who never lived through it and talk about “those days” in the same way as when we’ve had to listen to people talk of the Great Depression or World War II? “Those days” that sounded so horrible but that no one could ever have a concept of if they didn’t live it, day in and day out?
If I look back on my life to this blog entry, the photos, the social media posts, or whatever serves as such nostalgia to our future, I will remember the year that my kids were in school one day and it was over the next. And not just for a week or two, like we thought it would be. Not even for the remainder of the school year, but bleeding into the next with no end yet in sight. I will remember that this horrible pandemic was something I myself had casually brushed under the rug as something that couldn’t possibly happen to the greatness of America until it had swept over us so quickly that we suddenly couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t hug our friends, where we had to wear masks to leave the house and stay 6 feet or more from everyone we encountered. Where people became so sensitive to everything that fistfights would erupt over stupid things that didn’t matter. Where we didn’t feel like we could be human anymore, where we were stuck feeling lonely and our kids couldn’t see friends and we couldn’t eat a meal in a restaurant. We watched businesses close doors, sometimes forever, and a cough from a stranger was something we feared. You couldn’t buy toilet paper or hand sanitizer, or flour for baking, or so many other puzzling things.
And then, George Floyd died. And both before and after him, countless others. He was the one that broke the straw on the camel’s back. People had fought for injustice far too long, had spoke up but found words doing nothing but falling to the ground in only a whisper. Peaceful protest turned to violence for some, rioting and fighting and excuses for chaos for others, and the people who wanted to make a difference and change things were the easiest to silence because they were like grains of sand in a vast desert where so much work still needed to be done. People became fearful and angry and misunderstood. People were tear gassed for standing in the wrong place, people watched their businesses get destroyed, and beautiful murals expressed the heartache and power of love and hate everywhere. It became a really confusing and mournful place to live.
I found strength in new places. I worked out more, ran in the quiet of the dark hours and enjoyed every inch of the fresh air I could find. I breathed deeply in places that I could so safely. I started teaching an outdoor fitness class in a socially distanced manner and found joy in being around people again. I hadn’t realized how much I would miss people until they were taken. And now, here we were, all in the same boat, all fighting the same exhausting fight, all in the same community. Things weren’t normal, but we were finding ways around the problems of the earth to find a corner of happiness.
Then the fires started. Huge winds and forest fires. First the power went out, and then the skies darkened and turned orange. The ash came floating down and the sun was pink. Before we knew it, Oregon, my home for my entire life, was burning. Pockets of our beautiful state were on fire and we had to stand helplessly and wait to the flames to die down. There was too much to do and our heroes did all they could. Friends evacuated their homes, not knowing if they would ever return to find them still standing. People worried about their animals and livestock, their most precious possessions, and all the things they’d worked their whole lives for. Restaurants and landmarks went down in piles of burnt cinders. We made a list in our family of what to take if we had to evacuate. We were only a couple of miles from the warnings, after all, and the levels of air quality had never reached such hazardous levels. If you’ve ever had to make a list like this, you know that even the idea of it is terrifying. How do you squeeze your whole life’s memories into one vehicle? And where do you go? Our eyes were on fire and my headaches raged. I stopped running. I stopped trying so hard to be healthy. It was all too hard. My family, my kids, me. We were all unsure of what to do next. How to proceed. Where to go. What to do.
But there’s always a reason for all of life’s battles. I’ve always said that we’d never appreciate life if not for it’s hardships. And here’s what I’ve learned, and here’s what I hope to never forget.
Enjoy the view, even if it’s the fire that caused it. It’s the least we can do.
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