Venice Underwater — Is Manhattan Next?
I had flagged this article back in November when the floodwaters were rising in Venice and then set it aside. My title, Venice Underwater — Is Manhattan Next? was referring to the literal flooding of Manhattan as an island susceptible to sea level rise. Fast forward three months and both Italy and New York are flooded with Covid-19, the lungs of its inhabitants filling with fluid as they attempt to fend off a novel virus with no cure and limited testing. Life speaks in metaphor and so does the earth.
In metaphysical speak, there are four elements: fire, earth, air, and water, each with its own symbols and signature energy. Water represents emotion in astrology, tarot (cups), acupuncture, feng shui, many more, I’m sure. As for the lungs, they represent life energy. Depriving the lungs of air is probably one of the quickest ways to die; you can last about four days without water and about 40 days without food, but you only get about four minutes without air.
The lungs also speak the language of grief. Not coincidentally, Grief is currently riding sidesaddle with the coronavirus and it’s pretty clear that society is grappling with the fallout. We’re grieving the loss of our normal routine; of our inability to chat and share and break bread with our friends and neighbors; to ride public transit; to go to the movies (particularly acute for me); to hug and shake hands; to shop without face coverings or the worry of contracting the virus while buying groceries; to homeschool young kids and work from home at the same time (like, impossible); and we’re grieving the actual physical loss of friends and loved ones as the world that we once knew changes in ways that a few months ago we could have never imagined.
I’ve been working remotely for about four weeks now. Teleworking has comprised some part of my routine for the last 25 years so that part is not new. What is new are the reasons behind it. My husband who has MS is immunocompromised so I am grateful for the ability to work at home since the very real danger of bringing something into the house plagues my every trip to the store — which have been few and far between — and barrages my optimism. How can you protect against something you can’t see?
My soon to be 20-year old is home, her in-person sophomore year in college now aborted for an online version that she is having difficulty navigating. Gone are her friends, her teachers, her classes, her “cute room” that she finally had fixed up the way she wanted. Where there used to be parties on weekends are now just two boring parents, a couple cats and the dog for company. Where there used to be afternoons in the park are now just her childhood bedroom, dressed up with colored lights to make the dark times a little more sparkly, but to be thrust back into the role you’d recently outgrown feels a bit like wrestling with a crocodile — it’s impossible to get a grip. I completely understand all this and have been offering suggestions to ease the burden, but what, really, can any of us do to make another’s grief go away?
Last night I told my son — a senior in college this year who has no graduation ceremony and no last rites of passage from childhood to adulthood to look forward to as a result of corona — not to come home for Easter. He’s been at college which he reports is a ghost town but for a few of his buddies who also stayed in their apartments because of various commitments. My son had an internship to finish up which he needs to graduate, hence why he went back. Plus, he studies better at school. When he made the decision to go back to school I cried — not in front of him because I didn’t want him to feel bad — knowing that it would come do this: choosing to keep our house germ-free over seeing my kid. That’s a tough choice for a parent, but the last time my husband got sick he ended up in the hospital. Through that lens, it’s no longer seems like a choice, but still, I didn’t sleep well last night because of it.
I have been unable to write, or draw, or cook anything that I don’t have in my memory banks, meaning, nothing much new or interesting is happening. I’ve done very little gardening, mostly because the weather has been crappy, but really, it’s just me being … what is it? Lifeless? Limited? Anxiety ridden? Grief stricken? Or, as my friend Bob and I like to say, “waiting for the other shoe to drop”?
I read an article the other day. Some twitter troll said— and maybe they were well meaning or just trying to be motivational, I don’t know — that if you don’t come out the other end of this with a new skill or hobby or prolific at something that you’ve wanted for a while then you never really wanted it badly enough. That made me feel kind of crappy about myself because despite a novel in the works and a blog that I could contribute to every day if I wanted, and freelance writing opportunities to be had, I’ve been frozen in time, able to deal only with work, walking the dog, making dinner, cleaning the house, very little else. A psychologist called the twitter troll out on it. I mean, don’t we all have enough to deal with that we don’t need to add self-battering to the laundry list?
Remember the boot that the cops would put on your car if you didn’t pay your parking tickets? I feel like I have one of those on my throat right now. It’s tight, like it’s struggling with what to say, and the moral decisions of everyday life are overwhelming it. I told my daughter whose motivation is at an all-time low right now that: “you think I’ve got it all together because I manage to get up and work everyday, but you’re wrong. Everyday I’m dying a little inside. Same as everyone else.” It’s tough to admit to your kid that you’re struggling, too, and that maybe you don’t have all the answers.
But here’s what I know: life is cyclical. It ebbs and flows. The tide comes in, the tide goes out. We’ll get through this, a bit more battered and bruised, but the world will go on and so will we. Refracted light tells a different story that maybe we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The world will look different, sure, but what if it changed for the better, ushering in things like universal health care; a living minimum wage (a special thank you to all the grocery store workers putting their health on the line so the rest of us can have fresh vegetables); a social safety net that protects the most vulnerable among us and not just the stock market and those who invest in it; and maybe, just maybe, the return of the American Dream where millions aren’t always on the outside looking in?
[Thanks to whoever took this picture!]
I think the earth is trying to tell us something. Perhaps we can use this time of isolation to tune in and really listen. Maybe we’ll understand how to navigate this brave new world being presented to us. In the meantime, be safe, be well.
pam lazos 4.10.20