It seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote that post about being discouraged. March 4. Almost three weeks. And so much has happened.
I started anti-anxiety medication again that day. The need had been building, and I’d done a good job of managing it until a trip to Ireland was threatened by a pandemic. And the pandemic exploded.
After my uncle Shaun died in 2010, one of the ways my anxiety manifested was hypochondria. Over the years, I’ve become much more attuned to my body in a healthy way: sickness happens, and the body has amazing ways to heal and recover. If I notice myself going down the hypochondria path, I know it’s not good. A pandemic is, apparently, a great trigger. As is the possibility of getting on a plane during said pandemic.
The trip has been moved. I am on drugs. I’ve leveled out again.
In the midst of everything, I’ve been reflecting, as have many people, on what isolation, distance, society, health, and preparation mean. We are scaling back. Or we should be. (If you’re not, get on it. Do I really have to tell you that at this point?) One of the things that really wigged me out with covid-19 was the talk of preparation. Once people started talking about needing to have food or medicine or supplies stocked up for several weeks, I freaked a bit.
We got some staples: a bag of rice, some oatmeal, eggs, frozen fruit, canned beans and tomatoes. I got soap and laundry detergent; we did get some Purell and cleaner. We got the things that keep our house going. Not in abundance, but enough.
As we gathered, I thought about what it means to have enough and how lucky we are to be in a position to gather. I have thought about this over and over as the weeks have progressed, as we have hunkered down and simplified, as chaos churns in the world and we work on remaining stable and sane.
When I was in college I was very close with the sisters at Mount St. Scholastica. I joined them for prayer and Mass regularly. One year, I stayed with the community for Holy Week and Easter. On Holy Thursday, the sisters sing a song before their meal called “Dayenu.” (I’m pretty sure it’s on Holy Thursday. This was about fourteen years ago, so my memory is rusty.) It is, as it turns out, a song that Jewish people sing on Passover. It is a reminder of the goodness of God. It is a prayer of gratitude for gifts given by God: deliverance from slavery, miracles of providing, divine presence to the community. The refrain is, “It would have been enough.” If God had done just one of the things, it would have been enough. But God lavished goodness and presence and justice on the people.
What is enough? I get the desire to hoard, to find security in having more than I need. The impulse isn’t necessarily illogical. But after my initial moments of fear, once the medication and better angels kicked in, I settled on this concept of enough. It has been my refrain as we’ve planned meals, looked at what we have, gone to the store, settled in to this weird new normal.
This crisis is stripping everything to basics. That’s what happens in crisis. It’s what happens in grieving. It’s what happens during Lent. The nonessentials give way to what matters greatly: presence, gratitude, stillness, little things. We are pushed into the desert and forced to confront what’s uncomfortable. We lead such comfortable lives, really. And now we’re seeing just how tenuous that comfort is. In many ways, I prefer abundance, lavishness, overflowing. I’m not sure I realized just how much I have moved out of deep grief and have forgotten what is enough.
I am remembering again. The comfort of my husband’s presence and laughter—this would be enough. Stepping outside early in the morning when I let Cully out, feeling the crisp air, hearing the birds that have returned, smelling mud as the earth thaws—this would be enough. Kneading bread and watching it rise—this would be enough. Phone calls with mom as we marvel at this new world and the routines it has upended and created—this would be enough. Finding new ways to connect with friends and family members so we don’t lose our humanity in the midst of this—this would be enough. Music shared on social media, proclaimed from balconies, blasted while cleaning—this would be enough.
This crisis will end. We will return to a semblance of normal. At some point. We will be changed in the process. We never go through the desert unscathed, or, to put it more positively perhaps, without becoming something new. But maybe this time we’ll remember what is enough.