Daily Connector | A marathon or a ride | Lavonne van der Zwaag

Donald McNeil, the Times science reporter who has frequented “The Daily” podcast has suggested that we should view the pandemic as a marathon with staggered start times rather than judging the success of a country (or state) based on the per capita death toll at a given time. He says that we can only determine how well a country (or state) is doing when you add in the time factor -- “…when the virus first exploded in a given place and what has happened since. McNeil adds, “we won’t really be able to judge until it’s over.” [David Leonhardt. New York Times The Morning. Sept 11, 2020]

I find that is probably true for a lot of things: a book, a vacation, raising children, a marriage, a life. The perspective that time offers is invaluable but it has some limitations.

Labor Day marked the second anniversary of Gerke’s transition and I can look back and see change in how I grieve his absence – it’s less intense; more focus is on the here & now, the future, and looking back contains less of the difficult last year and more of the previous 32 years. The valleys are less frequent and don’t last as long. So yes, time helps; but it doesn’t offer everything that one needs for perspective. And it definitely doesn’t illuminate the path of calls to action in quite the same way as the here and now.

These calls to action can be significant ones or simply the wake-up-one-day knowing something has to be done (like weeding one’s flower beds before the neighborhood kicks you out!). Grieving can rob one of momentum and drive, so projects around the house get tabled, bigger financial hurtles get ignored, and the pain and injustice around me can burn a hole in my heart yet inertia wins out. This inability to respond to others’ needs, something that I always found meaningful in my life, has been evident in my life these past 2-3 years now. It’s not that I’m not aware, but that I have so little within to share. My inner resources aren’t as plentiful and so I meter them out with care. Sometimes my work with bereaved (at OhioHealth at Home Hospice) takes all that I have to give and there’s nothing left over to respond to the injustices that are here and now. In today’s political environment that can leave me feeling pretty ineffectual and defeated. My inability to be fully present and responsive with friends and community can be isolating and unfulfilling.

I’m fully extending grace to myself while acknowledging this but I feel the need now to accept this and move onward. I can’t wait for time to bring insight. I need to learn how to refuel my resources so that I can once again reach out in meaningful ways (baby steps for sure). I need to re-arrange my life so that I have time and energy to share (in incremental ways). I want to be more than a survivor; I want to be a contributing member of my community and world (one day at a time). Time has taught me to pace myself, but I know what I want and need in my life for it to be fulfilling once again. I need to relearn “yes” for the ways that I can contribute, “not yet” to the things that I’m not quite ready for, and “no” to things that aren’t renewing my spirit or worthy of my energy.

I’m wondering if the journey of grief should also be viewed as a marathon; more often, widows/widowers that I’ve spoken with have described it as a roller coaster ride. One thing is certain, whether it’s a marathon or ride, grief can be an unyielding and persistent companion.