Like you, I’ve spent the last five months reading about the myriad of effects of the unprecedented global pandemic on our lives. I’ve read about the losses suffered by our children. I’ve heard from countless business owners and freelance workers who have suffered financially. And I know that traditional education as we know it is never going to look the same.
What I haven’t read, but know we all share, is how hard it is when every single relationship you have changes at the same time, in an instant.
Many aspects of life with regard to those we love have been amplified. For me, the most extreme change has been my relationship with my kids. Spending all day with them has been challenging but rewarding in so many ways—but the best part has been the evenings.
Before March, I would often go straight from working all day to spending my entire evening driving carpools. I didn’t spend any quality time with my kids during the week, and weekends were spent mentally and physically preparing for another hectic week ahead. Now, even when I don’t see much of my kids while I’m working during the day, I still have all evening with them. We watch movies, cook together, play outside, and just enjoy each other’s company instead of running from sports practice to tutoring to drs and back. I am so grateful for this time with them, even as I know it is not sustainable for any of us.
On the opposite end, there is the change that includes the pain and loss we feel for not having loved ones physically present at significant life events. Just 6 months ago, who could have imagined those closest to us—our parents, siblings and best friends—wouldn’t be there by our side for our children’s births, bnei mitzvot, and weddings. Who could have predicted that mourners would not be able to sit shiva with their siblings or even attend a family member’s funeral in some cases?
Our relationships with those who live far is more accessible through zoom, and still the pain of not hugging them and sharing these important moments is raw. My son’s bar mitzvah is in a week, and I still can’t believe that not a single friend and most family will not be there to celebrate with us. Most of them have known him since he was born, and we’ve talked lovingly for years about being a part of these moments with our families. It is a pain that does not subside as our dreams for these moments sit like rocks in our chest, even as we know we have so much to be grateful for having arrived at this moment healthy.
While these two types of relationships are the most changed, there are still other relationships that have had to shift as well. With our colleagues, we have to find new ways to collaborate remotely and with plenty of scheduling conflicts and distractions. With friends and loved ones who live close but not in our homes, we are now navigating how much risk each of us feels comfortable taking along with new schedules, unfamiliar activity choices to enjoy, and the loss of routines we had relied on for connection to each other.
But, perhaps the most significant change has been our relationship with ourselves. For some, the loss of a career or loved one has shaken them to the core—triggering confusion about their identity and deep instability in their way of life. For others, there has been a significant change in the amount of time spent alone—maybe you have more time alone now or maybe less, but for most of us, it’s just not the same as it was.
And this, this fundamental shift in how much time we have to care for ourselves and our relationships–all of them, every single one—is so destabilizing. We were settled. We were ok. We figured out how to manage. In the blink of an eye, everything changed.
Life as we knew it is no more, and our relationships with others and our identities are going to adapt to this new reality. I believe the struggle now is to have agency over this new, shifted reality. Because, after all, how many generations can say they had the opportunity to examine every piece of their puzzle and decide which ones to keep, which to nurture, and which to alter before settling into the “new normal” to ensure the happiest, most fulfilled relationships to sustain us.
To all my loved ones—you know who you are—I love you, I miss you, and I can’t wait to hug you soon.