Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Not Lost, Just Different

By Shaya French

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”
―Robin Wall Kimmerer, in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

A friend was lamenting to me that she feels like she’s lost a year and a half of her twenties to the pandemic. I felt dismay. What about our weekly phone conversations? I feel much closer to her now than I did before the pandemic. Did she not feel it too? Did that time not count for her?

A clear hourglass filled with blue sand rests on the page of a calendar

And then I wondered, why doesn’t this feel like lost time to me? I expected that in my 27th year I would fly to visit my grandmother before she died, and go to vibrant Shabbat and church services, and hug my friends, and see all of the people I appreciate a lot but only connect with when we see each other at events. I lost all of those things.

But this year and a half doesn’t feel lost to me; it just feels wildly different from any of my imaginings. I can’t think of it as a “lost” year because I don’t expect things to go back to normal. If this year is a lost year, then I am bound to live a lost life. I want to find as much life as possible in the surviving; the recovering from disaster.

I have so many memories of this time. There’s so much good mixed up with the bad. I lost people I loved dearly. I reconnected with people I love via phone, deepening our relationship. I lost community spaces I once felt uplifted by. I discovered that I feel alive when I am baking and writing fiction—things I did infrequently before the pandemic.

I know that I’m lucky and privileged. I get to work from home, which has reduced the terror of being forced to go out in the world. I have a loving partner and got to move in with friends. My story would have gone differently if those things were not true.

But to survive, I need to focus on what I found in the past eighteen months—not what I lost—because I don’t think I’ll get to have any of the futures I had once imagined for myself.

Prayer

Spirit of Life, give us the courage to let go of the life we had imagined so we can be present to the life that we’re living, complete with all of its heartache and joy.

About the Author

Shaya French

Loved, nurtured, and radicalized by UU youth community, Shaya French (ze/hir) is a visionary fiction writer imagining worlds beyond capitalism. Ze is a member and board member of Sanctuary Boston and a disability community organizer. Shaya loves ocean walks, petting dogs, and candle magic.

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