As balmy as these last days of September have been, the signs of autumn are visible everywhere. The lush canopy of green that has blanketed the so much of the city is rapidly changing color—the trees dappled with orange red, and gold. Even as I walked our dog along neighborhood streets this past week, the sidewalks were strewn with pale yellow leaves from trees already shedding. Autumn, usually my favorite season of the year, seems to be accompanied by a somberness in the air that is inescapable. Our brief reprieve from the COVID pandemic has ended. Canada, like many other countries in the world, is experiencing an increase in new cases—and even as I began writing this post, the local newspaper headlines ago reported “Ontario sets record-high with 700 new COVID-19 cases…” Sobering and worrisome.
We all have been reading the daily reports, and COVID-19 has crept into our conversations again. “I’m worried,” a friend admitted to us as we sat in her back garden the other evening (appropriately distanced from one another). She voiced what we all were feeling. As much as we had been hearing of the likelihood of a “second wave,” seeing the numbers increasing each week was troubling, signaling the potential for a return of the lockdowns we endured earlier in the year along with that nagging low level anxiety that accompanied them. My husband and I had already begun to pull back, even missing our daughter’s 50th birthday party, unwilling to risk socializing with a group of her close friends and their children. We’ve promised a delayed celebration once all this is over, but how much longer will this pandemic persist? How serious will this “second wave be? How long will this last? When will there be a vaccine? Will it be effective? What long-term impact will it have on every aspect of life as we once knew it?
Now we have little choice but to wait and to be cautious. Like you, I have waited—patiently or impatiently– on many things in my life: the births of my daughters, and later, waiting up for them to arrive home well past curfew. I’ve waited in lines for tickets and performances, for doctor’s appointments and medical tests, for my husband, arriving late for a dinner with friends. I don’t like waiting; few people do, but the waiting we’re experiencing now is different. Remember the film, “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray, who played a TV weatherman who kept waking up and reliving the same day over and over? It feels a bit like that with the advent of a second wave of the Corona virus, only we’re waiting, worried, waiting for the “all clear” signal, for the return to a normal life, yet fearful of what “normal” might be, waiting for a vaccine to be available…waiting.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting…
(From “Wait” by Galway Kinnell, in: Mortal Acts; Mortal Words, 1980)
Perhaps. This kind of waiting we all are experiencing is more than familiar to those who have been diagnosed with and treated for cancer. My husband lost one of his kidneys to cancer a year and a half ago, and he is now waiting for the results of his latest CT scan. Even though he’s been doing well, the test—the wait for results—rekindles his worry of possible recurrence.
Waiting—and the worrying that accompanies it–can dominate our daily lives, whether it will be more long months of COVID-induced isolation and lockdown or as cancer patients wait and hope to hear “no evidence of disease at this time.” Even now, I feel my own niggling anxiety rise along with a sense of spiritual malaise and boredom as this second wave of COVID gathers strength, and trying, again to learn to accept and find new ways to master this state of waiting and to learn from it. The colors of autumn seem to pale as I look out the window now, then I remember T. S. Eliot’s words from The Four Quartets (1943):
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
His words remind me to reconsider why life seems to make us wait. I am still learning, despite my age, to accept what I cannot control, to let things unfold as they will…but sometimes? It’s just not easy.
Write about waiting. Describe a particular time waiting was difficult for you. What was the situation? How did you feel? What happened when the wait was over? What did you learn—if anything—from the experience?