At this writing, I am in the midst of a second week of quarantine after some minor sinus surgery that needed to be done for a long time. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed until now and the 14 days is just what is being required. I’m fine — recuperating more slowly than I thought, but no complaints really.
I’ve been sequestered at home, like so many other people who can work from home these days, who are plugged in with WiFi or cable. Many people I talk to say their sense of time is off, unsure of what day of the week it is, for example — a function of this disorientation we are experiencing. Working from home is not a retreat, and certainly not vacation, but a kind of twilight zone, a limbo of working in a disconnected way but tethered to tasks that need doing at the same time. My attention span is short and I’m looking for distraction half of the time. I ate the last of the Easter jellybeans today. I hope I don’t panic. Panic over candy? Now there’s a very privileged place.
Although the house is quiet, for some reason I am so aware of how noisy it is outside. I’m conscious of the droning lawnmowers and the loud sirens from the fire station around the corner. I don’t think I noticed those sounds so much before. My office in the Motherhouse is quieter, and I guess, now that people are beginning to emerge from their seclusion, it seems like everybody in this town who owns a motorcycle is coming down my street like a volcanic eruption. It doesn’t help with the windows wide open.
I’m just so very struck by the sounds that I am engaging with as I sit here working at my desk, getting ready for another zoom call.
Besides the traffic, I can also hear lots of birds and the rain on the windows and out on the street. Some sounds are welcome. Others not so much. At lunchtime, I make a salad and catch some of the noontime news. Not a good idea. I forget how much news is streaming into my space and how little of it seems useful. Reports of one government official or agency complaining about another, rising numbers of cases and deaths, the ongoing debate between scientists and economists on what should happen when in order to regain some equilibrium.
I miss the beautiful interruption of someone stopping by the office to say hello, the friendly banter of our staff members in the kitchen. I miss eating lunch in the dining room, catching up with the sisters and eating with the staff. I miss saying hello to Howard on his daily rounds of collecting recycling.
The danger of my safe and lovely cocoon is that I get too comfortable in it. I’m easily sheltered from the harsh reality of people who face permanently losing their jobs, or who are not sure if they can continue to live in their homes. And how are parents going to provide for their children when the government assistance isn’t so friendly anymore? I fear this darkness will grow deeper for those who are poor, the immigrant, and the millions of American families who live from paycheck to paycheck.
This is all an invitation to ask: what am I listening for? Who am I listening to? Can I listen with more compassion to those who are deeply anxious? Can I hear the impatient calls to go back to a” normal” with some understanding and a desire for stability?
Amidst this noisy disquiet, I pray that I can hear the sound of hope — louder and more clearly than the squawking geese of blaming voices.
Amidst this noisy disquiet, I pray that I can hear the sound of innovation and invention, of new ways to connect one human soul to another.
Amidst this noisy disquiet, I pray that I can hear the voice of compassion within myself and a sense of communion, of belonging — more penetrating than the empty promises of quick cures.
Amidst this noisy disquiet, I pray I just keep listening.