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  • Writer's pictureShannan McWaters

Did you feel that?

Did you feel it? The shift. The change. The turning on our axis that slipped upon us this past week. We went from making lists and organizing drawers to gazing out at the rest of the world’s pain to try and gauge what pain is coming our way. We went from taking all the walks and rolling out the yoga mats to just sitting in one spot for unexplained amounts of time. The feeling of family togetherness has shifted to spaces feeling tighter. When it all started it seemed so far away, so distant, the thing that still happens to other people in other places. We watched with a snow day’s anticipation as the world suffered because even though sad, it wasn’t real life. The time off work, the slowing down of life and the time with our families was desperately needed for so many of us that it created a kaleidoscope of emotions. All at once we experienced fear and gratitude, love and despair, togetherness and separation, laughter and tears. We learned to meet on the computer and work while our kids had their class in the background. We made countless meals as we feverishly tried to earn a living in an uncertain economy…but still, we felt protected. There was a shield. This week the shield began to melt. We began to lose our patience for reasons we can’t explain or control. We woke up early and stayed up late. We stopped watching the news, not because we don’t believe but because we just can’t hear it anymore. We realized that loved ones are suffering and many of them are suffering alone.

Some of my happiest days have been played out sitting by an ocean. Sunny days and stormy days, both offer beauty and familiar joy. There are beautiful, sun filled, cloudless days that are suddenly interrupted by an impending storm. The storm is not always the same. Some storms lurk in the horizon. You can see the depth and the darkness, but it never gets close enough to make you move. There are days when the storm slowly appears, and you know for a fact it is coming your way. The dark sky gradually slides all around you and you begin gathering your things when you feel the first rain drop. Then just like that, before you can even reach the top of the board walk you feel the sun starting to shine again. Without warning the wind blew the storm over and away and you get back on the beach and soak up the sun. It’s that other storm though, the one that is fascinating yet somewhat frightening to witness. It’s the storm that you see in the distance well before your own clouds start to form. The deep black ball on the horizon let’s you know this storm is one to be respected. You start to guess how long you have before it gets to you. You check your phone to see what your radar says, how big the storm is and how long it will last. Soon you feel the temperature cool and the winds whisper it’s time to go inside. As you begin gathering your things you can smell the air thicken and your senses become alive as you peer up at the heavy black and purple mass that is now coming at you at an uncomfortable speed. You begin to run. The rain stings your face as you admit you should have left sooner. You drop things and decide to leave them behind as you see the palm trees begin to bow down to this angry front. An umbrella whips by just as you reach the safety of your door and slam it shut behind you. You must use great force as the wind whips and howls and pushes back against the door. You move quickly and watch outside the window as you begin to shiver from the rain mixed with the air conditioning. Your eyes swell as you wonder how you missed the warning of this all-consuming storm that has stolen your beautiful sunny day. You spend the rest of the day inside wishing the sun would come back out.

We now have our eyes on the storm. We are waiting and holding our breath to see what kind of storm it will be. This past week was the moment we all stopped and looked up at the sky. That was the shift we felt. We are now wondering how wide and long the path will be.

I have two friends that lost their mothers yesterday. They will be forced to mourn them in silence because of this storm that is not even fully upon us.

I have people that need to see houses because their homes are sold, and they have nowhere to go. I fear I am taking the storm head on each time I step into a stranger’s house and as I meet clients that may or may not have the storm in their pocket without either of us knowing it. This week it moved from concern to fear. It is not a fear that shows itself with physical anxiety. The sadness does not bring tears. The joys I experience within my home and those I find online only offer an acknowledgement of amusement rather than real laughter. Numbness has taken over and I spend a lot of time feeling frozen. At the end of the day I am exhausted from all the things I had to do yet I have the sense I accomplished nothing. The newness and fascination of this phenomenon has worn off.

Today, my son’s school started the week by talking about change. The teacher used the example of a caterpillar. As she asked the kids questions and explained what happens to the caterpillar, I started to hope this is where we are. We have been preparing and gathering supplies, we have spun our cocoons but now we are on the inside. It’s uncomfortable. It is quiet. We are now forced to deal with ourselves, our emotions, our families and our pain. There are not enough distractions inside these tiny womb-like conditions to divert our minds from the hard stuff. We are face to face with the hard stuff. As I listened to my son’s teacher tell the kids more about the cocoon, she said something that gave me hope. She said, “The caterpillar does not know that he will become a butterfly”. I thought about that long and hard. He just prepares, he endures, he accepts the discomfort, moves through the pain, and then after the storm passes, he emerges. He is no longer a caterpillar though. He is a new creature. He is bold, he is beautiful, and he is free, but he is nothing like he was before he wrapped himself in his cocoon. I think this week the shift we felt was the realization that we will never be the same. Someone did not just hit the pause button to our lives. The storm on the horizon is dark, it is heavy, it is inescapable, and it is changing us. We have been dreaming of the day we get to “go back to normal”. This week we realized that old life is not what we will emerge to. My hope is after the storm moves through, the sun comes out and we begin to peel back the layers of our cocoons, we will peek our heads out and start to see our big beautiful wings unfold, our wings that were formed inside our own homes. My hope is that we will keep seeing the world as one connected place but connected for things besides a common virus. My hope is that things like love and camaraderie will be what plagues our nations. My hope is that we realize some of the things we have given up were not necessary and that the things we have held tighter too like family and friends will remain our focus. We keep hearing that the storm is still coming. As our eyes are now fixed on the sky let’s remember to breathe. Let’s be smart. Let’s also remember it is our duty to protect others from the storm as much as ourselves. This week as the death counts increase and the cases in our city go up, let’s think about the caterpillar and what it can become. I look forward to seeing all the beautiful butterflies emerge. It’s already starting to happen. Your beauty is already starting to shine through. So don’t give up now. You’re so close to getting your wings.

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