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(Trying to) Choose Joy

In those early days, we were sad, but we didn’t entirely know what we were grieving.

To follow my previous column (CC May 11), our family has appreciated having a community nurse return to our home for weekly hours. I am thankful for the help with medications, pain management and extra time over the dinner hour. Though a sense of familiarity in routine has returned, I cannot ignore the persistent feelings of discontentment.

Fading into fatigue
Rachel and Janneke cannot verbalize this to me, but they are missing the informal connections with classmates. Now all their encounters with peers are prescribed through their computer, through a virtual platform called Zoom. Initially, classmates were excited to Zoom with the girls, but the hype has evaporated, and students (and teachers) everywhere are experiencing Zoom fatigue. The success of online/crisis learning for students during COVID rests on the level of connection and engagement between the teacher and the learner – and between the learners. My girls can’t initiate connection, and their own level of engagement is dependent on the adult caring for them in our home.

I ache for my older neurotypical daughters. They are old enough to read the news and sense the uncertainty, but they are too young to be able to lean on a history of deeper assurances from lived experiences. As their mom, I’m losing count of the weeks with this global pandemic. The days are blurring one into the other, and a weekend seems no different from a weekday. I feel as if my perspective rolls through highs and lows on its own whims, and I wish I was more productive with the extra time at home. Mind you, I’m not ready to try making soda bread just yet.

Grieving what is no longer possible
These COVID weeks have reminded me of the time following the births of Rachel and Janneke. Both Ralph and I initially lived on adrenaline and were determined to figure out a new routine. Over time, that adrenaline wore off, and we became keenly aware of how their limitations were eroding our sense of any normalcy. Some of the ordinary wasn’t going to be possible anymore. That realization came in the form of ambiguous grief; we were sad, but we didn’t entirely know what we were grieving.

In those early days, I was reminded of my Oma’s words to “choose joy.” Choose to see the good things; choose to catch the glimpses of hope. That was difficult to swallow, as my desire for assurance was in wanting to “wake up” from what felt like a bad dream. Recently, I’ve returned to Oma’s words, and I’ve added to my thoughts a quote from Dave Hollis: “In the rush to return to normal, let’s use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
There have been some significant gains with having limitations placed on everyone. Reconsidering how to access healthcare, school and corporate worship, to name a few, may lead to greater possibilities for those who experienced limitations long before COVID.

New possibilities?
I realize not all of us may have the freedom or ability for such considerations. I am also aware of how our perspectives influence each other, particularly as we long for insight on what life holds in the next few months. Will this experience of living with limitations make us wiser and kinder to those who cannot break free so easily?

As we inch closer to reopening of public places and learn to step bravely out from our private spaces, I wonder how we will change, what we will continue to hold close – and I wonder how our losses might shape new growth.

  • Sara Pot is a columnist with CC. The Pot family story includes reflections on joy and grace with daughters Rachel and Janneke who are disabled.

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