Bill Withers died the other day.
I am by no means a lifelong fan (I only wish I was that cool and musically inclined), but I do vividly remember a friend singing his classic hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine” during a high school talent show and thinking, “This song is fucking amazing. I have to hear more.”
Cut to right now (in the middle of a pandemic): I am sitting on my porch, while my dog is baking herself in the sunshine. My cat is chirping at birds from his mesh tent (cut to adorable photo below), and a cool breeze blows — a blessing from the Tennessee heat. I recently ran a few miles — an accomplishment because I am by no means athletic — and completed a few necessary household chores I had put off “because of coronavirus.”
I feel content. I feel mildly at peace for the first time since this chaos began weeks earlier. And as if on cue, my shuffled music playlist started playing Wither’s “Lovely Day.” Something instantly clicks in my brain: Life can still carry on even when it feels like it will never be the same again.
Yes, people are dying and suffering in growing numbers around the world. Healthcare workers are risking their lives and not receiving adequate protections they deserve. Small businesses are struggling. Millions are out of work. Some of our government officials have refused to decisively act and save lives, highlighting the need to protect “personal liberties” (insert eye-roll here).
I’m blessed to be able to work remotely from my home when so many so many people cannot. Many people face unconcerned or even hostile work environments when they present suggestions about working from home. One of my friends (an engineer who could do all her work remotely) recently expressed frustration and fear when her supervisor threatened her and her co-workers to come into the office “like normal” if they didn’t communicate constantly with him for the few hours a week they were allowed to work at home.
I am lucky. I know that. Sure, like most Americans, I cannot get my hair trimmed, run casual errands or drink a beer with friends. I limit grocery store trips to once a week and will now start wearing a homemade face mask, per CDC recommendations. But these small “sacrifices” are worth it if I know I am doing my part to protect those I love and those I do not know from contracting COVID-19.
But what I realized when “Lovely Day” started to play was that life seems to be carrying on in this altered state of reality. We can’t go out anymore, but some restaurants are finding innovative ways to keep us fed and sane. Companies are discovering that their employees can still get shit done, even while working in their pajamas. New virtual happy hour how-to guides are popping up online to keep people interacting from a distance. COVID-19 is challenging people to care about others in new ways. Also, to-go margaritas are now a thing apparently?
I’m starting to think it’s okay to find small moments of joy in the middle of so much darkness. It might even be necessary. We need to turn off our doom-and-gloom news reports and stop constantly talking about progress toward a vaccine or the latest dumb, scientifically inaccurate thing our president said (sadly, there were too many examples to link to here).
I wanted to start writing here to explore issues of identity and power relations in the world around me based on my graduate thesis work. To draw from scholar Bonny Norton’s poststructuralist view of identity. But a global pandemic has made me reevaluate what I should be writing about.
To clarify, I still want to write about the complexity of the human condition and how we understand the world around us. But in light of COVID-19, I think it’s more important to highlight how each of us is chasing that “Lovely Day” feeling in the middle of such traumatic circumstances.
So, if you want me to share your story about how you are coping and thriving in today’s new world, please reach out. I would love to speak with you. I think we all deserve a little bit of “lovely” right now.