“And how are you guys doing?”
Our school maintenance guy Keith inquired about my family’s well-being as we played a quick game of catch-up. I was dropping off my son’s textbooks and gathering the artwork and supplies he had left in his locker before departing for Spring Break…and never returning. His 5th grade year came to a close yesterday with a social distancing car parade around the campus as the teachers waved and held up signs of affection and well wishes. Today, parents were invited to come up at assigned times to finish up the business of school before beginning summer a little earlier than we had all planned.
“Oh, you know. Quarantining with a preteen and a teenager is super fun,” I sarcastically quipped. We both giggled. “But honestly, we’re fine. We can’t really complain.”
Technically, we CAN complain. There’s always something to complain about if you look for it. COVID-19 has provided plenty of grumble-worthy opportunities in plain sight. And let’s not pretend I’ve been 100% complaint-free. I mean, I have not set foot inside a Target since the very beginning of March. I’ll let that sink in…
So CAN I complain? Yes. But SHOULD I complain? I’ve been telling myself, and my kids, no. No, we really shouldn’t. This pandemic certainly isn’t an ideal situation, but in the grand scheme of things, our family has been lucky. We have remained healthy. My husband has been able to continue working. Technology has kept me connected to people I want to stay connected with. Deliveries and curb-side pickups have kept us fed and stocked. And the magical toilet paper fairies seem to populate the store shelves with rolls just when we are about to run out. Sure, we are missing out on things. But the vast majority of those things are simply privileges we’ve grown accustomed to. People have survived worse, and been able to find happiness with less.
It’s a sound philosophy, to empower gratitude over complaints. It makes it easier to keep things in perspective.
Until it doesn’t.
I walked out of the school building and stopped to talk to my pastor Fr. Chris and my friend Julie. As is the required social grace nowadays, Fr. Chris was checking in on how we were coping. And Julie’s answer was much like mine, but she did confess that it was all getting to her, as evidenced the other day when she lost it after dropping some blueberries on the floor. Her husband, seeing her overly reactive distress in response to fruit on the floor, offered to pick them up. And Julie said something that just resonated with me to the core:
“It’s not about the blueberries.”
I’ve had that moment more than once. I think most of us probably have. When something that would normally just roll off our backs transforms into an impenetrable wall that pops up out of nowhere, shattering us to bits and pieces upon impact.
Just because we SHOULDN’T complain doesn’t mean those things don’t still affect us. Just because we might basically be okay doesn’t mean the loss of “normal” shouldn’t carry a special kind of grief. Just because life goes on for some doesn’t mean we don’t carry worry for others.
But sometimes those things don’t seem deserving of articulation. And if I’m being honest, most of them aren’t deserving, save for maybe being shared with a very tiny circle of trusted people with whom you can vent your stupid sh*t and move on. But if we don’t move on, those things fester until something like dropping blueberries becomes too big to handle.
Even though it’s not about the blueberries.
And that’s okay.
Everyone is allowed to have these moments. Everyone is allowed to feel bad about whatever they want to feel bad about. We can be a little heartbroken over not being able bar hop with friends or blissfully roam the aisles of Target with unhindered abandon instead of mindfully navigating them with masked purpose, and still recognize that others are paying a far higher price during this pandemic. We can cry over spilled blueberries.
We just can’t let ourselves stay there.
At some point we need to return to a place of gratitude, and we need to reach out to those who have less to be grateful for.
Because it’s not just about realizing it’s not about the blueberries. It’s also not always about us.