…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing….Ecclesiastes 3:4
When I told several of my friends that I listen to COVID-19 news about 2-3 hours a day, they all said that they just couldn’t; it’s too sad. As of today (April 19th), New York City alone has over 13,157 deaths, which is more than Belgium and Iran combined and just shy of the United Kingdom. The boroughs hit hardest, the Bronx and Queens, house the most vulnerable populations, as well as our essential workers and front-line workers who had little choice but to work, delivering everything from take-out and Amazon packages to dying patients and COVID corpses. After only 4 months and 163,372 deaths worldwide, it is still a time to be sad; it is our time to mourn.
If COVID victims had avoided this virus entirely, I’m sure they would have loved to binge on Tiger King and complain with the rest of America about the postponement of the NBA season or the cancelling of Comic-Con. For those who are alive today, it is a privilege to complain, our constitutional right, in fact. However, we need to acknowledge how fundamentally different the nature of our complaints are, depending on our age, gender, race, class, and health status. One anonymous writer on Facebook wrote, “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” While I have to worry about a salary reduction for the fall semester, right now there is a mile long line wrapped around a NYC block, like a rosary of people, all waiting outside the pharmacy to fill a prescription, some with life-threatening illnesses. While my boat floats upstream, others grasp onto driftwood, pleading for help. This does not mean our stressors aren’t valid or significant; it means that this pandemic fucking sucks and it’s normal to feel sad right now.
Queensland University of Technology mental health researcher Dr. Olivia Fisher states that it is normal to feel anxious and depressed during a global pandemic. Feeling sad and anxious are normal human emotions that occur during times of crisis and grief. And historically, societies have developed coping strategies and acquired resilience when faced with war, violence, famine, and diseases, at a cost, of course. Every deep wound is left with a scar, some more unsightly than others. Each day people ask when we can return to normal as if we even had a choice in the matter. Why is our society in such a rush to return to “normal” and escape the uncomfortable emotions associated with this pandemic? This is long from being over. If each of us represented a single match, how long would it take to burn down the world?
Argentine tango dancers delve deep into discomfort, dancing to songs about loss, love, betrayal, poverty, and death. For the past 100 years, Argentine tango dancers have listened to the same top 500 songs and tune our bodies to each reverberating note, allowing whatever emotions to smolder, rise, and turn our bustling thoughts into soot. Tango dancers embrace love and loss, beauty and pain. It is not the time for normal. There is nothing normal about a virus that enters our lungs and thrashes each pulmonary cell like a weed cutter. When our time has come and the music has stopped, the tears will fall, striking the ground like broken glass, sounding louder and louder each time; it is in this time, we will embrace each other again.