By Kathleen M. Gallagher | Guest voice
While obeying the stay-at-home orders during this unprecedented pandemic, I came to a startling conclusion: I miss the rut. You know the rut — the ordinary everyday routine. The one we grumble and complain about: commuting through rush hour traffic to get to work each day; spending endless hours in meetings and on conference calls; using the lunch hour to complete must-do errands; lamenting the lack of time to do the laundry, the cleaning, the grocery shopping; dragging myself to the gym a couple nights each week, sitting in the same pew at Mass each weekend. Humdrum. Boring. Predictable.
Oh, how I miss the rut. I miss the rude drivers on the highway, the friendly bank tellers, the shopping mall, my colleagues’ stupid jokes. I miss being able to hug my kids. I miss the freedom to come and go as I please. I miss eating out in a restaurant once in a while. And boy, do I miss the Eucharist. Yes, I’ve been “attending” Mass online, but there’s no way it can ever fully nourish me. I long for the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Since I’ve been deemed a “non-essential” employee, my new routine is different, and in some ways my “pause” has been positive. I sleep later in the morning. I take daily walks in the neighborhood. I spend more time with my husband. I still get office work done from home. All good.
But this new way of life is blanketed with a canopy of heartache, anxiety and fear that will not lift. My heart breaks for those who have caught this deadly virus, for those who have died, for those who cannot bury their family members. My heart grieves for the seniors who are isolated in nursing facilities and the hospital patients who cannot see their loved ones when they need them the most. My heart aches for the front-line health care workers and first responders who literally put their lives on the line each time they go to work.
And each day, as the numbers rise, there is added heartache and multiplied misery.
My mind is a jumble of worries and unanswerable questions: When will this end? How many must die? Will there really be enough ventilators, enough beds, enough caretakers? Will our economy ever rebound? Will small businesses be able to survive? How many will be without jobs, without food, without shelter? Will there be any retirement savings left? I am not a worrier by nature, so this is all new to me, and it is heavy. It weighs me down.
But in the end, when the curve has been flattened and the restrictions are lifted, I believe the coronavirus will change us as a people. I don’t think we’ll take things for granted the way we have in the past. By “things” I mean tangible necessities like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, but I also mean relationships, handshakes, hugs. I believe this pandemic will make us more resilient, more kind, more grateful for human closeness and community. I pray we’ll all have a greater appreciation for the inherent value of each and every human life.
In the meantime, I miss the rut. In hindsight, it’s a beautiful rut. We should never take the rut for granted. I am thanking God every day for the gift of the rut.
Gallagher is Director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.