The Curious Bonding of Loss; and The Luxurious Bonding of What Remains
The six, solid, black-and-white columns of words — names, and the occasional salient detail that makes human lives out of them — that comprised the front page of The New York Times today was characterized in the second half of the headline: An Incalculable Loss. The smaller print: “They Were Not Simply Names on a List; They Were Us.”
“Each one is more than a name. Each one had a unique life story. Each one succumbed to the coronavirus pandemic that swept across the globe, devastating families and industries and dealing a crippling blow to the world’s economy.”
One. Hundred. Thousand.
Humans. Parents. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Daughters. Sons. Brothers. Sisters. Nieces. Nephews. Friends. Lovers. Co-workers. Acquaintances. Strangers. One Hundred Thousand American human beings are dead because of Covid-19, and we, the us that remain, are bonded in loss, in crisis, in fear, and, sadly, in some cases, in loathing.
Bonding in an environment like this one is the norm. It’s easy to bond when we have a common bugbear, bogeyman, bigger-than-life, smaller-than-a-bread-box, bona fide enemy. It’s what Americans, anyway, do. Three numbers say it all: 9/11.
Our losses and their attendant griefs unmask us to one another, leaving us bare, naked, and tragically bonded in our similarities. Loss of life is loss of life; it’s a binary. One is either alive or dead. For we who are touched by death during this time, it is a hallowed sorrowing.
Maureen Dowd is my very favorite Opinion columnist. Perhaps it’s because we’re both redheads, but when Maureen [No, I don’t know her personally, but I do call her Maureen] gets up a head of steam, she’s truly magnificent.
Her article this morning, “Covid Dreams, Trump Nightmares” is a winner. How’s this for Sunday brunch deliciousity? [Yes, I made it up.]
“On Thursday, as China played King Kong with Hong Kong; as unemployment rose to 38.6 million; as broken dams unleashed a flood in Central Michigan; as the president continued to stubbornly and recklessly claim he was taking hydroxychloroquine, causing sales to soar; as the news sunk in that if the U.S. had acted even a week sooner on social distancing that 36,000 people might still be alive; as Senate Republicans finally cemented themselves to Trump and his crazy schemes; as Trump stuck to his threat of withholding federal funds to Michigan and Nevada if those states enabled voters to vote; as a partisan know-nothing was put in charge of all our intelligence; as Trump pulled out of another major arms control pact; as Mike Pompeo basked in getting Trump to fire another inspector general (this one looking into a backdoor deal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and brazen grifting by the Pompeos), the cliffhanger president made sure the focus was on just one little thing: Would he or wouldn’t he wear a mask as he toured the Ford plant in Ypsilanti?”
The Evil-Toddler-Brat-in-Chief explained his behavior. “After donning it for a few private moments with Ford executives, Trump removed the mask for the public part of the tour, saying he ‘didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.’” I had to read that three times before I could believe it. What is he? 4? 7?
The trenchant Ms. Dowd again, “But the Trump carnival of dread, with its twin fixations on masks and unmasking, is all too real. … Trump has proved that people wearing a mask can present more truth than people not wearing a mask. … Humanity is showing through — everywhere except, ironically, with the unmasked Trump.”
It is a carnival of dread. A funhouse of terror. A circus of endless tweets, memes, and soundbytes that do not do justice to our unmasked need for closure. During the Trump Pandemic, as Dan Barry writes, “Even the dead have to wait.”
Judith Newman is reviewing books on simplicity during a pandemic which she compares to reading diet books during a famine. “Luxury,” the writer Pico Iyer noted after losing everything he owned in a fire, “is not a matter of all the things you have, but rather all the things you can afford to live without.”
We who have lost loved ones to this tiny pathogen are forced to live without those we love, whether we can afford it or not. In point of fact, even without the standard rituals of closure which cannot be enacted at this time, we are affording it.
Ms. Newman writes, ““In SIMPLY LIVING WELL: A Guide to Creating a Natural Low-Waste Home (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 288 pp., $24), Julia Watkins has taken this idea [affording to live without] to heart. We live, Watkins writes, in the linear economy, where resources are extracted, processed, consumed and discarded. For our physical and spiritual health, we need to adopt instead the five Rs of the circular economy — refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (compost, for the less alliteratively inclined) — creating a household that is closer to our grandmother’s than to our own right now.”
A household that is closer to our grandmother’s.
Grandma didn’t have to keep up with her newsfeed on Facebook. Nor did mine ever tweet, or post an image on Instagram. She never uploaded an impromptu video on Tik-Tok to my knowledge, but she did sew anything and everything she ever wanted to sew. As the weather has warmed in the Northeast, I loaned the summer quilt she cross-stitched and quilted by hand for me to a beloved friend.
What Grandma’s lifestyle grew from was a sense of luxury about time. She had time to do decoupage. She had time to sew every bit of a summer quilt by hand. One Christmas when things were a little tighter than normal financially, and I wanted a Lanz nightgown so I could be one of the cool kids at Smith, she scrounged up a pattern for a Lanz nightgown from some of her sewing cronies, and made me two of them.
Psychotherapist Esther Perel calls crisis a “relationship accelerator.” It’s a good insight, and I, too, have found it to be true. “Unhappy marriages lurch to divorce. Young lovers rush to cohabitate on a third date. And single people realize: I don’t want to die alone.”
“Early research from the Kinsey Institute suggests that while everyone is lonelier now, single people are the loneliest.” My heart aches for all singles. There are all kinds of articles on how to navigate dating in pandemic times, and the one thing that is agreed-upon universally is No First Kiss. Kissing is probably one of the fastest ways to get Covid-19.
And yet, and yet, “Ms. Perel, the relationship expert, reminded me that ‘people have found love through war, plague and famine.’” And why might that be?
Because, Beloved, Love is. It’s in the air like wild yeast, and we never know when we’re going to be exposed to it. Never. Because Love is.
Furthermore, Love not only is, but it never allows for the affordability question at all. Love is always affordable. Because the only cost to Loving is personal. Money isn’t an issue.
Judith Newman again, “I was unaware of Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller’s Buy Nothing movement until I picked up their new manifesto, THE BUY NOTHING, GET EVERYTHING PLAN: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More and Living Generously (Atria, 288 pp., $25). … Their approach is not about bartering, but about giving and receiving: the essentials of the gift economy are ‘gives, asks and expressions of gratitude.’
“The book lays out the ways we can reduce both our carbon footprint and, perhaps more important, our unquenchable lust for more, by joining neighborhood collectives where the groups offer not just stuff, but self — i.e., skills and services.
“I joined my nearest Buy Nothing group on Facebook and, this being the East Village, someone was looking for a waist trainer; but then again there was a generous supply of Flonase for the taking. My favorite? A quarantinee, stuck at home, gifted her monthly MetroCard to a health care worker. The original owner of the card didn’t need it. A nurse on the front line of the crisis benefited. And our community was enriched. Simple.”
Simple. That’s what Love is. And so varied in both its nature and expression that if one is truly invested not only in receiving love, but in giving love, interest in it can never fade, never go stale, never … yes, I mean it, never die.
Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla wrote this week, “Human beings want to feel that they are on a power walk into the future ….” He meant to warn us away from our addiction to certainty where none is available. I maintain that we are.
Perhaps not the power walk that Professor Lilla thinks we want, Beloved, but for those of us who know in our bones that Love flows in a rainbow river to and from each and every one of us who choose to Love, who choose to be Loving, and who choose to receive Love, we may join the ranks of the confident. And the grateful.
Much like retired journalist Arthur E. Rowse who wrote in this morning’s Times, “It’s My 100th Birthday. It’s Been Quite a Century. I grew up in the Great Depression and served in World War II. Trust me when I say America will survive this crisis, too.”
We will. Here’s how I know.
There’s a singing group of gorgeous, wacky, satirical drag queens known as The Kinsey Sicks, “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quarter.” Here’s their parody of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence.”
If we rise up, they must go.”
There’s only one thing I know of that will walk us through this mountain range of death, loss, and betrayal, and help us all who remain to rise up. Love — in all its wild, magical, curious disguises.
Take the luxury of time that we have during this liminal time, Beloved, and tell someone you love them today, please. This, and only this, will allow us to heal.
Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com
© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.