Uncertainty, Spirituality, and the Inevitability of Change #REL101

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Uncertainty, Spirituality, and the Inevitability of Change #REL101

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I foolishly thought that it would be easy to write this post. I didn’t anticipate struggling so much with finding the right words to explain the impact the last year of pandemic life has had on me, but I’ve deleted about a hundred paragraphs of rambling, existential stream of consciousness nonsense about cherishing the small moments and growing in the face of adversity because it is surprisingly hard to be concise about your feelings on an event you’re still living through. I’m starting to think that maybe doing so is impossible, so instead of falling into cliche and flowery prose, I want to just be blunt.

I haven’t seen my family in two years. My grandmother has dementia and in that time it has worsened exponentially. On a weekly basis, I have a call with my mom that starts with a debrief on whatever the newest updates in her condition are and ends with a plea to visit as soon as I feel comfortable traveling. Every day, I go into my retail job and tell them no, I don’t have symptoms or live with anyone with symptoms while waiting for the beep of a thermometer meant to ensure I don’t have a fever. I breathe through two layers of fabric, disinfect my work area between transactions, and field rants about restrictive mask mandates for six hours a day, then come home and begin the process of undressing, banishing my clothes to the washer, and trying to relax before I have to do it all again.

Everything in that paragraph is, to put it nicely, so bleak it hurts. It’s easy to get caught in the feelings of overwhelm that came along with this pandemic and it would be a farce to say that there aren’t days where everything feels like way too much for one person to handle. Surprisingly, though, the thing that has blissfully not survived the most turbulent year of my life is the apathetic, empty cynicism I used to feel. Instead, I feel weirdly hopeful that this is the beginning of massive change both in myself and on a global level. Maybe it’s naive to think that way and maybe it’s just a coping mechanism to help me through the pandemic, but there’s a part of me that thinks that may not even matter because the changes are coming regardless.

In the last year, I’ve moved out of Nevada and into a pink house in California with the love of my life. Despite a fraught, stressful prior experience in college, I’ve finally come back to higher education in a way that feels both healthy and exciting. The field of religious studies has reawakened my passion for learning and my ability to grow in academia. I’ve abandoned my skeptical, agnostic views and traded them out for a brand of religiosity that combines self-improvement, magic, and trust in something bigger than myself.

I know how that all sounds and if the last sentence has you rolling your eyes reading this, I get it. The last year has been weird, don’t get me wrong. If I told a 20-year-old version of myself that one day we’d be living through the plague of a lifetime, studying religion with hopes of examining cultism, and practicing a version of witchcraft grounded in our ex-Catholic roots, I doubt she would believe me. It admittedly sounds pretty wacky all laid out in plain English like that. Part of what I’ve learned throughout the pandemic, though, is that suspending cynicism, skepticism, and disbelief can sometimes lead you to unexpectedly lovely places.

Whether I saw it coming or not, Covid has changed my life in countless ways, just as I’m sure it’s changed the lives of everyone reading these entries. Some changes have been for the worse, certainly, but the things that have changed for the better are what I’m choosing to focus on. I’ve read articles about a reemergence of spirituality amongst young people that make me think others have been having similar ideas and something about that feels good. We’ve spent a lot of time isolated, lonely, and missing a sense of belonging we took for granted before, but there’s reassurance for me in knowing that my experiences aren’t all that different from anyone else’s. That type of community, however it manifests, is (and I hope you’ll forgive this admitted slip into flowery prose) something that the pandemic has taught us we must cherish above everything else because it’s what makes our little human lives worth living. More than anything, whenever this pandemic reaches the time where we split our lives into not just before, but after, I hope we don’t forget that.

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This item was submitted on April 22, 2021 by Presley Dodge using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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