Love in the Time of Corona

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty,” said Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers. “Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” I feel this speaks to our journey in the world today — as well as my journey through the dark persistence of grief. Today, I am grateful for even the most minuscule flecks of glitter.

Trying to make sense of this messy miasma, “love in the time of Corona,” as I’ve termed it, I had an epiphany. I realized I have been living in isolation for months — quarantining myself emotionally, spiritually and physically in a dank and dreary cave called grief. For the past year and a half, I have been hibernating, encased in a dimly lit reality not of my choosing. In fact, it’s a confederacy of losses that looms in every moment — my amazing son Elliot, both my parents, my treasured mentor, an exhausting 8-year relationship, several battles for justice, and the list goes on. Sinking under the weight of it all, I finally landed in the inertia pit.

Since Aug. 5, 2018, when Elliot left the earth so suddenly and violently,  my intersections with humanity have been infrequent, and alas, when I have engaged, it has required every ounce of energy I could muster. Still. Sad. Stymied. And yet, as much as I have resisted them, I am certain that these occasional human connections have kept me alive. A heartfelt ping from a sweet greeting card or a Facebook message from a faraway friend have rescued me from the deepest abysses of numbness. I have subsisted in a dystopian environment for months. I rearranged my life to work from home by taking a job with a company based in Atlanta. As the firm implodes into its own maelstrom of bankruptcy and confusion, my interactions there have been limited, as well. However, though I am practiced at this kind of separation, I am profoundly unsettled.

The dire predictions and mounting closures feel like a pall of doom folding into the gaps of our lives, slowly and steadily suffocating us. It’s not fear of catching the disease that troubles me most. It’s the fear of our fraying social fabric. In recent days, I have become keenly aware that my brittle inner being is now mirrored by the precariousness of the world surrounding me. There is certain terror in that. There is nowhere to go, nowhere to feel safe. Life, all of it, is so very fragile. Perhaps, that’s the essential lesson. Stability is an illusion, as much as it is manipulated, orchestrated, packaged and spun. Who can you trust? Why weren’t we better prepared? Who knew what and when? Was there biohazard release from a research lab in Wuhan? Was it on purpose or an accident? With fake news, Trump’s arrogant incompetence, the Russian agenda, data mining, Big Pharma, The Family, Fox News, CNN, and even MSNBC, where do we turn for truth?

Likewise, as I grapple with my internal grief, every effort to find answers to the questions around Elliot’s death and life delivers parallel rabbit holes and partial veracity. Why did Amazon Web Services (AWS) delete every trace of his business account when their customer service people strung me along for five months assuring me that the appropriate legal documentation would grant me access as his heir? Infuriating. Why is the Human Resources Department at Global Payments, Elliot’s employer, still giving me the administrative runaround about accessing his 401K? Why did the only witnesses to Elliot’s accident refuse to provide their contact information — and the police did not investigate? Why did the Texas Attorney General deny my private investigator’s request for photos of cars driving on that deadly ramp where Elliot lost his precious life?

Is it time to stop asking why?


I am just so damn tired, and it’s hard to imagine how I will ever process and internalize all of this — ever. Mostly, I feel alone. My reclusive son, Ian, Elliot’s younger brother, is here with me, but he is not truly present —  perpetually cloistered, as well, in his room and virtual computer universe. I wish I could be his rock, but I feel more like his handful of sand. My grief seems to well up in the void of isolation. It feels different now — so ubiquitous and inescapable. Social distance and virtual interaction — they have become de rigeur.

For the next couple of weeks, I have decided to just be —  no expectations, no questions. I will cherish the surprising moments, the shiny flickers of glitter dancing in the sunlight, when and if they come — paying a visit to an elderly neighbor; lingering for an hour on the phone with a friend I have not spoken with since Elliot’s death; losing myself in a particularly delightful episode of Schitt’s Creek; “Zooming” with my soul sisters, or taking in the healing wisdom of my cherished online writing group. Though these moments feel somehow incongruous within the rest of life, they are the treasures.

The times are overwhelming. There is no exit. Nothing is certain, and I struggle daily with the fundamental concepts of faith. So, I must try to make peace with uncertainty and notice every glimmer of the light . . . that’s returning.

That’s all we can do.



How are you holding on — in the meantime?

The Rollins Philanthropy & Leadership Center recently released the findings of its 2009 Nonprofit Compensation and Benefits Report. The report compiled data on more than 8,300 individual salaries and categorized into 121 job titles for 145 nonprofit organizations in Central Florida and found that male CEOs/executive directors of nonprofit organizations earn significantly higher pay than their female counterparts on average. According to the report, the average annual compensation for male CEOs/executive directors was $110,962 versus $80,987 per year for females. “While more of the surveyed CEOs/executive directors are women, there are more males in the CEO/executive director positions at the largest organizations,” said Margaret Linanne, executive director of the Philanthropy Center. Margaret added that these numbers lined up with recent nationwide data released by a similar study conducted by The Nonprofit Times.

I hung up the phone after speaking with Margaret and thought, “How grim.” I consider myself a glass-half-full, optimistic person most days, but I’ve been having trouble mustering the good cheer. This story makes me think of my own situation—in transition once again—personally and professionally. I am a seasoned career professional and a woman with many blessings. I have invented programs, raised millions, and changes lives, but my path has encountered many challenges lately. The social media start-up business I felt was my calling recently faced difficult choices—a layoff of the core team due to budget cuts. The pain of a vision, derailed.

Ordinarily, such circumstances would not thwart my resolve, but the uncertain economic environment is disturbing in new, pervasive ways. I can think of more than a dozen bright, intelligent, accomplished women in their forties and fifties who have been relieved of their significant responsibilities in the past six months—in for-profit and nonprofit environments. Margaret surmised that the male bias still lingers in private sector and nonprofit board rooms across the country that—”women don’t have to work,” because their husbands are the making big salaries or because they are raising the children. But I am here to tell you that the women are typically doing both jobs these days. Where do we find the energy?

And many reports say that males are feeling the brunt of the economic downturn. A July 16, 2009 Wall Street Journal article reports, “The 2.3 percentage-point gap between men’s June unemployment rate of 10.6% and women’s 8.3% rate is near the highest it’s ever been since records started being kept in 1948. The gap first hit two percentage points in March this year, and the 2.5 percentage-point gap in May was the highest ever. The overall unemployment rate rose to 9.5% in June, from 9.4% in May. The economy lost a higher-than-expected 467,000 jobs in June.”

As the single mother of two teenage boys, the reality of waning male productivity is as disconcerting as the abhorrent gender compensation gap. About two out of three men I encounter seem to be chronically unemployed, underemployed, or nursing a sense of entitled malaise. Not sure what in the heck is going on in our culture, but I suspect we are on the verge a course correction of unprecedented magnitude and disruption.

Seeking solace, I revisited one of my favorite books recently—In the Meantime, by Iyanla Vanzant. It is an intimate, touching book about transition of the heart—the process of moving from one period in your life to the next—managing monumental changes in love, life . . . everything.

Iyanla writes: “The presence of love is a healing power. The effects of this healing are what we are all born to discover and experience in every aspect of our lives. It is sometimes difficult to realize this, because in the meantime, we are not getting the love we want in the way we want it. The meantime is often a time of vagueness. You are experiencing a vague anxiety that you cannot quite pinpoint. It’s in your head. No, your chest. No, your heart. Sometimes that something is sadness. You are walking on a tightrope, about to fall. You are trying to hold on, to stay grounded, but slowly, bit by bit, you realize that you or your job or your relationship is falling apart. In the meantime, just when things look like they are falling apart, they are actually falling into place—the divine place for everyone involved. When you are in the meantime, you are in a time of healing preparation. You are being prepared for the grandest experience of your life—unconditional love and light. In the meantime, you must be willing to endure the process of felling vague confusion and helplessness. Remember, however, the meantime is not permanent. It is a healing process.”

I find Iyanla’s words comforting right now—at a time we all need to examine the truth in our hearts as we reinvent our expectations and our lives. We all need to find a way to hold on—in the meantime.

Anne Lamott, another one of my favorite writers, says, “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”

What are your thoughts about keeping your balance?