Love in the time of Covid-19
If you had asked me before meeting my husband, Rick, more than 16 years ago about the qualities I fancied in a life partner, my response would have been flowery and long-winded with a bullet-pointed list of attributes including kind eyes, a keen intellectual curiosity and salty sense of humor. If I were asked the same question today, Coronavirus Detention Day No. 20, my answer would be much more basic: someone you can tolerate being stuck with.
I remember waking up one morning a few weeks before our 2006 wedding and announcing that I had no second thoughts about walking down the aisle.
“Oh, great,” Rick said, half-asleep. “Wait, was there a question before?”
“No,” I replied. “I didn’t know if anyone is ever 100 percent certain they’re marrying the right person. I am just telling you that I am sure.”
Except of course I couldn’t have really divined it back then. Maybe I had a hunch or a good feeling. Let’s say I liked my chances. Now, though, I can proclaim with much certainty exactly how well I chose. Because it’s occurred to me over these past 480 hours that the thing we never really think to hope for when committing to another person for life is that it won’t end up feeling like a life sentence. If you’re going to cook for someone, it helps if you don’t also want to poison them. I could see how the temptation, and opportunity, would otherwise be great.
I wouldn’t characterize our situation as lucky because the work we’ve put into our relationship over the years is considerable. Rick has long since grown accustomed to me leaving no emotion unexpressed. Over time I have reluctantly accepted that he is physically incapable of sighing inaudibly (or even simply waiting until I’m out of earshot).
Yet it is precisely the largely unsexy — and incessant — minutiae of matrimony, children, family life, health, money and a lasting vow to evolve together that have brought us to this point, which is the same one that’s allowing us to quietly relish so much togetherness, forced or otherwise (other than the time when I may or may not have hurled a package of food coloring in his direction while unleashing a string of F-bombs, but that was way back in mid March).
For better or worse we’ve had ample practice sitting together in an uncomfortable stew of precarious physical well-being, financial vulnerability, psychological strife and other unspecified anxiety. While actual plagues may be new to us, we are adept at adapting and have grown accustomed to hunkering down and counting our blessings, especially our corona-free children and parents.
At the same time, my grateful heart breaks thinking about those who have fallen ill, have been thrust into unemployment, those who are alone, and those who are partnered yet are still lonely or unsafe in their own space. The uncertainty of the virus is a terrifying contagion unto itself.
It seems as if we take mostly stock of what matters on our best and worst days only — that is, unless a whole bunch of bad days are strung together with no end in sight, in which case you also have time to take stock of the toilet paper and bleach spray (if you are lucky enough to find some, that is). There wasn’t a way to prepare for this pandemic (you know, unless you are the president) or to know how to navigate it from one day to the next, yet there’s still deep comfort in knowing that however it plays out, I’ll be weathering it with my person. It may not have been an item on our wedding registry, but it’s the gift I’ve carried with me for 14 years.
Sometimes it can feel impossible to identify or seek out joy in tiny moments. At other times, when tiny moments are all there is to be found, maybe you’ll see it’s all you really need.
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.
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