Quarantine measures have been extended in Italy. In L.A. In many parts of the world. And for this, I am glad. We’re not ready for life to “return to normal.” We’re still in denial. Still making excuses. Still raging. We haven’t hit rock bottom yet. Haven’t allowed sorrow to penetrate us. We need time to grieve. We need time to break our addictions.
Here in Italy, I started eating croissants because I could. Because they are everywhere, so plentiful, so fresh, and I have truly missed this pleasure. Eleven years now of a gluten-free diet. I’ve succumbed to the temptation several times over the years. Usually on vacation, when I felt I *deserved* a treat. And always, I’ve paid the price. The painful consequences of intestinal distress and more. Enough to make my indulgences few and far-between. But here in Italy, especially in quarantine, the temptation has been great and the consequences small. The cramping not as severe and the prevailing thought: so what if my tummy hurts a bit? What else am I doing? Being lethargic and in pain seems par for the course during this pandemic. And if I’m honest, freshly baked pastries are only one of my many injurious obsessions.
We’re all nursing our monkeys right now. The prevalent thought is that we’re sacrificing so much. Social distancing. Isolation. Locked in our homes. Rationing toilet paper. Maybe eating more than we should. Or eating our cravings, which inevitably make us feel bad. More than one friend has suggested porn. Drinking at noon. Shopping online. Googling updates, fact-checking, and political arguments. Anyway we can get a hit, an instant fix. We’re doing it.
It’s a full-on wrestling match and most of us don’t even realize we’re on the mat. We’re in withdrawal. Experiencing night sweats. Fever. Anxiety. The furious and fervent waves of emotions: rage, sorrow, regret. Promises to do better, to live better, once this is all over. We’ll live more simply, appreciate the small things, care for our neighbors. Sweet Jesus and Mother Mary, just get us through this.
But every January turns to February and our resolutions dissolve like snow melting into soil. We spend a month or two disgusted by the dirty residue, cursing the newly exposed trash and the mud, but then the weather changes, the flowers bloom, summer is on the horizon. Too late to lose those pounds before donning our shorts. We resign ourselves and move on.
When this is all over, will our resolutions hold? Or will we return to our addictions, justifying them as sacrifices necessary for the economy? Gaslight ourselves into believing they are actually good, that we must embrace our old unhealthy ways if we truly want to support others and our country? Will we indignantly claim them as treats we deserve for having survived such a horrible time?
How long will it take for us to become accustomed to living in a new way – in harmony with the planet, in solidarity with all living things – and truly embrace this way of living? Certainly more than the conventional 28 days. More than breaking old patterns, when will we love this new way of being? Love it enough to have no desire for the old. To feel so strong and healthy that our old ways make us sick? How long until our new routines bring us joy and comfort and we refuse anything that does otherwise?
Collectively, in the U.S. and around the world, we’ve fiercely proclaimed our addictions as our rights. We celebrate our ability to have anything we want, whenever we want it. We might smash the curve of infection and overcome this virus, but will our time in quarantine be enough to change our behaviors in the long term?
My prayer this Easter, this spring, is for universal solidarity. As we celebrate the promise of resurrection, may we resolve to let the old ways die. May we joyfully embrace a new life that is truly sustaining. In body. In spirit. In love. For all.
If it isn’t, and if we don’t, then tell me, was there really any sacrifice? All our discomfort, and even all the death, will have been for nothing. Nothing more than a story. And not a very good one at that.