Sliding toward another solstice, I feel myself yearning. I want the daylight to stay a little longer, soft like this, gentle warmth and lovely shadows, lazy breezes, the illusion of contentment.
But I am not content. Or perhaps I am, but whereas I once thought contentment was the goal, the sentiment makes me uneasy now.
“Nothing gold can stay,” Robert Frost wrote. To stay content would be to embrace the shift in seasons, to be glad for the chill, the icy rain, the long hours of darkness. The annoying neighbors putting up Christmas lights already. The dysfunction that persists all around us since the pandemic struck over 30 months ago.
During the worst of the COVID pandemic, I wrote that it was what I wanted most: to be content. To recognize my blessings and be grateful for them.
But a human is nothing if not changeable.
I want inspiration, an electric charge of some kind, beckoning me in some direction or other. Static is not good enough. Static is complacent, peaceful maybe, but also … inanimate. I cannot help but crave improvement.
And now I am left with this feeling, the wanting. There was no space for ambition through the pandemic, the constant reminders of our fragility, and the mounting losses. These have been the days of gratitude. We counted our blessings and then counted them again, wishing for just a little less insecurity. The most we dared hope for was a return to the days before when science was science and friends were friends, and we could see people’s faces and gather in the same room without worry.
We humans are programmed for growth. Stuck in a nightmare that played and replayed, we stagnated and despaired.
We won’t go back to that. We can’t.
But we also can’t afford to retain the sense of helplessness that we have accepted for the last two and a half years. I’m not saying the pandemic is over. Just that hope might be the next step, followed by want, vision, and then action, if we are ever really going to put this thing behind us.
Claire Unis is a pediatrician and author of Balance, Pedal, Breathe: A Journey Through Medical School.