As the pandemic restrictions lift I find myself spending long, beautiful Saturdays with loved ones, connecting through elbows bumps and cautious hugs. Through conversations with friends, I’m reminded that I’m defined by my closeness to God who lives within me. My love for myself is my spirituality and connection to Her. My ability to seek and notice beauty is compelled by my closeness to myself and therefore to Her.
Viewing myself from this perspective allows me to grow closer to God daily, even when I don’t realize it. The ways my body and God carry me through the pandemic shows me a new way of knowing Her. After months of being away from Church, I return and am able to fall right back into place, as though right at home. I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. I felt no different than it had at Church months ago, before the pandemic. My faith didn’t stray because I was away from the Church; rather, I grew closer to myself, and therefore to God with each day spent in solitude.
I make myself strong, pushing myself to stretch further each day I do yoga. The same poses slowly becoming easier, my breath stronger and more controlled, synchronizing with my movements. One day, I go to my cousins’ house, easily lift their two-year-old to rest my hip, and realize how strong I’ve become. My YouTube yoga practice matters more than ever when she wraps her tiny arms around my neck.
I memorize an unexpected Taylor Swift album as soft, hazy, and unique as the summer it’s born from. Late one Thursday night, I paint my nails hot pink and disappear for a long weekend. I’m less anxious than I used to be; the antidepressants I started in the spring are doing their job. At work, the women compliment my summer wardrobe, hug me consistently, and thank me for the work that I do. They surprise me with a cake to celebrate my anniversary of working there, even though none of them knew me back then.
Throughout summer, I feel and notice everything I can: the pale yellow sunflowers in the vase on my aunt’s counter, the bright pink of my toenails sticking out of my sandals, the socially-distant longing for hugs that can’t happen. There’s great patience to be found in all of it, but especially when my friend and I have a disagreement midsummer. I’m reminded to remain humble and willing to let God teach me. My friend and I forgive each other and I paint her a pink rose; she hangs it in her bathroom the day we walk to a waterfall, admiring the flawless summer sky. Later that summer, I swim up and down the current of the river on her parents’ private property and declare myself a mermaid. Weeks later still, I’m in the park with my four-year-old cousin and she calls us both mermaids, the playground a mermaid castle.
I spend time in the sun every weekend, stretching my legs and collecting plants for a shelf I found on Facebook Marketplace. Summer evenings in the backyard, I fill old pots with plants while my cat sits nearby and watches. With the plant shelf, I foster beauty, growth, and humility: the small plants know nothing of the state of humanity, but teach me patience with their simple needs.
On the last long weekend, I spend the day alone on the beach. I bob up and down in the waves and talk to my mom on the phone while I sit on the sand. Everything and everyone around me seems to disappear when I look out at the boats and mountains. I was right to be declared a mermaid; my spirit belongs out there. I’ve swam in an ocean, a river, and a lake this summer and learned how much I feel God when I’m in natural water.
The poetic slowness of the pandemic serves as a reminder that the earth is turning, yet little is moving. There’s a liminality to late summer, red leaves already coming down, sun still beating down on my neck. So much stopped, was cancelled, or became irrelevant because of the pandemic. My perspective has shifted as a result. It’s hard to care as much about how much or little you have of something when everything is crumbling around you, obsolete and decaying in this overwhelming time. The fact that I can’t afford to travel while I’m young no longer matters; the jealousy I felt for my peers who could is pointless. Gone. I have years ahead to see the world, long after the pandemic ends and I teach myself how to manage money.
I feel very small and insignificant in light of everything, yet very important to those in my immediate bubble: my closest friends, my little cousins, the women at work, my cat. One day I realize I haven’t checked the news app on my phone in three days; in the spring I checked it hourly. Smoke clouds over Vancouver, drifted north.
I take inventory of the space, people, and scenarios around me. I learn new things about people I love and wonder if I paid less attention than I should have to some of them. I let myself take up space, gain weight in both fat and muscle. I save my leftover coffee and drink it iced the next morning. I redecorate small corners of my home, buy new versions of household items. I soak up every last ray of sun, love, and growth this slow summer has to offer. When it ends, I find peace in that too.
I foster a closeness to God that reminds me to take care of myself and the version of Her that lives within me. Frequently, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.