Kenopsia

"Love is like infinity: You can't have more or less infinity, and you can't compare two things to see if they're 'equally infinite.' Infinity just is, and that's the way I think love is, too." 
Fred Rogers


Kenopsia - n.  - the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs. (Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows).




This is a weird time. I feel like there's competing feelings raging inside me. I think it's worthwhile for me to share what I've been contemplating. I'm back in remote classes for the remainder of my semester of school. It's been an adventure to say the least, but in some ways I am grateful to have access to education, and to not be working. There are so many people worried about income, paying bills, rent, affording food, water, etc. and that's no my story in this moment. Then again I'm disillusioned with us continuing on with our education while the world, the community around us, and people are struggling to survive. It just seems so inappropriate. Read the room. The stability and structure is useful but it also seems elitist to be chugging along with some sense of normalcy when nothing about this is normal. It's like living in a portal to my own little world. This entire pandemic has made my world seem smaller and smaller even though it's not. 


My perception of everything has this underlying survival aspect to it where I'm thinking about my immediate family, chosen family, friends, community, and outward, ad naseum. It can be so easy for me to get caught up in my own head, in my own life, and in my own well-being that I don't take the time to check on other people. It's out of character for me. It's odd. It's not quite allowing me to be myself. Every time I go to reach out I stop and start thinking about myself. Why am I being selfish? Why am I hoarding myself and all that I am for just me when I know time and time again that people need me to show up for them, to be me, and to be me for/with them? How am I both okay and simultaneously scared? What's going on, and why is this happening? I just want everyone and everything to be okay - or at least, as okay if not better than it was before.




I'm feeling a mixture of guilt and embarrassment for where I get to be while the people I love go off to work in healthcare to save lives or other people struggle to survive amid uncertainty. Then there's me sitting in my room reading cases, writing memos, and aggrandizing on the internet not quite doing anything. I'm spending my days doing schoolwork, cooking, cleaning excessively, playing video games, browsing social media, and talking to people when I get the energy. I'm still laughing. I'm still having a good time. I'm still singing too loud, dancing while doing laundry, and sleeping soundly in my own bed. It's not fair. What makes me special? What distinguishes me from anyone else? What have I done to deserve to be where I am amid all of this? 


I'm thinking about my dad who trudges on for all of us despite us having lost our mom only six months ago. I'm thinking about my eldest brother swamped at the ER with patients and staying at an AirBnB instead of seeing his three wonderfully bright children. I'm thinking about my friend who is recovering from the coronavirus and will go back to seeing patients after he finishes his quarantine. It's the isolation that we're all stuck in our little portals instead of our massive world. It's like the hair-rising moment in Avengers: Endgame where all the portals open and the infamous snap is reversed. Where is everyone? Why are we separated? How can this be our current reality? 

Not being able to touch and be touched is hard. My go-to greeting when I see people is to either give them a hug, shake hands, touch them on their shoulder, etc. Some way, I'm physically acknowledging this person is right in front of me. Not being able to gather, to commune, and to feel the physical presence of others has made my world colder. Everywhere looks like a ghost town. The kenopsia is almost overwhelming. Places filled with laughter, love, and connection lay empty. Remnants of a more vibrant world flicker past. It was only a few weeks ago that I was spending hours in classrooms, singing duets in car rides, and swapping life stories over bubble tea. It feels like a lifetime ago and only yesterday. Time is meandering along, and flying by. The lack of liveliness is glaringly apparent. Outside the birds are chirping, wind is whistling, and trees are flowering but where are all the people to enjoy it? We're at least six feet away, and staying home to stay safe, and to save lives. It's a paradox of epic proportions. 




Things have changed - the world over. Somehow this all feels deeply personal and intricate, while simultaneously being one of the largest global events of our lifetimes. I don't think we're quite comprehending how significant all of this is and has been. In a matter of weeks, and then in a few days, everything changed. People have been struck with sickness, movement has been curtailed, and businesses shut down, and our social order upended. It just happened so fast. That's what makes it hard to believe. This entire time everything, how we've been living, and how we're organized ourselves could be radically changed in a matter of days? That's unbelievable. It's both mindboggling, and honestly kind of empowering. 

I think one of the few bright spots amid all this organized chaos is the larger public seeing the ways that the cruelties we perpetrate against the most vulnerable amongst us don't have to be. Evictions, incarceration, housing the homeless, combating food insecurity, grades, gatekeeping tests, access to healthcare, etc. all of it and so much more does not have to the way that is has been. We can provide opportunities for people to have their basic needs met, to access education, and to be guaranteed the necessities of life. Suddenly we have the money for a stimulus bill which means that at any point in time so much of the social issues that plague us could be eradicated. That means the way we live and the way we exclude is a choice, sometimes active but always pervasive. That's significant. I hope that whatever sort of conclusion, if any, comes from this that the exposing of the injustices we have co-signed audibly or with our silence lead us to call for permanent change. I hope the solidarity remains long after the pandemic is gone. I hope the kindness prevails. I hope the appreciation for those deemed essential without the paycheck to match continues. I hope that hope stays around for a better, more inclusive, and brighter society.



I've learned a great deal from this time - out of time. Namely how much excess in all senses has been part of life. It's been fascinating to see how consumerism has receded. What are necessities? What do I need to actually live? How much money is enough? Even more so I am seeing who I felt compelled to call first, to check-in, and ensure their well-being. Who was at the forefront of mind at the "end of the world" as I knew it. Whose face popped into my head. Who did I have to tell that I loved them just because. Who made me feel at peace, cared for, and loved. This entire ordeal has been so telling. It has brought clarity to many of my relationships.

I found that I loved more people than I knew or had ever told. It also removed many of the illusionary barriers I had placed in front of me that prevented me from conveying some of those feelings. It's been so powerful and heartwarming to be the one to tell people what they have meant to me, just because, without reason, and for all the reasons. It's one thing I can do during this crisis to ensure people know that they are on my heart and my mind. What is it to see empty places but to not feel empty - it's love. Even when alone I'm not alone because I get to carry the love of all those that have loved and continue to love me. There's something profound about love carried. It's mine. It's guarded. It's uplifting. It's light. It's sustaining. No matter what I get to have that, to use that, and to relish in that. To have love to carry is a gift unique to this existence of life. X

P.S. I hope that you and yours are making the most out of these eerie times - whatever that means for you. I hope you're taken care of, having your needs met, and feelings loved. I hope love is part of all of your days as with community, and connection. Wishing you warmth from afar. Peace be with you. 

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