What We’re All Going Through

Have a glance at this beautiful Wagoneer my wife discovered on one of our daily walks while reading a piece I wrote about what we’re all going through. #wastlerwagon

“Maybe you’re struggling with how to talk about all this,” was how I think my wife put it to me on one of our daily walks with our daughters this week. And she hit on it better than I have been able to: I am struggling with how to talk about what we’re all going through. Since that day in March when I was asked by my company’s leadership to draft something that explained to our workforce of thousands that we wouldn’t be coming back to the office the next day, nearly every day I’ve been tasked with — and frankly ably handling — the role of communicating with those workers the company’s best courses of action and thereby each individual’s best courses of action. Words happened upon words, nearly every word meticulously crafted to reflect the daunting spirit of the times, every word parsed, dissected to ensure they are not misconstrued, or that when they are read into, the translation is roughly the same no matter the interpreter’s standing: a realist, pessimist or optimist, irreflective of their political beliefs or their religious beliefs.

What I have not been ably handling is myself. I have cherished the daily walks with my family. Sometimes, I am immensely present, taking in the sight of a Missouri dogwood tree in full bloom, the sound of a cardinal’s call, or the uber-chlorinated smell that only a lifelong competitive swimmer can truly value, one of a fountain bursting with blue dye on the campus of the school across the street. Other times, I’m deep in my phone, recalling the days of “photo walks” or simply distracting myself with something — anything — or somehow trying to make this present world go away and return me to a more familiar one. 

I’ve distracted myself best by insisting on a certain level of routine: wearing a tie most days for work, making a fancy latte for my wife on the machine I bought on my last drive home from the office before quarantine, returning to my new year’s resolutions, which I’d uncharacteristically posted to Instagram for all to see. One of the resolutions was to make things with people I love, and I enjoyed making something with my friend @amicahsmith during quarantine… but I don’t think I have the ability to examine the dust particles as they persist in swirling around me. I don’t think I have a sense yet of the burdensome shift my own mental state has made, nor the mindset shift our society, our culture has taken as a result of what we’re all going through. I do want to try to talk about it, and I’m hopeful you’ll be conversant with me… from whatever distance you feel comfortable doing so, for it is reaction that I miss most. Smiling with my eyes at passersby through this mask simply isn’t cutting it any longer.