This weekend is my favorite every year. Andrew and I get to drop the kids off at Mom and Dad’s, drive to Anchorage on Thursday, spend all of Friday setting up a stage and sound (and I spend my whole day taping cords to red-and-gold carpet with wide, burgundy-colored duct tape), followed by the first couple sessions of a marriage conference we’ve attended (either in the regular attendance way or in an official working kind of way) some fifteen times. Saturday is more sitting beside my husband at the soundboard, followed by an early end of conference activities, splitting the ballroom in preparation for separate men’s and women’s sessions the next morning, and then a date night. Sunday we run the split sessions for a bit. (This is typically the only time of year I do sound and it’s stressful because the Anchorage Marriott’s ballroom system is janky and there’s a lot of bleedthrough from the men’s session on the other side of the air wall.) After that, we’ll reconfigure the ballroom back to a single huge session. We finish out the conference at 12:30 or so, wait for most of the attendees to clear out, and take everything back down. We’ll stay Sunday night. We used to drive back Sunday after strike, but that’s a six-hour drive that doesn’t start until about 4pm, so we finally started driving home Monday. Much better this way.
That was an inappropriate amount of detail, but every bit of it is seriously the best. I get time away with my husband to do ministry work alongside him (a novelty since the kids were born and my primary formal ministry became “the sound guy’s babysitter”) and it’s in service of strengthening marriages, which I’m passionate about.
Except… unless you’re reading this LONG after I’ve written it, you already know the whole thing is off. No gatherings over ten. Six feet between bodies. (I assume we could treat married couples as single units and just have six feet between couples?) In Alaska, there’s no intrastate travel, so we couldn’t even drive down.
And I’m sad.
As usual, my impulse is to minimize it. It’s not a big deal, just another weekend. Hopefully it won’t be cancelled next spring. There are people in danger, people dying. Domestic violence is on the rise for reasons that seem pretty obvious right now. I haven’t seen stats, but probably suicide as well. And the conference? I have a pretty stable, happy marriage—what about the couples for whom this was the last-ditch effort to keep it together? Suck it up. You’re fine.
I have done this weird internal self-shaming as long as I can remember. I did it when I miscarried and when my dog died and when my husband lost his dad tragically and all the smaller losses before, between, and after those. When I say “I can’t complain,” it’s probably code for “I don’t have a right to.” There’s always someone who has it worse.
So I shove that crap down. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. My life is relatively good. This is a bummer, but I can’t complain.
Who, exactly, is it for, though?
I used to feel bad when I’d enjoy blessings despite the suffering of other people. (The pain of the whole world?) I’d hear about someone else’s sick child and I would feel bad for having healthy ones. It was some weird mutation of survivor’s guilt, maybe, for those surviving disasters other than death.
When I was in my early twenties, newly married, a friend of mine, twelve then, was with me baking cookies the afternoon her mom died of cancer. Through her high school years, she’d tell me how much she hated hearing people rag on their mothers—sometimes she’d shut them down with “Well, at least you have a mom,” just because she could.
I don’t do anybody any favors when I don’t fully receive the blessings I have.
I think grief is similar.
If my friend’s grandpa died of covid-19, if an acquaintance is having a hard time making ends meet in the face of sudden unemployment, if someone is grieving the loss of her marriage in addition to living through a pandemic as a newly-single mom, if a friend has to navigate a military move and deployment of her husband and it’s all in the air but she still has to care for five kids, or if someone I know has a small business about to go under because nobody is shopping, I can support them in various ways. I can offer empathy or groceries, maybe buy a gift card. You know what isn’t useful? Shoving down my little grief over a cancelled weekend because bigger problems exist. Perspective is still important, of course, and whining is never good, but minimizing my own feelings leads to a whole host of other crap down the line. (Ask me how I know.) The amorphous and physical anxiety I experience when I push sadness away eats up my margin and my ability to be a human. I’m no good to anybody.
Naming and feeling the things, even just within myself (or, you know, discussing them at length with couple dozen of my closest internet friends), makes me more empathetic, not less.
So I’m sad. It will be fine, but it sucks right now.