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When you’re living in a dystopian novel


The other day I caught myself saying this sentence: “Our town parks are still open, the police are just patrolling to disperse groups of 5 or more people.”

Then I said: “Oh my God. We’re living in a dystopian novel.”

None of us have ever lived through a time like this.

This morning I found myself intensely missing Starbucks. I go there to work at least once a week. I order a decaf tall coconut milk latte. I chat it up with Michelle, the manager, and Jeff, my favorite barista. Then I settle in at a table by the window and work for three hours.

I stare out the window at the parking lot. I people-watch. I recognize other regulars by face and by coffee order.

I really miss that.

I miss my kids’ daycare teachers. I miss having breaks from parenting. I miss meeting friends for drinks. Going out to dinner. Traveling to see my parents.

And also, my heart is breaking every day with the news of more cases, more deaths, more supply shortages, more horrific stories of doctors deciding whom to save.

And yet.

And yet… The sun still rises every morning. The tree in my front yard has bloomed. Every few days my son and I pick daffodils to grace our table.

My daughter still grins at me every time she catches my eye. My husband still kisses me good night.

Life in the dystopian world we find ourselves living in is bizarre. And it’s also still beautiful in so many ways.

Ninety thousand medical personnel have volunteered to serve in New York City hospitals. People are applauding healthcare workers as they come home from saving lives. The air is cleaner. The water is clearer. Nature is getting a reset we never could have imagined.

Wednesday night I took my kids to the pond to see the ducks. I’ve literally never seen so many families outside: walking dogs, following toddlers on tricycles, going for a bike ride.

This time is tragic and it is hard. And it is also an opportunity, an invitation, for us to build a different world – the world we’ve dreamed of. Because characters in dystopias are always, always dreaming of utopia.

Ask yourself: when this time shifts again, what do you want to consciously choose to bring back into your life? What do you want to consciously choose to let go of?

We get to decide.

P.S. If you love to read, you will love my virtual book club, The Reading Circle. This month we’re reading Evening, by Susan Minot – while not a dystopian novel, it’s immersive, beautifully written, and reflective – perfect for this Great Pause. If you ever wish your friends at book club talked more about the book, you will love The Reading Circle. Join us here.

April 10, 2020

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