The Life We Once Knew

I’m not sure when the term “first world problems” first came on the scene, but I am grateful for it. That phrase has caused me to pause, and check myself more times than I can count. To remember how fortunate and privileged I am compared to so many others. To be grateful for all that I have and get to experience, even when times are tough. In fact it’s become second nature to me: when I start feeling down about something, I ask myself if this is a first world problem. Eight times out of ten, it is, and it helps me reset my frame of reference.


There’s a caveat to constantly checking myself with the “first world problems” reality: it often causes me to ignore very real feelings. It’s irrelevant if those feelings are valid or not, based on circumstance. Sure, sometimes I need a reality check to snap me out of my own bullshit. But ultimately, the feelings I feel – that we all feel – are still feelings, and they are still very real. And sometimes they need to be acknowledged, rather than shoved to the side because we fear we are being petty.

This is one of those times.

For much of today, I was in a funk. One of those hair-pin trigger moods, where the wrong look or the wrong words could set me off. Case in point: not one mile into our 5 mile run this morning, I told my husband to just stop talking to me. I didn’t want to talk. We continued on in silence, and I hoped that the run would make me feel better. Running almost always does cure what ails me, but this was one of those 1 out of 100 runs where I simply felt worse by the end.

I tried to pinpoint why, but I couldn’t.

Later in the day, one of my favorite friends on this great green earth messaged me that she was coming over to leave a present on my doorstep. I believe her words were “I’m going to leave it and run! I don’t want to get you sick!” She is not sick, but is being respectful of and responsible with our social distancing protocols. I told her I had a present for her as well, and I would leave it on my doorstep for her to grab during her drop – and – dash. Once the swap was made, I laughed that our presents were nearly the same size and shape, both with cards attached, expressing our gratitude for each other.

And then I cried. Because I realized not only could I not hug my friend, but I couldn’t even open the door to see her smiling face, and vice versa. And that was the first time that I admitted to myself that I’m afraid. Not scared of the actual virus, not scared of death.

Rather, scared that we may never return to the life we once knew.

At first this realization felt silly. I’m healthy. My kids, my husband, my family members: all healthy. We are still working, and while we’ve lost quite a bit of income, we can tighten the reigns and survive, which is so much more than others can say. We have a roof over our head. Food in the fridge. Clean water. The list goes on and on. All of the things that ultimately prove that as humans, we aren’t just surviving, we are thriving.

Even if this is our new normal until further notice, or hell, forever: I am fortunate.

But there’s also the canceled events we’d spent the last year looking forward to. The canceled campground reservations we were looking forward to escaping to. The closing of parks and trails…and as I write this post, the beaches and water access… that were previously places I sought refuge…and definitely took for granted. The freedom to run and ride and swim and adventure wherever, and whenever the urge struck. The ability to book a flight home to visit my mom on a whim. The contentment with living in a tiny apartment with no outside access, knowing I could set off into the woods whenever I damn well pleased. The ability to grab a beer or a few miles with friends, and hug them with appreciation and gratitude for their presence.

In the grand scheme of the world, these things are massive luxuries. It’s a classic cases of first world problems that I can’t do them, in theory, temporarily.

But these things are also a huge part of my identity. Of what brings joy to my heart and soul. The things that made me truly feel alive.

(What an ironic choice of words to use during a pandemic…)

Outwardly, we are all afraid. Afraid of which one of our loved ones – or ourselves – will be a part of the percentage that doesn’t make it out of this mess. Afriad that absentmindedly scratching an itch on our face after touching the grocery cart might ultimately cause the death of someone else. Afraid that we can’t promise our children not only a better future, but even a future that looks like anything they have already come to know.

But today it occurred to me that, right or wrong, fortunate or not, what I’m also experiencing, what many of us are experiencing, is grief.

Grief for the life we once lived. Fear that we may never see it again. Of course,there is most definitely solace in knowing that we are all experiencing similar feelings, and that our need to social distance and drastically change our “normal” is truly for the greater good of all of us. And there is hope that eventually, this will all be over. And we can go back to making campground reservations and giving friends hugs, and all of the frivolous first world things we take for granted.

And I have no doubt that those days will come. And I truly hope that as a society, we all somehow come out BETTER than before. I want to believe this is what will ultimately cause the shift our society so desperately needs.

But for now, the uncertainty, of when or how – or if – this is going to end…is scary. There is definite loss, though I’m trying to be painfully optimistic that this loss is temporary, despite the tears that have found my eyes today. And so I want you to know that if you, too, are feeling sad…or angry, or depressed…please believe me: it’s OK to feel those feelings. Grief is hard, and messy, ebbs, and flows, and often times makes absolutely no sense at all.

Please know that you aren’t alone.

About Heather

Hi. I'm Heather. Exercise physiologist by day, adventure seeker...also by day, and sometimes night. I like: mountains, running long distances, rabbits, sleeping in tents, poking at campfires with a stick, and Gordon Lightfoot. I dislike: peanut butter, bent tent poles, sitting still for too long, and writing "about me" sections.

2 comments on “The Life We Once Knew

  1. You so eloquently expressed the jumble of feelings that I have been unable to articulate. Thank you.

Comments are closed.