Forty days and 40 nights.
As I write this column, that’s how long it’s been since we started staying at home.
I researched the significance of the oft-used Biblical measurement of time — it rained on Noah and family for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses is said to have stayed on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. Goliath taunted the Israelites for 40 days. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.
Turns out, some scholars argue that in Biblical times the phrase did not refer to a definite period of time, it just meant a long time.
During the past week, based on all that I’ve read from folks who know a lot more than I do, I have come to believe that the Time of Corona may last 40 days and 40 nights, as in the Biblical sense. Certainly, no one knows for sure how much time will pass before life gets back to whatever the new normal is, but some researchers say that these first 40 days and nights may be the start of a year (or two) unlike the ones we’ve known previously. (I’m not suggesting they will be just like the first 40 days and nights, but I believe they’re going to be different in ways we can’t wrap our heads around completely.)
A Winston Churchill quote comes to mind: Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Churchill is not always as encouraging as I’d like him to be, but his words may be what I need to focus on right now to make peace with the ambiguity of these times — to make peace with the 40 days and 40 nights of the future.
Mentally preparing for a world that isn’t going to be as expected is the healthiest approach I know. And if I’m wrong, then feel free to celebrate. Rest assured that I’ll join the party.
This story I have to share requires some context:
On a personal level, I’ve got plenty of questions. To name a few:
Will our daughter’s newly rescheduled high school graduation really happen, as now planned, Aug. 1? We don’t know.
Will there be football games this fall? We don’t know.
Will we be able to go to movie theaters again anytime soon? We don’t know.
What about Thanksgiving? Can our friends and relations join our holiday tradition? We don’t know.
How will air travel work in the future? Will we be able to sit so close to strangers again? We don’t know.
Will our daughter finishing high school this semester be able to go off to college and stay the whole year? We don’t know.
Will our other daughter who expects to graduate from college in the fall be able to go to Ireland for 2021 as she had planned? We don’t know.
My head spins at how both of my children will launch into the wide world so differently than we expected — or perhaps it won’t be so wide upon their launch.
While I don’t know the answers to any of the questions the future holds, I do know what I’ll serve tonight for dinner. I do know that I have bread rising in the oven. I do know that both of my daughters are working hard to prepare for their upcoming exams.
As I write this column, my 18-year-old daughter is sitting on a bench staring at the river that runs along the edge of our back yard.
She’s never had time, or perhaps more accurately, she’s never taken time, to sit and stare at the river before. She will tell you that doing so turns out to be a lovely way to spend time.
Overall, her approach to the unexpected turn of events touches my heart, and her words ring true.
“We have to adjust,” she tells me almost every day, often times completely unprompted, as if she’s trying as hard to convince herself as much she is someone else. Then she continues, almost like a mantra.
“Things will eventually get better. I don’t know when or exactly what better is, but things will get better. We are all in this shared experience,” she says. “We will figure out a way.”