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Words in crisis

Everything has changed in unimaginable ways over the past week. Schools closed, businesses and organizations shuttered, events and gatherings canceled, seemingly endless new changes and losses with every passing day.

It’s hard to accept the strange new reality, especially when social distancing can be so very hard on the heart.

It’s not easy to say good-bye for an indefinite amount of time.

It’s not easy to say good-bye when the future holds so many unknowns.

It’s not easy to say good-bye for so many practical reasons.

It’s not easy to say good-bye for so many matters of the heart.

But if we can, we must.

Because it is better to lose the ones we love for days, weeks or months instead of losing them forever to this pandemic. This is what I’ve been telling myself, over and over, as the good-byes in my own life mount each day.

But if we can’t be together, if we can’t do most of the normal day-to-day activities that usually fill our lives, what do we do?

This is a question most people have never had to deal with. And the answers to this question are a little different for everyone.

But in our collective search for answers to this question, we can find so many opportunities to learn from each other and connect with others from the safe distance the written word provides.

So I will share one of the things I’ve been doing to keep myself as safe, calm, happy and entertained as possible, just in case it might help someone else.

I’ve started up a journal again. I’ve always dabbled in journaling, sometimes keeping it up for months or years only to take a break for months or years and then pick it back up again.

But this seemed like the perfect time to start a new journal. Journaling gives us a voice and a place to share our hopes, fears, and experiences when there aren’t many people nearby to listen.

There are many great reasons to keep a journal at this time beyond that fact. But one particularly resonates with me: By keeping a journal, we create individual, personal historical records of a pandemic that is likely to be long remembered.

We don’t know what the future will bring, but I think it’s likely that our collective personal writings from this period will be of interest to future generations.

By recording the events of your daily life, the news, or some combination of the two, you will also be doing yourself a tremendous favor: You will have a record of what actually happened during this period in your life.

This is particularly important, as when situations develop and escalate this quickly, it’s often easy to lose perspective on the timing of events. To put it simply, things can become a blur in times of crisis. It’s easy to lose track of the exact order of events and what the situation looked like two days ago, versus a week ago, versus today.

I’ve found this to be true looking back at my journal entries from when I started about a week ago: It had just been announced that schools would be closed for three weeks, gatherings of 250+ were prohibited by the governor, Michigan only had a handful of confirmed cases, restaurants and bars were still operating normally and there were roughly 2,200 cases in the entire U.S.

Now, compare that to today’s situation. It might give you some added perspective on how quickly everything is changing.

But whether you’re journaling for yourself or future generations, it’s certainly worth taking some time to reflect through writing during such a challenging period.

You might find a silver lining. You might find yourself uncovering and confronting difficult emotions and situations you didn’t even realize were occurring. You might find a great way to pass a handful of hours each week. You might create a key historical record that informs future generations.

So please remember: Even when we are alone, we still have stories to tell.

Even when we are alone, we have so much to give.

We are alone, together. And the written word is one of the strongest remaining threads connecting us.

So please, dear reader, write it down.

Don’t let us forget.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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