New Jersey is at Level Two.
Pennsylvania is sliding from Yellow to Green.
The world around us is going from Closed to Curbside.
“Curbside” is comforting, kind of.
Curbside, we can smile at each other again, albeit behind little blue veils that pinch our ears. (You call them “masks.” I prefer “veils.” Let’s be all mysterious and mystical about it while we can.)
Curbside, we can acquire shrimp with broccoli or capri pantaloons or hand-poured candles from our favorite scrappy local business.
Curbside, we can even collect cats we’ve only met through Skype, grinning with our eyes at humans who have shepherded the sweet, strange process of video adoption.
Curbside, we can commune from our cars, rolling up to reminders of the world we knew.
But we can’t live curbside.
Curbside living is tempting even in normal times. It keeps our hands clean and our principles tidy and our lives uncomplicated. We roll by each other, reaching out the window for just enough relationship to keep us slightly warm without ever getting scorched by another soul.
Curbside, you see Anka‘s majesty without his fury, his elegance without his incontinence. You accept his affection, walking away from his anger, his “issues,” the rage and the…other materials…that issue forth from him without warning. His problems are Not Your Problem.
Curbside, you accept Cotton in his otherworldly cuteness, oohing and gooing over his spun-sugar clouds of fur, but you don’t concern yourself with his needs. It’s too disturbing to think about his shortened, stumpified legs; it’s too icky to imagine his repeated daily diaper wars.
Curbside, you sing for Sophia‘s splendor, but can’t stand the story of her cancer. In the face of her very uncertain future, you slink back, choose a safer cat to love, wrapping your heart in burlap against the bitter winds of mortality.
Curbside, you come for the ‘grammable goodness, but can’t bring yourself to weep with those who weep.
Curbside, you quit when you get bit.
Curbside, you falter when the fun runs low.
Curbside, you’re always moving before you can get grabbed, drawn in, and changed by what you’ve seen.
But you don’t live curbside. And that’s why you’re here.
Love that’s worth its name always goes inside. Into the deep, beyond the last buoy, it gets messy and murky and cold and wet and wondrous. It stays for the whole story; it doesn’t break its healing gaze when ugliness erupts; it exceeds height and breadth and depth and length.
It is, frankly, a force beyond us.
But somehow, if we just keep choosing to stay, and see, and outlast the discomfort of life inside, it comes to us.
Curbside living is no way to live, not for long. Sooner or later we all need to smell the full restaurant, feel Aunt Philomena’s couch plastic squeak under us while we hear That Story again, touch and taste and know the full bitterness and sweetness of another soul’s interior.
Even in These Strange Days, Tabby’s Place has never lived curbside. If we suddenly decided the tough stuff was just too much, and we would hereby focus exclusively on kittens and mermaids and rainbows, I think we would instantly, collectively implode like a dying star.
We may not always be pretty, but we ain’t dying, kittens.
So let’s remember, even in these days of drive-by half-life, to keep showing up for each other. It doesn’t require physical presence, not always; it only requires everything we are and everything we have.
Let’s do it.