Titus Benton

My disappointment over not having an NCAA Tournament feels like it happened three years ago. We celebrated my son’s 12th birthday on April 13, but if you ask me, this stay-at-home thing must’ve started when he was seven or eight.

It’s been a slog, let’s just say.

But it hasn’t been all bad. In fact, I’ve had some time to slow down. I’ve read a lot. I’ve gotten some stuff done around the house. And I’ve played proctor to my kids’ new-found reality of online school. The pace, for me at least, has been nice. I know that’s not true for everyone, so I don’t mean to brag.

I don’t know if you’ve had any occasion to find a different pace. If you have, then hopefully you’ve learned some things about yourself.

I can think of three things I’ve thought of, at least.

I think the reason that catastrophes like this -- along with tornadoes and hurricanes, house fires, etc. -- impact us so much is they become a visualization of the disorder that we so often feel deep inside. We all take great comfort in the illusion of having control over our lives. But the twisted tree trunks of a twister-ravaged small town, or the smoking remnants of a life full of memories, or the soggy furniture sitting by the curb waiting for the garbage truck after a flood -- they give dimension to the feelings that are constantly buzzing in the background of our lives. We’re not actually in control. Turns out, we are not a god in our life. We are not mother nature. We are powerless to stop suffering. The best we can do is try and grow from it when it comes and not let it stop us in our tracks. That’s what I’ve been thinking anyway.

I’ve also thought about isolation. We’ve all been in relative isolation the past several weeks. The county I live in has the most cases in all of Texas. There are six million people in our metro area, almost 400,000 in my suburb alone, and crowds are normal. They’re ubiquitous. I’m rarely not waiting in a line somewhere. So it feels very different to sit on my patio alone. Or on my front porch alone. Or in my chair, reading, alone. I’ve found myself reaching out to people by text more often than I normally do. I went for a walk with a friend in the park, and even though we trodded along on opposite sides of the sidewalk to keep our distance and sat on benches that were 12 feet apart to talk, it was good to connect with someone. We need connection. Isolation isn’t what we’re made for. Some people need less of it than others, but we all need it. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, alone in my thoughts all the while.

The last thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is love. There’s a lot of love going around these days. It’s funny that it always seems like love shows up the biggest when suffering is more widespread. There’s something to be said for the relationship between suffering and love. There are smarter folks than me that have pontificated on that connection, but I’ll say this much: whenever suffering hits, we have two choices. We can either double down on the way we normally do things -- pretty shielded from vulnerability and need, personality masks on, doing our best to project strength and capacity -- or we can open ourselves up to others and demonstrate that we need help, that we’re lonely, that we don’t have it all figured out, that we’re afraid, or that we aren’t as strong as we think we are. It’s hard to be vulnerable. If you roll over on your back like a dog does when it trusts the presence of the person they’re near, you might just get kicked in the ribs. But how sweet it is to open yourself up and instead of getting kicked, someone rubs your belly for a while.

In times like these, and for however long this deal drags out, we would do well to not only be vulnerable, opening ourselves up to love, but to rub whatever bellies we can along the way. We all need it.