There has been a lot of talk about all the things we’ve missed during this quarantine and there are things that I am sad we have missed, things my daughters cry about but I’ll be honest I am having a hard time focusing on what we’ve lost because there is so much opportunity for hope and for community everywhere we go.

That may sound crazy but I’m going to tell a story my father loved to tell that I think of everytime I start to dwell on the bad.

He was in his office break room and a co-worker came in and said “Peter why do you look so sad, you are young, you have s beautiful wife, beautiful children, it’s beautiful outside, you’re healthy – be happy – it’s not like you have cancer or something.”

Sign Up for Piscataway Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

My father looked at him and said “Well, your almost right – a few months ago I was diagnosed with brain cancer and today I’m just having a down day.” The man looked shocked and said “Oh my god, I’m so sorry I didn’t know.”

My father asked him why he thought he had been wearing bandannas on his head for the last few months (to cover the hair loss from radiation and chemo), the man looked at him and replied “I just thought you wanted to be a pirate.”

In reality, my father would much rather have been a pirate, a parrothead for years, he would much rather be sailing the open seas than strapping into another round of radiation. You may be asking what does this have to do with quarantine and missed milestones. To me it’s simple –you can be defined by your circumstances or you can decide to be a pirate.

Every single person I know would be able to identify my father as a pirate – fewer would be able to tell you he battled brain cancer to a seeming draw for over 20 years.  I’m not saying to ignore the bad things around you. I know, there is a process to this and we are all on our own path – we hit denial, anger, acceptance at different times. Some of us had been through the process multiple times and know the path, some of us are retracing steps we went through after more losses set us back.

But when we look around there are some many things to be grateful for – clearer air, beautiful weather, stolen moments with our children and loved ones. Opportunities for creativity, to rediscover lost talents (writing), learn new skills (bread making), and take a deep breath without running from one thing to another. Our children are rediscovering play – mine will play in a creek for hours at a time coming back with amazing stories about islands and fantasy- they are learning to adapt to ever changing circumstances, they are learning empathy and the power of the reaching out to each other.

We are relearning to care for each other – in my town we have 3 new groups in town - one a set of ladies who are making secret deliveries of wine and goodies to each other, another a set of men doing the same with craft brews and a third of  children putting together snack bags for each other. Every day people are excited to surprise neighbors – some friends, some strangers. Every day strangers are making each other smile just for the sake of smiling.

There is so much bad around us it could swallow us whole if we let it – we could drink in the news and the deaths, dwell on the missed milestones, mourn the loss of our favorite pastimes - let our circumstances define us. Or we can be pirates – we can let our best selves define us.

As for me I’m going to sit in my yard, my new sippin’ sisters glass in hand and try to live like I’m out on the open seas.