I wonder a lot, wonder about all of us, wonder, if we get honest about what my grandson calls, “Covid time,” do we do things we used to do? Fly? Travel? Attend concerts? Visit friends in nursing homes or hospitals? Hmm.
I’ve also wondered about that sourdough I used to buy. I wonder these Covid days, when the craving calls, is it ok to go buy my favorite bread? On the one hand, there’s standing in line, masked and distanced, as the small bakery requires. On the other hand, that big box store with optional masking beckons, yet shoppers there thrust their hands in front of my face to grab celery as I reach for organic broccoli. My high school classmates called me proficient and self-confident. Now I don’t know what to do.
My mind wanders in this wondering to Wonder Bread. We can laugh at where introspection leads, at what shows up as we toss around the word wonder. Wonder Bread? I don’t recognize myself; distracted, waffling over bread. Buy? Don’t buy? My friend teases, “Sue! Really? What a tiny problem! Obsessing about bread? Using your creative energy, no, wasting your creative energy, on sourdough?”
“Yes,” I sigh, “I know, swinging back and forth. Is it better to choose the easy way, the closest, the bread of least resistance? Is it safe to venture forth?”
I’m not alone. I have clients, students, friends, and relatives who say, “me too. I have the same Covid and post-Covid mind-freeze about what to do, how to be, when to choose what. Go? Don’t go? Do it. Don’t do it.”
Small problems or not, many of us struggle in these epic moments of epidemic suffering, of infectious attitudes of “this is tough,” of the contagious wondering, “who am I and where did that other me go?” In our common humanity, we get confused. Of course. In these times, how could we not feel a bit mixed up?
The wondering deepens; how do we re-orient and re-imagine ourselves after years of what-should-I-do? How do we rebuild self-confidence? How do we regain the proficient one? How do we find ourselves again?
I wonder also about wondering itself. When I wanted to ask my young children about their friends, I’d say, “I wonder if Rachel made that soccer team.” Or “I wonder if Kyle aced his audition.” My son would moan, “Mom, if you have a question, ask. ‘Did Rachel make it?’ ‘How did Kyle do?’ Like that. You don’t need wonder.”
But we do need wonder. These days I say to grandkids, “I wonder what might happen if you put the fork in your other hand?” Or, “I wonder how it would go if you did your homework before dinner?” Or “let’s wonder together what this character might do on the next page of this book.”
Yes, we need wonder. What else but curiosity can help us meet these Covid moments, or any moments, and transform confusion into imagination and possibility? Alice Walker wrote in The Color Purple, “I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident.”
Maybe whether to buy or not buy bread, where, or which kind, whips up too-small wonderings. Maybe to emerge from post-pandemic what-to-do and who-am-I, we need to wonder about bigger things like voting, nurturing friendships, reducing carbon emissions, halting Covid, winterizing. Then, almost by accident, we will learn about what Alice Walker calls our little things… like bread.