2020 | Coronavirus Chronicles

Coronavirus Chronicles: Going backward to go forward

‘When we began to shelter in place, I made a plan to tackle a long-delayed project: organizing the family photos.’

The essay author, Ann Bradley

From Ann Bradley

(Editor’s note: This essay is part of Bethesda Beat’s Coronavirus Chronicles personal essay series. Visit the submission page to learn more.)

I’m a compulsively productive person.

My pre-pandemic life was busy: work, kid-related activities, travel and planning.

I was big on plans: social events, vacations, holidays and dropping our son off at college this fall.

Now, plans are out the window. The future is on hold or canceled. All of the events I had carefully logged in my calendar have X’s through them.

Except for my work, the sense of forward motion that propelled me has come to a halt.

When we began to shelter in place, I made a plan to tackle a long-delayed project: organizing the family photos.

I would cull pictures, create order, reduce clutter. And, of course, I thought I would regain a bit of the momentum I thrive on.

But I was wrong. I just made a mess. And I got happily lost in the past.

I found myself interrupting my husband with a long-forgotten photo of our son’s first day of kindergarten.

Excitedly showing our son a picture of myself at his age, holding my cap and gown before my family headed off to my high school graduation (which he will never have).

Posting a picture of my childhood pet parakeet on the refrigerator.

Mailing a photo of me sailing with my recently deceased aunt to my bereaved uncle, who is riding out the coronavirus alone in New Jersey.

Emailing an old photo of me and my siblings at my parents’ house — the one they’re leaving forever in less than a week — to my mother for Mother’s Day.

The dining room table remains covered with stacks of pictures I have no idea how to organize.

I’ve turned into a whirlwind of backward-looking emotional energy. And I’ve realized that sometimes, the best path isn’t blindly forward, but backward to savor what has already happened.

Ann Bradley is a vice president at a communications firm. She lives in Bethesda. 

Read other essays in the Coronavirus Chronicles series.

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