Recovery/récupération

On Sunday I will host an event of writers from the NY/NJ area who have essays in the (Her)oics Anthology, which I co-edited. It is called “Tales from the Epicenter” as these stories took place in March-May of 2020, when NYC was the epicenter.  In thinking through the various stories that will be shared, I wonder now if I should have called it “Tales of Recovery.”

Two of the writers share stories about being sober. One of them has five years clean, and writes of facing her high risk pregnancy during the pandemic. She reflects on an earlier pregnancy with her first child years earlier, when she was 17, and the difference of managing her current fears with recovery and faith. She weaves in the story of a miscarriage, of her Colombian father who inspires her, of life before and after. She makes us long for this baby to arrive.

The other writer is new to recovery– her piece is literally called Newly Sober in the Time of Coronavirus.  It’s a lyrical, poetic tale of escaping Manhattan at the worst of the pandemic, only to find herself in a new city in Kentucky, with very little sobriety under her belt and her AA book forgotten in the taxi. It’s about the anxiety, the longing to run, and the help that exists, everywhere.

These stories are obviously on the theme of recovery.But another writer shares the experience of recovering from cancer, twice, and how it relates to the collective experience of Coronavirus. A fourth writer shares a beautiful piece about her baby, Azalea, but also about the years of infertility and multiple miscarriages to arrive at this moment – caring for her child during a pandemic. Our fifth writer is recovering, quite literally as she writes her essay, from Covid-19. Newly home from the hospital, she endeavors to nurture herself, even if with only a bowl of cream of wheat.

It occurs to me, as I go over the essays and prepare for the gathering, that recovery could be the theme for the entire collection.

Because aren’t we all recovering at this point?

We’re recovering from cancer, from Covid-19, from pregnancy loss, from addiction. We’re recovering from the loss of loved ones, from parenting alone, from divorce, from racial trauma, from our capital being stormed, from job loss, from broken friendships, from crushed dreams, from interrupted schooling, from food insecurity, from police brutality, from loneliness, from a year of fear.

Recovery is such an interesting word.

People in 12 step say, “I am in recovery.” Not, “I am done. I am recovered.”  Still in it. Always in it. Because they know it is a life long process, to recover from the ailment that brought them through the door. In French, it is translated récupération. From the Latin recuperare, to take back.

I don’t think we can ever fully take back all that was lost in 2020.

Then again, I’ve always thought it’s more than a coincidence that recovery rhymes with discovery.  Discovery, in old French, discovrir.  Old World Definition: “uncover, unroof, unveil, reveal.”

As we recover from 2020, we discover.

We reveal our vulnerabilities and strengths.  We unearth forgotten dreams and dust them off. We root out our own racism and recoil. We stumble upon enormous holes in our “safety net” and are ashamed. We reacquaint ourselves with social skills. We renew old friendships. We re-imagine ways to co-exist. We unveil the ways our governments fail, and the ways science steps forward. We acknowledge our need for self-care. We bask in the online reassurance that others feel the same way. We recoup some of our lost optimism. We reveal the depth of our despair.

We discover, maybe to our own surprise, how much we want to keep going. To be here. We recover ourselves and one another. We begin the long path of repair.  We uncover our wounds, bringing them out, to our community. Here are my wounds. Where are yours? Can we bandage one another?

I believe in recovery. I believe there is a “renaissance” after the dark ages.

I hope you can join us on Sunday (April 18) to hear about discovery, recovery and rebirth. That we can spend an hour healing together.

We’ll bring the stories. You just show up.

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