On Sunday evening, I heard the news that all non-essential businesses in Allegheny County were requested to either close or implement alternate work strategies for the next 14 days in response to concerns around COVID-19. My one thought upon hearing that announcement came to me in the form of a question that’s been lingering all week: What is essential?
Merriam-Webster defines “essential” as basic, indispensable, necessary–of utmost importance. I am slowly learning what is truly essential, as most of my ordinary comings and goings have screeched to a halt. Water is basic, and food is necessary. It’s of utmost importance that I keep my place clean and care for my own mental health right now. I continue to work (grateful for a job I can do from home), take care of the dogs, connect with friends and check in on loved ones, thanks to the wonders of technology. Most other things have fallen by the wayside. Time marches on.
A second definition for essential is “of or relating to essence; inherent.” When everything else is stripped away, what am I? Who am I? I am learning every day–I am not what I do, not what I buy, not what I have. I am not my to do lists, nor my goals, nor my accomplishments,
I feel as though my soul is being purged of non-essentials. I’m content to let them ebb slowly away. Grasping at them doesn’t solve anything. Soon enough (how soon is yet to be seen), eventually, hopefully–restrictions may ease. I’ll be free to assume my comings and goings. All the trappings will cry out to be absorbed back into my life. They may try to convince me that they are essential. I hope I weigh everything carefully. I hope I have a better grasp on essence–who I am. I hope I ask myself often, “what is essential?”