Twenty years ago, after my husband, Rob, and I bought our first house, money was tight. One expense we decided to cut back on was haircuts for Rob. (He has thick curly hair that needs to be trimmed every four weeks or he starts looking like Thomas Dolby in the “She Blinded Me With Science” video.) Rather than paying for haircuts at a salon or barbershop, I used an electric razor to cut Rob’s hair at home. One afternoon, just as I was about to bring the buzzing blade down on his head, he summoned Clint Eastwood’s character in “Dirty Harry,” asking me, “Do you feel lucky?” We have referred to my decidedly amateur trim jobs as “lucky cuts” ever since.
If the weather permitted, I would cut Rob’s hair in our garage or backyard in order to minimize the cleanup. When we were both satisfied with the results, I usually sprayed Rob down with the garden hose to remove all the stray hairs before he went back inside. The water was almost always freezing, causing him to yell at the top of his lungs and both of us to laugh hysterically. I always wondered what the neighbors used to think.
In March, for the first time in nearly 17 years, I found myself dusting off our old electric razor. Because of Gov. Charlie Baker’s order closing all nonessential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, the salon Rob usually visits was closed.
Around the same time, Rob and I stood by helplessly as our daughter, Madelaine, a senior at Clark University in Worcester, was forced to come to terms with her college career ending early and abruptly. Her incredible disappointment when the school announced it would be forced to cancel graduation still makes my heart ache.
I found myself temporarily unemployed when the media company I work for decided to cease operations for six weeks. For the first time in 18 years, Rob and I were unable to host Easter dinner. Because my mother is suffering from lung cancer, visiting her became impossible.
Unable to see our families or friends, our primary solace was being able to get out of the house and hike in the woods. It wasn’t long, though, before we got the news that both Mass Audubon and the Trustees of Reservations had closed their trails to the public, and that authorities in New Hampshire were asking people to avoid hiking in the White Mountains to avoid the possibility of transmitting the virus to search and rescue personnel.
Because I knew we were more fortunate than others whose loved ones had contracted COVID-19, or those who had lost their jobs and were unable to pay their bills or feed their families, I resisted my feelings of loss and disappointment. I told myself it would be selfish to be sad when there were people who had to cancel their weddings, or were unable to have funerals for family members who had passed away.
But still, I struggled. How do you define your life when the routines and rituals that give it shape, joy and meaning are suddenly taken away?
I’m still not sure what the answer is, but accepting that there are things I can’t control and that it’s OK to feel disappointed about the things my family and I have had to sacrifice has made it easier to let them go. Being grateful for the blessings we do have has helped, too.
When this crisis finally ends, I think we will all be different people, hopefully more appreciative of our gifts and privileges, and more flexible in our thinking. I hope our sacrifices help us to be more empathetic to the needs of others, and to see more clearly that our actions almost always have the potential to affect other people’s lives, whether we mean them to or not.
While I was setting up the electric razor in our garage recently, Rob sat shivering on a plastic lawn chair, a towel draped around his bare chest. As I was about to start cutting his hair, he asked me, “Do you feel lucky?”
“Yes,” I told him. “Yes, I do.”