While We Wait

I was about two thirds of the way up Machu, dying, biting the inside of my mask to make it hurt less, when I saw a woman maybe twenty steps ahead of me. She was doubled over. Gasping. And to be clear I wasn’t really dying, and it wasn’t really Machu Picchu. I was climbing the Culver steps and she was really hurting. She was way up there. A gust of something blew by me and as soon as my eyes could focus, I saw it was a man. Young and crazy fit. Taking the steps, two, three at a time. Soon as he reached her step, he linked arms with her. I watched her startle for a second, the way any of us would, pandemic no pandemic. He gave her what she needed. Together they got to the top of that mountain. He patted her back; she threw fists up to the sky. Rocky Balboa.

It’s not a great social distancing story. And to be honest I can’t even remember which of them was wearing a mask, I hope both. But as God and every human surviving 2020 knows, with every decision our quarantine weary hearts make, we weigh risk against mental well-being. And I am sharing this story because at the moment, that moment is saving mine.

We are at a byzantine blur of unconscionable consequence. It is more than most of us can stomach. Sleep is impossible. Tolerance feels untenable. And we are all stuck in an insufferable purgatory – predictable yet unpalpable. It is a crossroads deafening in its divisibility, and most of us are buckled at the impossibility of what the other could possibly, inconceivably, want in their want. We are at our breaking point.

There is maybe one thing that unites the states in all our devastating polarity. We are all in a lot of pain.

As I type there are no final verdicts, only predictions, speculations. There is anxiety most certain to leave a lasting mark, historically, humanistically. There is ambiguity and it is mocking my better self, clinging for dear to life to my audacious belief in hope. Irrational, beautiful, radiating hope. Hope for a better next.

I sit here parenting, texting, trembling in an internal tsunami of please God, let the best man win. Let him understand women are not here for decoration. Let him know empathy over arrogance, over entitlement. Compassion over corruption. Seek sovereignty in civility, if we can even remember. I remember. Let the future favor the humble over the bombastic, honor decency over degradation, truth over toxic temper tantrums, find a path for forgiveness from our Founding Fathers, in no nightmare were we ever supposed to arrive here. Let us all look up breathlessly and see one human linking arms with another, rising, because we…we remembered. How to lift one another up.

It is the future I pray for.

It is the one I refuse to unsee.

Author Bio:

Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.


  1. Impactful transparent words. I echo almost all of them and will link arms to lift you up Machu anytime. (Although it’s more likely I’d be the gasping-for-air lady) #keepthefaith

  2. Oh Jolie, you’re words are beautifully crafted and you are bringing me tears of joy and hope on this Friday morning. Thank you.
    On another note, I will do those stairs with you one day…

  3. MACCHU PICHU!!!! YES! Linking arms – pandemic be damned – and make it up the friggin’ climb. That’s how we will do this, not matter which way the paint dries (although I’m hoping it’s a lovely shade of blue).

  4. So well said! I also find hope in the historic voter turnout and engagement! It has reiterated how EVERY vote counts and the importance of paying attention and getting involved and participating in the great democracy that is the United States of America. UNITED States of America. UNITED. My prayer is for our country to find a way together again.

  5. Beautiful words Jolie. I pray that all that is good in this world hears you and we see a lot more blue today.

  6. I don’t know if it was my sleepless night or your beautiful prose that caused it, but I have tears in my eyes right now. Thank you, I look forward to sharing a table with you again some day. Love and peace to all

  7. The perfect summation of what we are all feeling and exactly what we needed to hear. Your words always provide a bright light.

  8. Thank you, I needed this today! We must all hang on to the moments of humanity we observe and audaciously hope for a better future. The waiting is torment, but as one of my favorite podcasters has said, I am nauseously optimistic.

  9. “…with every decision our quarantine weary hearts make, we weigh risk against mental well-being.” So completely reflective of how we are all feeling — beautifully stated.

  10. Yes. Beautifully said. I am with your every word. And, that hill is remarkably like one near my house, all the way over here! Hope we get to climb together soon, love!

  11. People are inherently good and decent. What you witnessed on those steps represent how the majority of Americans are. There are also some people, the vast minority, who only believe in what benefits them and will go to any means to disrupt the norms to achieve their twisted goals. The current president has given them broad exposure by given their twisted ideology oxygen. The past 4 years have been a nightmare, but today, America stood up and demonstrated by the oldest form of democracy, the vote, that the good folks of our country won. The long national nightmare will be over in 73 more days and a good and decent man, Joe Biden will take the reigns. I am so happy for my children and grandchildren that better days are ahead. Heck, I might even try to climb those stairs again.

  12. Jolie shares her adept talent for descriptive insight involving her reader personally into her angst. We climb with her and dry our tears as she herself is brought to them. To reclaim a momentous day in history for posterity is a task few can accomplish. Think of Louie Satchmo singing It’s A wonderful World”…that’s how I now feel.

  13. My take away is that while I’m hiking the hills here in Los Angekes I need to remember that people come from all over the world to visit this incredible place I call home. So while, yes, my wanderlust is crying in a corner I am grateful for the beauty and kindness I see here in LA.
    The act of kindness you saw on the CC stairs is not a one off moment. Everyday people are helping others in this crazy town that I adore. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate the everyday living as much as the traveling days.

  14. My take away is that while I’m hiking the hills here in Los Angekes I need to remember that people come from all over the world to visit this incredible place I call home. So while, yes, my wanderlust is crying in a corner I am grateful for the beauty and kindness I see here in LA.
    The act of kindness you saw on the CC stairs is not a one off moment. Everyday people are helping others in this crazy town that I adore. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate the everyday living as much as the traveling days.
    Somehow this is being tagged as spam and that I’ve already commented this!! Lol!! Maybe adding this sentence will help let me post?? Ahhh 2020. The year that keeps us on our toes!

    • SPAMs got nothing on your beautiful sentiments, Katie! Thank you so much for persisting. Keeping our eyes on the prizes of those moments, not a bad way to go. Thanks for sharing. I love our crazy town too, in all its wild and passionate glory.

  15. You (my! hers! his! their!) wish was granted! Turns out Good can triumph over Evil. Thank you for this local journey to a moment of kindness and hope! What a spark of light you are!

  16. We all share your thoughts! Let’s all lift one another up! PS – I had no idea those steps existed. I will try them out with the family soon!

  17. Wow Jolie!!! What an incredibly masterful piece. Feels like we are all surviving our own little “wafflegate”. I know the girls are proud. Beautiful words and wonderfully written.

  18. Thank you for these lovely thoughts!

    Long before the Culver City stairs existed, I used to meander up that hill with my two dogs. There was no straight path to the top–no, many dirt paths, some more permanent than others, were worn into the side of that hill, starting from the neighborhood to the east, leaving the busy road at the bottom, or beginning from the long private road that leads to the 3 quiet homes half-way up.

    My favorite was March, when the wildflowers and grass were feet above my head. You couldn’t see the city below–you could only enjoy the present moment, surrounded by lush green, pink and yellow impermanent forests that made you feel like you were far removed from human behavior and gridlock. It was beautiful.

    Life’s vision for many in this season has been blurred, tainted and darkened. The stairs to the top are obscure or non-existent. We’ve been forced to follow the less-worn, winding foot paths where we can’t see past a few feet in front of us, yet the beauty that surrounds us is overgrown, brilliant with color. The crisp, cool air bathes our lungs while the sun pops in and out of the clouds. The stairs that lead straight up will reappear, but I must stop and continue to take in the blessings of the present. There are so many, but I must recalibrate my vision to recognize them. And like the crazy fit man, this is a nice occasion to enhance the lives of those around me, if I’m able.

    Longing to travel to distant lands again. Spring will come again soon.

  19. Civility, yeah, I remember it. I hope we can recall that time. Thanks so much for this incredible article!

  20. At our election celebration dinner Annie. (almost 12) scolded all of us when we bemoaned the 70 million who didn’t vote for Biden. She said just don’t think about them.. and she was upset! Her whole shortt if life has been all about over coming things you cannot control or change. Maybe her history teacher gets her when she texted “Annie is remarkable “.

  21. So beautifully said. I have been to Machu Pichu, and scaling those heights was actually easier than living through the uncertainty and fear of the recent weeks! Praying for a better future.

  22. When I read articles like this, it helps me remember that we are actually all going through this together, even though we feel so uncomfortable and disconnected from each other in this time. Whether it’s the pandemic, political views or social-economic class and race issues, it is an extremely anxiety, stress-induced, hyper-sensitive time , and definitely the most polarizing time I have ever experienced or recall in my lifetime. Finding these moments to acknowledge and capture every day that help us remember what being kind, helpful, healthy and excited human beings is like, is so important, and when we can share them and spread them with others as a reminder, I am very humbled and thankful. Great article Jolie. I appreciate it!!!

  23. I love this piece!! But I’d like to see a follow up…how do those stairs feel now, post-election? I’m guessing so much remains the same. But perhaps the journey is a tad lighter?

  24. Santa Maria! This perfectly captured so many of my feelings, especially when I play with my first son and think about the world I want him to live in and fight for. Thank you for sharing this, it was needed after the last 7 days 🙂

  25. Comment by David several above…..to me is breathtaking poetry. Learning we share similar interests and perhaps even friends is a gift otherwise I never would have known existed in my reality. How fantastic learning I can Still be me and feel touched and optimistic

  26. The past 8 months have nothing on the past few weeks (2020, amiright?). The general level of stress, anxiety, and dread (“stranxiedread”) have been palpable to the point of being overwhelming. Thank you for capturing what I believe we’ve all been feeling. But, more importantly, thank you for capturing the essence of what will keep us moving beyond all of this: the hope, optimism, and humanity that most people strive for each day. We all need to be lifted up every once in a while. And with everything going on, we should all be doing some of the lifting too.

  27. I’ve driven past them and waved many times. Now I’m going to take my kid there and climb ’em. Thanks for the inspiration.

  28. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, As always, your writings are inspirational and heartfelt. I am excited to take my daughter to climb those magical steps during this sad and confusing time.

  29. I appreciate you, your heart, your words, your generosity – giving to us while we lean into your stories and shares. Thank you deeply.

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