I’ve wanted to write something about the one-year anniversary of the disruption of our lives due to COVID, and it’s taken me a while to figure out what I want to say.
People are having mixed reactions to this marker. Some feel more frustrated and hopeless…particularly those who foresee a long wait for their vaccine. Those who want to get back to school, who know they have missed out on learning and growth in this year and are worried they won’t be able to make that up. Or those who were anxious about the world before and now don’t know how or if they can reengage with people and normal life. Or those who don’t have a job and aren’t sure when the market will pick up enough that they will find one, who might not have the opportunities they would have if the world hadn’t gone crazy. And those who are still suffering from lingering effects of being sick. Many of us are still grieving all we’ve lost over the past year, and it’s hard for some to look forward to what lies ahead.
Yet despite all that, many of us are feeling more optimistic and are starting to reengage in the world in a more pre-pandemic way. My own positive attitude is bolstered by the fact that I am fully vaccinated, although I have some guilt about that. As a therapist, I am a health care worker, so I didn’t technically cut the line. But it kind of feels that way. I do see clients in person, so the vaccine helps them and me. But I am also aware that I am not who was intended under the “health care worker” banner. I feel badly that I had my shot before others who are exposed to more risk, whose health is more in jeopardy than mine. There are huge issues of information and access discrepancies, and once again, my privilege gives me an advantage over others for no good reason. Yet I got the shot because, for one, I could. And for another, I do believe that the quicker everyone gets vaccinated the better it is for everyone. I also know it is more helpful for some of my clients to get back in the therapy room with me, rather than continuing virtual sessions, which have not worked well for some people.
But let’s be honest. I really got the shot so I could get on a plane and go to Florida and see my sister, who I hadn’t seen in a year and a half. Which is exactly what I did…exactly two weeks after I got my second dose (and was very sick, so I did pay that price!).
Getting on an airplane made me surprisingly anxious. I’m never scared to fly…I love traveling! But coming out of sheltering-in-place, going to an airport full of people (SFO was actually more like a ghost town, but Orlando was bustling), made me nervous. Which also made me aware that we are all going to have to come to terms with anxiety about reengaging in the world. I was so happy, excited and energized to travel and see my Florida people that it was completely worth it.
It will be a long, long time until there is zero COVID risk. In the meantime, I believe it is about managing and minimizing risk. It’s like getting in a car to drive to the store. Driving a car carries risk. Car accidents happen every day. Yet most of us still get in cars. We wear a seat belt, try not to be distracted, don’t drink…all of that manages and minimizes our risk. But there is still risk. And our exposure to COVID is like that. I want us to be knowledgeable and thoughtful about the choices we make, yet I also believe that some risks are required in order to engage in the world again.
I need to reengage in the world. I think we all do. I need people, as we all do. I thrive when there is novelty and possibility. We wither when there is a lack of stimulation.
So we need to get back out there.
But it is scary.
And we need to be careful.
I think this is the challenging paradox of our time and also the solution to many of our problems. Recognizing and accepting complexity. Very little is one thing or another. We have to get comfortable with the “messy middle,” (as Brené Brown calls it), slogging through the mud of this in-between time as we figure out what comes next. We can’t wait until we know what will come next. There is no jumping to the end. We have to figure it out as we go…step by difficult step…individually and together…but moving forward.
I’m done being still.