I am exhausted with everything pandemic.
The last time I went grocery shopping I almost left the cart in the middle of the aisle and walked out. It was crowded. I could not get 6 feet between myself and other shoppers. My heart started pounding. I left the store exhausted. “I can’t do this anymore.”
Later that day I called a friend to talk about my panic at the grocery store. We started reminiscing about growing up in the 1960s. “Remember riding in the way back of the station wagon, flying down the turnpike doing 70 on our way to Fenway?!” “Yeah, like, 4 or 5 of us with the tailgate window rolled down so that we would hang out of the tailgate waiving to the cars behind us!” “Oh, and my parents were both smoking, and the car didn’t have seat belts let alone air bags”.
We had a good laugh remembering those days because what was “normal” behavior then is now unthinkable. I am pretty sure similar behavior today would end with the State Police and DCF getting involved. It took about 5 decades for lifestyle changes that were once unimaginable to become part of everyday life.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not give us 50 years. We just woke up one day and life as we knew it was gone. What is that line from the Duran Duran song Ordinary World, “What has happened to it all? Crazy, some’d say, where is the life that I recognize? Gone away.”
Three years ago, I found my partner lying on the bedroom floor unresponsive. Hours later a doctor told me that I needed to prepare for the worst. The worst did not happen. I walked with him along his journey from near death to full recovery. It was three years. And life for us will never be the same as it was. This journey was not singular. Millions before us walked similar journeys.
Now billions of us, literally the entire planet, are walking a journey that will most certainly be long and will definitely come to an end. The important thing to remember is that we are in this together, and together we will make it to the new normal with new behaviors. Children today will reminisce in 2060 “Remember when we used to shake strangers’ hands! Yuck!!”
I have learned from watching and listening to our clinical staff as they do the hard work of treating anxiety, depression, loneliness and sometimes much, much worse situations. There is no quick fix. It takes stick-to-it-ness and dedication to changes in lifestyle behaviors. The beginning may be difficult but with practice things get better.
So, wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, repeat. Then call a friend and talk about the “good ole days”. I am guessing you will remember some behavior from the past that you would never think of doing now.
Wil Stebbins is the V.P. of HR and Finance for Community Services Institute.