I think I have moved on. I can’t say for sure, but I think I have moved on. There are subtle and not-so-subtle indicators that let me know that I have regained some control over my world, and it is once more safe for me to venture out. I am cautious, but no longer afraid, and that is the signal that carries the most meaning for me.
I keep looking for the right visual. It might be a collection of meerkats, standing at attention, with some falling over from sleep. It might be my all-too-skittish cat, still wary and untrusting of the unknown. Or, it might be a butterfly, having just emerged from its chrysalis.
Before COVID, I went about my life ignorant of most viruses. I dutifully got my annual flu shots, took my vitamins, and washed my hands, all in a blissful belief that this made me impervious to attack from microbes. I suspect many of you would share in this belief.
Honestly, when I was diagnosed with COVID back in March of 2020, I really thought little of it. I just assumed it would be like the flu and I would go on with my life. And, truth be told, that pretty much was my experience, until it wasn’t.
I was psychologically unprepared for the consequences that COVID brought with it, the most profound and lasting of which was separation and isolation. I had an expectation that all would return to normal within weeks. Instead, every aspect of my life underwent change.
Personal and professional relationships went from in-person to Zoom. Dining at local restaurants, going to movies, and enjoying a glass of wine with friends became a thing of the past. My connection to the world was now filtered through pundits on news programs, Facebook postings amongst friends, deliveries from UPS and FedX, and texts.
Dawning of Catastrophe
As the weeks went by and as the virus spread, it slowly began to dawn on me that this was going to be a real catastrophe. That light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a way out; it was the train heading toward me. I don’t think I was the only one to be this naïve.
I remained in disbelief for a long time. Even though I was one of the statistics, I hadn’t needed to be hospitalized. I hadn’t come close to dying. Somehow, I had gotten the “Get Out of Jail Free” card, which oddly resulted in my feeling somewhat untouched by the whole thing.
COVID Isn’t Real
In spite of daily briefings about hospitalizations, deaths, and increasing numbers of people around the world found to be COVID positive, there was this collective delusion that it all really wasn’t happening. The logic ran if it didn’t happen to me, it wasn’t real. If it happened to others, they were unlucky, deserved it, or it was just made up.
This is a paradox of the human imagination. Believing something is rarely based on logic and fact. It is, more often than not, based on emotion—a feeling that something is right or wrong—a gut instinct. We can accept that Superman flies and Dementors can steal your soul, but SARS-CoV-19 can’t possibly have killed over 6 million human beings worldwide.
And here we are now. Two and a half years later. I don’t know of anyone who is still wiping down their groceries and keeping them in the garage for several days before bringing them in the house. Except for a few people, almost everyone I know has had COVID. And, except for a very few acquaintances, all have had their shots.
Mask wearing is now optional, and although I still feel a bit naked without one on, I am no longer quite the righteous and judgmental person I was about those who aren’t masked and don’t maintain a safe distance. I keep a handy selection of masks in my car, in my purse, and in several places in my house, more out of superstition than actual management of viral spread.
Emerging from COVID
The challenge that lies before us now is how do we emerge from this pandemic? COVID was like a master thief, stealing things that were most precious to me – my freedom, trust in my government’s ability to provide services, faith that the medical community could find a cure. And, just like what happens after one has been been robbed, I now have an awareness of just how vulnerable I am. I can no longer pretend that I am immune to a virus. And I don’t like feeling vulnerable.
Another challenge is how do we re-establish trust? Trust between friends and family? Trust between provider and patient? Trust between elected officials and the electorate? All of these eroded during the pandemic, and while not all were caused by COVID, the pandemic laid open many wounds that remain to be healed. There is no vaccine to protect us against lies and false promises.
The Serenity Prayer: Strategies for Emergence
One potent strategy is just to admit what is so. As the Serenity Prayer petitions, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Much as I wish I could wave my magic wand, I cannot change the minds and hearts of some people. I just have to accept that.
Another strategy is to stay engaged and find new ways to connect. We need the courage to change the things we can. This may mean finding new groups to associate with or new projects to support. We have the resources. What we need is the willingness to make the changes.
The pandemic has revealed so much need. We can be frozen with overwhelm or admit that not everything will get done today. Out of this insight arises the wisdom to know the difference between acceptance of things that cannot be changed and bullheadedness. We really do need each other.
Metamorphosis: The Pivot
I am in awe of how we have pivoted over the last two years. Like the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, we went from humming along back in 2019, thinking things were just ducky, to shifting our lives and confronting a worldwide threat to our very existence. We didn’t do it perfectly. Many lives were lost and even more were forever changed. Many of the beliefs we thought were solid and true turned out to be built on foundations of sand. And we failed some very important tests. But we are still here.
We have emerged, for now, from this pandemic. We are understandably weary and in need of a rest. That is not what lies before us, however. So, we must exhale and move on. The difference is now we are butterflies. Subject to new challenges and needing adapted approaches, but bringing with us the legacy of what we have learned.
3 responses to “Emerging from COVID: Adjusting to A Changed World”
As always you are dear. For me, emerging from covid allows me to see the crisis globally of so much more. While I am overwhelmed I trust in the kindness and good heart of so many. Where we go is unknown and the time is critical. May we be well safe and wise.
I, too, have started saying the Serenity Prayer. The world has changed–and is changing–so much. I am so glad that your covid symptoms are emerging into the light!
Just returned from 10 day vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii. Apart from minimizing time indoors with mask on, we didn’t feel restricted and had enjoyable time. I did develop a “Cold”, but tested negative for COVID and was able to make the flight home. The threat and inconvenience of COVID is still there, but the risk appears manageable and return of social and travel options is worth the risk.