Yesterday our Governor, Janet Mills, announced the next stages of measures for dealing with COVID-19. While the usual number of people grumbled that restrictions remain in place, still she brought a ray of hope that eventually much of what was will return. Or will it?

 Many speak of returning to normal but the normal we once knew will not be ever again, if only because we now know what it is to live through a life-threatening pandemic, knowledge we cannot bury. And we do not know what the new normal will be because we will still be living under threat of new waves of illness from this virus. And what effect will having lived like this, with daily reminders of the death toll, seeing masks on the faces of friends and loved ones, knowing now that touching each other or our own face can be life threatening? We have all been and continue to be experiencing trauma on a mass scale. What will be the lingering effects of that trauma?

And what of school children missing a quarter of the school year with uncertainty still about how next year will run? In my own family, my granddaughter is a high school senior — all the hoopla attendant to the ending of that phase of school is missing. She is supposed to be off to college in the fall — how will it be open? So many questions and we adults cannot provide definite answers.

New words have entered the collective vocabulary — Zoom, zooming, social distancing among others. We visit even doctors and therapists like me via video conferencing. We wrestle with tired eyes from much more time in front of screens.  A friend and colleague of mine died(not from the virus but that was of course the first question) and a memorial for him was via Zoom.

I have seen among fellow therapists on social media speculation that the new normal may well not focus so much on sessions face to face in our offices, but will remain in significant part on various video platforms and telephone. Telemedicine is not going to go away, especially for people in rural areas.

And will we return to shaking hands or hugging or will we evolve some new way of embodied, yet touch-free greeting?

Certainly the last great pandemic of 1918-1919 left its mark and surely played a role in what became the roaring Twenties. What do you imagine will follow from this?

Please take good care of yourselves. Masks are far from a fashion statement but they help. And even as restrictions are lifted, be out and about with caution. We are a long way from being out of the woods. To help cope with anxiety and fears and other feelings, if you don’t already, start writing a journal. Write down your dreams — I will be talking more about dreams next time.

And please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

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1 Comment

  1. The shelter-in-place experience has made me more aware of my class privileges. I am able to work from home and stay home except when shopping for essentials or checking on my elderly father. Others, including many who work in the very stores where I shop, do not have that privilege. They run higher risks that I do out of financial necessity. I feel very much implicated by this awareness. This experience has made me acutely aware of how dependent us city and suburban folk are on the rural and manufacturing areas of the country to supply us with food and other essentials. How quickly our carefully constructed lives stop making sense if there is not food in the grocery store, gas at the gas station and waste is not picked up. The experience has been a civics lesson in federalism. Local and state officials of whom I was barely conscious are now making decisions that directly impact my life. They always did, but I was not aware of it at all before, focused as I was, as many of us are, on the national political whirl. I have become more aware of the rhythms of my neighborhood and the people who live here as I go for the periodic walks to clear my head and get exercise. I have become aware of how important physical presence and proximity are to the enjoyment and meaning in my life. I completely took that for granted until now. Being together with others at a religious service, the movies, the office provide a spiritual nourishment that was like oxygen for the soul. I had completely taken this for granted until the ‘oxygen’ was taken away or at least constricted. I watch movies and find myself yearning for the handshakes, hugs and gatherings I see represented by the characters on the screen. Those interactions seem to be from another lifetime.


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