In February of 2020 I traveled to London, England where I facilitated several workshops and got a chance to visit with some friends. I used to live in London so it was lovely to visit.
The reason I have such a vivid memory of the exact month I traveled is because it was the last time I would travel Pre-Covid, as many of us have begun to refer to pre March 2020.
It was the last time I would get on an airplane without noticing who was wearing a mask or not or being acutely aware of who was coughing and sneezing in my immediate vicinity. It was the last time I would greet old friends without asking, “are we hugging?” and often settling instead on an awkward elbow bump. It was the last time I would dismiss the idea of a global pandemic as just an occasional over reaction meant to spread fear and helplessness.
It was the beginning of a time where we would debate the wearing of a mask and my husband would buy our first masks from the bagel man across the street. It was the start of long walks in the city where nothing was open, and where an occasional sighting of another human would cause you to pause and cross the street to avoid getting too close. It was the beginning of a run on toilet paper, bleaching groceries before we used them, washing our hands until they were raw and noticing the silence outside as we all were asked to stay inside. No traffic, no horns, no cars, and no people.
It was the beginning of daily news reports and mounting statistics of sickness and death. It was the beginning of worried phone calls with family and friends in other places. It was the beginning of mounting anxiety as the reality of this thing began to hit home.
We weren’t just isolating for a few weeks. We weren’t just stepping back for a short time while someone, anyone figured out how to end this thing. We were in this for the long haul.
We were living in a time of history. A time that would be written about, debated and argued over for years to come.
We were living in a time that was terrifying, confusing and beyond anything any of us ever knew.
We were scared.
And now we are living in Post-Covid. There are arguments, and there is concern and confusion still over how the pandemic started, who is to blame for its global spread and even if it is in fact Post-Covid. But we aren’t isolating any longer. Most of us are traveling again on airplanes, eating in crowded restaurants, attending concerts, and art exhibits. Some of us put on a mask and most of us don’t.
Are you having conversations with people about covid any longer? Do you think about it all of the time and let it consume you? Probably not. But don’t be fooled. It has changed us.
We no longer live in a place where one of the largest and scariest predicted events for the entire planet hasn’t happened.
It happened. Boy did it ever.
So what does it tell us about our world and our sense of safety in it? How are we to live comfortably when there are “things” out there that we have little to no control over? How are we to relax and enjoy ourselves when there could be something coming that can hurt us?
I think we refer to Pre-Covid to mark a time when we believe we felt footloose and fancy free. It is like when people refer back to a time in the past when “everything was simple” and “people were hard working and kind”. But did this Pre-Covid time we speak of, that was worry free and simpler, really exist that way? If you think about yourself and your life in late 2019 or early 2020, were you blissfully skipping through the street as if you had it all figured out? Chances are you didn’t and chances are there were other worries and fears that filled that space in your mind that now also has Covid fears.
We tell ourselves a story about that time to validate the story we tell ourselves now, to justify our feelings. Life is always hard, scary, unfair, brutal, lovely, sweet, beautiful and joyful. It wasn’t perfect in early 2020 and we sure know it isn’t perfect now. Nothing has changed.
I believe the challenge now is that life has returned to some semblance of normal, people are back at work, some remote, some hybrid, some are back to putting on shoes everyday. Most people are traveling, eating out, going to the theater, visiting with friends and family and generally going where they like, when they like.
But we have this knowledge now. Or this bit of information we think of as knowledge. We have now lived through a global pandemic.
And there could be another one. Or something else equally as catastrophic. The world is scary and everyone in the world found that out first hand, up close and personal.
How do we live in Post-Covid knowing what we know now? How do we dampen down the anxiety that bubbles up from anxious thoughts and worries that go unchecked? How do we respond to situations where fears are heightened but expressed with anger and frustration? How do we calm ourselves and everyone else when we know how frightening living can be?
I don’t have the perfect answer for you. I too can be impacted by fear if I think too much or allow myself to be sucked into the vortex of terror that the media churns out. I can feel the global anxiety at times and I struggle to shake it. I end up feeling hopeless, helpless and disturbed with no clear direction of what to do next.
This is when I do the one thing that always works.
The one thing that calms me down.
The one thing that clears my head and gives me peace.
The one thing that allows me to feel as if I have some control and a direction.
In…out…in…out. Nice deep breaths. In…out…in…out.
When all else fails. I can do that. I can control that. I can give myself that.
And then, I begin again. I do the things I know how to do and I try to do them with compassion and kindness.
The story I tell myself begins again.