As we Zoom/ TikTok/ Instagram/ HouseParty/ FaceTime our masked way into the future during the worst pandemic of our lives (for those of us not around during the 1918 flu pandemic), we are offered an ideal opportunity to take stock of where we are at a very personal level of humanity and consciousness. The pandemic has forced us to stay put and face ourselves as well as those closest to us in sustained and profound ways. I’m certain there will be or are already in progress a number of psychological and sociological studies that will reveal the true impact of this isolating, social distancing phenomenon.
For the introverts among us (unfortunately, I’m not one of them), it may feel like a welcome respite from the incessant demand to socialize and interact with their fellow humans. Contemplation, meditation, alone-time, me-time, can all be more easily accessed for some. Yet others with greater numbers of household members may feel too much closeness when everyone is home 24/7. Will there be a post-pandemic population explosion or a statistically significant increase in divorce and separations? Perhaps some of both? Will introverts lament the end of this global apartheid (in its original Dutch meaning: separateness) that dictates individual isolationism?
For extraverts, like me (scoring 361 on an Introversion-Extraversion scale from -500: total introvert to +500: total extravert), this quarantined seclusion and social distancing have wreaked havoc on my internal sense of well being and self. I certainly enjoy my alone time as much as anyone, but this mask wearing, people avoiding new world order has, at times, taken me to deep moments of lonely despair which I promptly with regularity superimpose on my spouse (who incidentally began working full-time, 5 days a week in his chosen profession of nursing very soon after I retired. He had up until then maintained a much more laissez faire, part-time schedule, but that’s another story). Spreading the wings of my new found retirement freedom was heavenly, yet felt perversely sardonic and at times, a betrayal to my hardworking, immigrant roots that propelled me from lower working class status (read: poor) to the echelons of the solidly, financially secure upper middle class… and during what would become known as the beginning stages of COVID 19’s world domination. My solution? The creation of an inner-sanctum of safety inside of which could be found a small circle of trusted friends and friendships both fresh and old. Weekly couples gathering to play cards, eat snacks, share stories and protect one another from both the disease and forced solitude. Relationships were forged that would never have been developed without the extremes of the circumstance. So I am indebted to this virus for enduring bonds and ties cast in the unforeseen molds of seemingly apparent desolation.
There are still naysayers willing to call this worldwide pandemic a hoax (don’t know how many are left – but ironically, I bet they were the first ones standing in line to get the vaccine!) despite, to date, 2.16 million deaths worldwide. To those who continue to refuse to wear masks in public and privately-owned settings because of their “constitutional rights”, I say please stay in your own communities, with your own values that disregard and don’t care about anyone but yourself or those like you. Your privilege threatens the health of heroes whose jobs and careers require them to conduct their work in a less isolated environment – healthcare professionals, emergency responders, law enforcement officers, teachers, grocery store clerks, restaurant personnel, among them, overwhelmingly, people of color risking their lives every day as they interact with scores of unknown persons. I wear a mask to protect them and to protect me.
It’s January 2021 and although vaccines have been created, they continue to be an elusive creature for those not in the priority groups. With the inauguration of President Joseph Biden, is it possible we may have access sooner than expected given we may actually experience national leadership to protect us from COVID 19? Time will tell…
As the eternal optimist, I believe what lies ahead will allow us to retrospectively look back with some portion of gratitude that we gave our world a moment to breathe easier, partially revive itself, cleanse the air and water…. and to renew ourselves and our relationships. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?