In early 2020, we began to wonder how we would live like that. We faced restrictions in ways that we never imagined. Populations made of individuals, living separately fearing that, unknowingly, anyone could make you sick enough to die and you could do the same to someone else. Now, with restrictions receding, we are wondering how we are supposed to live differently. Is it supposed to be different than the pre-pandemic era? What is the norm? Do we wear masks? Can I hug you? If I am vaccinated and contract the virus, what does that mean? The uncertainty continues. Just when you think you have gotten it right, it is time to adjust again. Have no fear, there are absolutes within reach.
Presently, our collective mind is fixated on questions about non-restrictive social re-entry; Am I looking at life differently? and How do I really want to live my life? This span of separateness has given pause to our conduct and the way we socialize. Many people have found that they prefer a certain level of quiet and, not isolation, but separateness. They have found peace. Others have found that they become angsty and/or depressed when not regularly interacting with others, (face to face – not virtually). Introverts, extraverts and otherverts are vexed with the big question: When restrictions are lifted what will I do and how will I feel?
We will do what we do best. We will come together on our terms. We have been in crisis for a long time. We went from emergency status to subacute maintenance. We triaged the best we could as people complied with what they thought was right. Now, within significant numbers of American citizens vaccinated, our country, along with England, will share this opportunity with other nations. And just as we have experienced with every crisis, people are uniting. We are sharing and banding together. That is what we do.
However, there is a unique marker to this crisis’ mass unification. Our coming together is happening with a sense of trepidation. In other traumatic times, such as when the 911 attacks occurred, California’s fires consumed communities, when our schools or houses of worship were riddled with bullets, fears continued but none that marked the suspicion of everyone. Thankfully in our humanness, our current resistance to band together (or take the mask off) is often overcome by the decision to flow with familiarity and joy. The proof? Walk into most workplaces. People are very happy to be back with each other in the same place. Some people say that they are glad to see colleagues who, just over one year ago, they could not stand. As unsteady as we have been during any threat, we are strong.
Just two weeks ago, Memorial Day in places like New York City looked like St. Patrick’s Day on steroids. Bars were packed with people merging with the vibe of togetherness as they left their social drought. Upon entry, some wore masks but within a minute (or less) there was full-face exposure with a contagion of ear-to-ear smiles. (Certainly, the overflow of alcohol did not hinder the fun.) People have said that weekend was one of the best of their life. Because, yeah, I love you man.
Those who prefer to re-enter more cautiously, find less populated places to meet. Inside or outside, they may share a beverage, a meal, and/or take a closer-in-proximity walk together. These increasing social interactions include moments of hesitancy, like that first kiss on a date. People wonder if they are supposed to hug or kiss their friends hello. Many people pierce through that veil of ambivalence, jointly deciding that a hug is more that just okay. Hugging is on the rise and it seems that elbow tapping thing is vanishing as quickly as it arrived.
Then there are those who, as I said earlier, have found their peace. They remain near home more and keep their circles small. They are glad to be there and will to figure out how to continue this satisfying lifestyle in a post-pandemic world. They are not hiding, they are happy.
Have no fear. Together, as a global nation, we will answer the questions. We need to follow our natural response to trauma and our inclination to reach out, or to join others. We need to do this on our own terms and within our own comfort zones. We can do so while we remain apprised and allow for changes. We are all exploring new conditions. Together and apart we will find our synergy. Without a doubt, we will adjust and find our peace.
(And yes, I made up the word otherverts.)
Sunrise over a field of poppies. It’s a new day. Have some idea of where you are going and tread with care.