There have been quite a few articles recently about the "pandemic wall." It is a summation of what we are all feeling after a year of socially and physically distancing from family and friends, worrying about catching COVID19 and general anxiety about how long this will last.
A few facts as I write this during the week of February 10th:
Hospitalizations are 40% below the post holiday peak of 131,000
All of the above is good news. But the above statistics do not lessen the tragedy of the individuals lost or suffering during this time. It also does not change the general angst all of us are feeling after this past year. Still, a few things are now readily apparent.
First, the disease will now likely move from a pandemic to being endemic, meaning it is continually circulating in our society, similar to other viruses. Second, vaccines, while they protect against severe disease and lower the rate of you both catching and transmitting the virus, do not fully protect you from either. This is true of most vaccines. And third, mask wearing (or double masking) and some degree of physical distancing will need to remain in place over the next year and possibly longer.
Over the next six months, there will be gradual loosening of societal restrictions. We will move to a “ new normal” of balancing physical health and mental health with economic stability and growth. This is to be expected as we mature in our understanding of this virus and disease and its overall impact on our society.
If you are looking for inspiration and guidance in this moment, I recommend this quote from Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and philosopher of Stoicism:
Accept the things to which fate binds you and love the people with whom fate brings you together but do so with all your heart.
My interpretation of what Aurelius meant is that when reality changes, you must learn to ACCEPT IT. Don’t waste time arguing about it. That will not change the fact that over 400,000 Americans died this past year due to COVID. If we are to honor them and those impacted, it is to learn from their unwilling sacrifices to a disease that was not present 18 months ago.
Love the People With Whom Fate Brings You Together
This means holding fast to our family, friends and co-workers. Realize that human connections are critical to long term mental health – both personally and as a society. While we have existed on Zoom, we need more. We need to sit across the table from someone and break bread or share a cup of coffee. We need to find time to hear our friends’ concerns, joys and stories. That may mean sitting outside bundled up or occasionally pulling down our mask to sip that coffee.
Do So With All of Your Heart
This means never giving in to those voices who say it will never be the same. After 9-11, there were those who said it would never be safe to travel or get on a plane. They were wrong just as the naysayers are wrong today. It also means finding a way to use our hearts to connect with each and every person we meet.
This last year has allowed us to spend more time at home, with family, realizing what is most important in our lives. Now is the time to take those lessons learned and create the reality we want: for ourselves, our families and our communities. May we all be better because of it.