Do you remember how afraid we all were last year? It stopped us all in our tracks, for a minute, as we said goodbye to what-was and figured out what was next. Do you remember only leaving the house once a week, carefully washing your groceries (even the packaged stuff) before you brought it in, parcel quarantine? Do you remember the panic, the plan pivots, the lives put on hold? Do you remember people checking in on their neighbours, doing grocery shopping or other errands for the vulnerable folks in their lives, the immense outpourings of support and gifts for essential workers?
It was a year ago, but it was a hundred years ago. When we get out of this pandemic (and it’s a when, not an if), and we look back on this year, we’re all going to remember different things.
For me, it’s going to be how afraid we all were, and how through that fear we were so kind. How we looked out for one another. And I’m also going to remember how that all stopped. It started as a subtle change, but it’s gotten more and more pronounced as we get further in.
We’re all still afraid, but instead of kindness and community I see anger and cruelty. And I get it, but I’m still shocked at the way it’s coming to the surface.
We’re obviously all suffering. There’s no denying that being in lockdown for the better part of a year wears on you. Here in month 15 of “two weeks to flatten the curve” we’re getting angry and frustrated. It’s easy to cast blame at whomever you think is responsible for our current situation – and I think we should. Let’s hold people accountable for their failures. Let’s be angry over the state of things. Let’s worry about the economy. Let’s be eager to get back to normal.
But let’s not forget that while most of us are looking forward to the time we can look back on this thinking about how we made it through – some families won’t get to. Millions of people all over the world are going to come out the other side of this permanently scarred, grieving, suffering from long covid, financially struggling, mental health in shambles.
This whole pandemic has gotten so political that it seems like a lot of people have forgotten just how human it is. If you can see through the smoke of controversy and conspiracy you will see your friends and relatives and neighbours and coworkers, hurting, scared, just like you are.
I can’t tell you how many times I have burst into tears scrolling down my social media feeds at the insensitivity I see. I don’t know how many people I’ve had to delete from my social media in the last few months because it hurts me so much to see the callous comments. There are people in my life who I will never see the same way again. It makes me unspeakably sad to learn how much people value their own convenience or luxury over someone else’s wellbeing.
There’s a lot I could say here about social media echo chambers being the cause of this shift but I won’t go into that today. I’m too tired. I’m also too tired to try to change anyone’s mind. None of that is the point, anymore. We can disagree with the government, with policies, with each other, and not spew hate. We can suffer and still hold space for each other’s suffering. We can be afraid and frustrated and angry and not lose sight of other people.
Last year, when we were all afraid, we took care of each other. This year, when we’re all still afraid, we’re cutting each other down. In five years, when I look back, that’s what I’m going to remember. And I’ll have the same questions then that I do now, because there are no answers: Why? What does this accomplish? How are we supposed to take it but personally? What’s the point?