Wow. In fact, double wow. We heard about the coming of the “second surge,” which seems like it’s arrived. Most of us have COVID-fatigue, which we keep in check by realizing that many families are dealing with COVID-grief. Some of us are stocking up to avoid grocery store exposure before the shelves are empty again and are gearing up for more hunkering down.
I hear a lot of talk about exhaustion. It’s been an overload for a very long time. COVID-related circumstances have deeply impacted many of our communities, friends, neighbors, and families. Financial, employment, childcare issues, and the devastation of medical implications of COVID-19 and its aftermath are real struggles for many Americans. There may be considerable relief that the long and painful saga of the 2020 Presidential Election has come to an almost close, although there remains an uncertain process of how it all plays out.
Our big end-of-the-year holidays are just around the corner. Many of us have already reconciled ourselves to the fact that holiday gatherings will look drastically different than we’ve ever known them to be. What were once full house celebrations with the whole family will now be restricted to 10 participants at most. Many families may opt to share the holidays only with those we live with, adding the driveway meal pass-off or pie delivery. Some creatives may establish holiday backyard cafes or have their celebration in the all too familiar ZOOM Room. The next seven weeks (usually a time of gathering, visiting, sharing face to face memories, and known by many of us as the most festive time of the year) will need to be different.
During the last eight months of our “post-COVID” lifestyle, we’ve had to make countless revisions to what we consider “normal.” Remote workforces still negotiate productivity, isolation, and satisfaction with safety and well-being. Hybrid school platforms continue to challenge all involved from kindergarten through college. Our critically important primary and specialty medical care, hospital, and home care, all the layers of workers that make those services possible, continue to strategize safe provision of care that remains accessible to all.
We have paid different prices in these eight months; some of us are inconvenienced, some bruised, some broken. We are aware afresh of the complexity and many factors that contribute to our well-being. We have undoubtedly become deeply aware that changes in our lives, many months of anxiety and worry, and the inability to predict when we will “return to normal” have had a lasting impact. We are a delicate personal ecosystem. We’ve all felt the squeeze of change: the frustration, the exasperation.
Infectious disease experts are now suggesting that “normal” life may not return until well after the winter months of 2021. Our trajectory will hinge on several contributing factors, including COVID-positive numbers, acuity, hospitalizations, vaccine availability, and community compliance with what we know reduces spread: masks, hygiene, and distancing. The Coronavirus has proven that it has staying power. We KNOW that not taking the known precautions to avoid infection leads to more illness. We mustn’t let our fatigue compromise our commitment to wellness.
I feel it too. In the daily management of in-home health care services, hyper-vigilance is exhausting but required to keep my staff, clients, and families healthy. To counteract the stress of the “on alert” necessity of my own work life, I savor the break my whole being gets from keeping my home safe, clean, and relaxed. What allows me to create this safe environment is maintaining restrictions about who comes in, mask use, and controlling my interior space.
The out of control we’re experiencing can be offset by remembering the impact we CAN have. Using the tools at our disposal to create a safe harbor for ourselves and choosing how much risk we are exposed to, we can reclaim control, especially at home. We need a sense of empowerment and well-being. We need a break from vulnerability.
Even as we come into the sacred season of our year, we realize that our experiences may not satisfy in the ways we’re used to. Yes, this year will be different, but different doesn’t have to mean completely devoid of joy. We’ll prepare ourselves and our families in advance and call on our creative selves to redefine, recreate, and find the sacred in hidden and unexpected places.