I was watching “The Crown” the other evening and for a split second thought, “Nobody’s wearing masks, and they’re all gathering too closely together!” It startled me that I’m so used to living in the COVID-19 world right now (well, mostly) that I reacted to this on Netflix.
Driving out to the country to deliver things to a homebound friend, I also felt anxiety about driving so far and on semi-icy roads. I was always a good winter driver, so this was new also. Have I just not driven much in the last year, so that’s scary now, too?
We are dreaming these things also. Researchers at the University of Helsinki examined sleep and stress data from more than 4,000 people and found that 55% had bad dreams that were pandemic-specific, including accidental hugs or handshakes.
I read that people are feeling socially awkward because they haven’t had much interaction for so long. It’s like we’ve been on a silent meditation retreat.
COVID-19 is affecting us more than we realize. I’m wondering what other, more subtle effects it’s having on us. After 10 months, have we become so used to masks, isolation, no touching or hugs, and tragedy all around us that we’ll be afraid to join humankind once more?
Will we ever go to the movies again, crowded into theaters with hundreds of other people? Hug our grandchildren? Go back to the office for work?
And Zoom. Will people ever get together again to figure things out, discuss issues, experience each other’s body language?
I just read there are now virus-themed dolls for sale this holiday season, all wearing masks, of course!
This all goes without saying, the grief and loss many have felt directly from COVID-19 – that will always be with them. So will the loss of jobs, economic resources, even homes. Such devastation!
Schools are shuttered, learning is down, routine meals are now missing for many kids, no birthday parties, soccer games, school plays, social interaction, etc. Not to mention homeless kids and other marginalized children. The long-lasting traumatic effects this is having on children are causing negative health issues. Parents are agonized and their kids are feeling their pain. Children are more resilient than we are, but there will be traces of damage for some when and if this ends.
What will the future bring as far as the mental health toll on all of us? The whole ordeal seems like it’s much easier for us older folks, without having young kids at home, or having to work at jobs, teach online school and be mothers and fathers, like our adult kids must.
But let’s not get so used to this pandemic life that we’re terrified to get back out there. As the vaccines become more available, there are hints of a better life ahead in 2021.
What will it be like to go to an in-person gathering, be with friends and family again, have a glass of wine in a cafe with girlfriends, hop on a plane and see family and, most of all, embrace our kids and grandkids? I’m sure it will all be very gradual and step-by-step, thoughtful step-by-steps. These are all things to look forward to, to carry us through this difficult winter.
It’s good to watch mask-less TV and realize this is only a blip in time. But it’s been a big blip, and a profound and devastating blip, and I’m wishing we all come out of it with as little harm as possible. Especially the children!
Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at [email protected]