Open Letter to Those Urging Others to Meetup During a Pandemic
And a gentle reminder that no means no.
For countries reeling from the (first) peak of coronavirus, lockdown is lifting and people are starting to meet up again on a regular basis. Introverts everywhere take a deep breath! It’s not going to be so easy to avoid social events now.
Just kidding. Kind of.
Lockdown isn’t over if you don’t want it to be. On this side of the peak, it‘s a personal choice to stay inside, not an obligation. A typical learned behavior, usually attributed to females, is prioritising the comfort of those around you over yourself. It can feel like our duty to play the good host — always polite and accomodating. We don’t want to be a Negative Nancy or a Debby Downer.
When it comes to our health and wellbeing, however, it’s. just. not. worth. it. We need to be able to communicate our true feelings even if it makes ourselves or others feel uncomfortable.
A reminder: We are talking about an ongoing global pandemic. This is a virus that has unpredictable effects that are being documented and studied in realtime as it evolves. We are the guinea pigs. We have lost in excess of half a million lives and counting. So it is more than ok if you choose to put yourself and your family first. If you feel still uncomfortable about going to town or going to group gatherings, don’t force yourself.
Go at your own pace
If you still don’t feel safe you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed to express that. You’d be forgiven for finding the world a little scary right now. It’s hard when others seem so cool and breezy about it; or rather appear to be. A common argument I keep hearing is:
“what if a vaccine never arrives? You’ll spend the rest of your life in hiding.”
We all know this. To even make this argument feels a little belittling, it’s like telling me the sky is blue. Being in this situation is revealing all over again those that simply don’t take no for an answer. It’s exhausting.
It’s going to take time to recover that feeling of trust in public health that's necessary to feel safe again in public spaces. It’s been mere months since we learned of Coronavirus. Our lives have changed so abruptly and many of us are still trying to digest this new information not to mention the scenes on the news day in and day out that are not even related to the global pandemic. In summary: It’s ok to take it slow.
Those that mind don’t matter
This pandemic has really tested our relationships. In trying times we draw closer for support. This can reveal our incompatibilities and either drives us apart or elevate our relationship to new heights. This is a great opportunity to introspect and reaffirm your values.
Aforementioned, some of us were raised to prioritise making others feel comfortable. This makes it hard to turn down requests to meet up. By saying no we are effectively telling that person that we disagree with their assessment of the risk involved in returning to our previous lifestyle. Or maybe we just have a different appetite for risk and that is completely acceptable.
No one should be offended by your personal choice. In this instance, it’s better to sacrifice face. It’s better to take the risk of temporarily disappointing someone instead of compromising your comfort zone — a general aphorism to live by in fact.
Many doctors and health experts are expecting a hard winter ahead when we know the regular flu repeatedly tests the limits of our infrastructure. We’ve already seen some countries reinstating lockdown measures in response to local flare-ups. So in case, you need to hear this:
You are not crazy or paranoid if you want to lay low for a bit longer. Proceed at your own speed unapologetically. Don’t compare yourself. Do only what makes you feel comfortable. Prioritise yourself and your family.
We all have the freedom to choose now. If people don’t respect your decision, then frankly they’ve just saved you from wasting your limited time and energy on someone that’s not respectful.
So take note of who is pushing you and making you feel bad for not going out. A good friend will wait till you’re ready. They will understand and try to reassure you. Your friendship will adapt. You can have video calls instead of meeting up.
One of my favourite illustrations about coronavirus during lockdown was done by cartoonist Daryl Cagle. It depicts a man sitting on the sofa at home wearing a superhero costume whilst his wife berates him for not going outside and fighting coronavirus. It perfectly conveys the message that hanging around crowds of people is not a display of bravery. Bravery is protecting each other, and when it comes to fighting off deadly viruses such as this one, the hero is a collectivist, not an individualist.
Now’s the time to be extra gentle with each other. It’s been intense. When and if lockdown is lifted in your area trust your instincts and make your own personal choices. These past few years I have learned more than ever that our inner wisdom and is our often our best navigator through life. So trust yourself and make confident decisions that you can live with when looking back.