For the first few months of the pandemic last year, I didn’t know anyone who had experienced Covid. Then I knew one person. Then another. Now, a year later, many people among my family and friends have had it. My mom has it now.
I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s a hoax. There’s division among the people I know as to the vaccine. Some are eager to get it, others aren’t. I’m not sure if it’s a “never” decision, or simply “not yet.” Nor do I know if the objections are health-related or politically motivated.
Regardless, everything about the pandemic response seems destined to be a mess. Oh, I’m not talking about the caregivers or the heroes who have done so much! The front line workers, in healthcare and all the run-of-the-mill life-sustaining roles, are the bright lights of the last year.
But containment, the lockdowns, or lack of lockdowns, the varying messages the public has received, the relief bills stuffed with non-Covid related pork, the conspiracy theories, the vaccine rollout…information and policy and process have been mismanaged to varying degrees, and we’re still watching numbers go up at a frightening pace.
While there’s plenty of finger-pointing, that’s really not helping us. It will take the long view of hindsight through the lens of history to determine which choices and actions were wise, and which were empty gestures.
My point here isn’t to assign blame. Mostly I’m focused on getting through this, and wondering if, when, and how that can happen. I thought the vaccines would be the magic key to unlock quarantine and schools and businesses and travel, but now I’m not so sure. I read today that as many as 40% of Americans won’t take the vaccine. So where that will leave us? Even those of us who get it won’t be able to dispense with masks, won’t quickly regain the freedom we had pre-Covid.
I’ve read that eventually we may be required to show vaccination cards. I’m torn about this. Maybe it’s a practical step toward proving a high level of immunity and a low likelihood of spreading the virus. But it also feels eerily familiar to other times in history when we’ve demanded people be identified in order to move about. In times of pandemics, is privacy a luxury we can’t afford?
It’s a slippery slope. I’ve lived a life that’s pretty much an open book. I’m not one to be overly concerned about personal freedom…it’s been there, and I expect it to continue to be there. Except now, it feels like we’re on new ground. Somehow the pandemic and the political fray have blended concern for freedom and threat to freedom. Where does my ability to choose to be vaccinated or not begin and end? And though personal freedom is essential and important, what about choices that benefit the greater good as well?
I’m a rule follower at heart, hard-wired. I respect community and state requirements for quarantine, travel restrictions, etc., etc., etc. And yet I wonder what’s next?
I wear masks. I abide by the requirements of the community I’m in, and respect the wisdom of scientists and medical professionals who share what they’ve learned, what they believe, and what they advise. At heart, I believe the people attempting to guide us through this time are well-meaning and not motivated by dark plots.
But I come back to the same place in my thoughts. It feels like a circle I’m walking because it is. A year ago we were just waking up to the danger on the horizon, and quickly moved to varying levels of lockdowns throughout the U.S and the world in response to the viral threat. We heard debates and questions in press conferences and interviews of how long the lockdowns should be in effect to make a difference.
And today, I read that same sort of headlines, seem similar guesstimates. I just don’t know what to think anymore. It feels like we’ve been down the path of putting faith in the science, leaders, vaccines, relief bills, and we’re still here. We’ve walked a circle. The numbers are rising faster than ever, and with resistance to the vaccines, and the painfully slow roll-out, how long will it be before that tool begins to make a real difference?
So here, full circle, I fall back on the only comforts I can find.
As divided as we are political, one-on-one, individually, we’re still doing good things, wonderful things, taking care of each other, working our hearts out, going the extra mile, being who we are at the core. If I can’t believe in the overall goodness of people, this is a dark time indeed. Thankfully, I can believe it. I do believe.
As frustrating as the early phase of vaccinating has been, we have an important tool now. I read today that the Moderna vaccine is expected to provide up to at least a year of immunity. I think no one will be surprised if the Covid vaccines become an annual ritual like flu shots, but it will help when we know what we’re actually achieving with vaccination. A year’s worth of immunity is a good starting point.
As much as we’re ready to return to “normal” life, we’re not there yet. But surely we’re getting closer? We must be closer to the end of the pandemic than we were a year ago, even with the rising case count. It’s not the way we want to reach herd immunity, but it is part of the way it will happen. The vaccines won’t take us all the way. I wish that not a single additional person would test positive. But for everyone who does, they make a contribution for all of us, just as those of us getting vaccinated are doing our part to help.
As often as I hear myself griping, I have plenty of things to be thankful for, and that’s the messaging I need to be replaying in my mind, rather than focusing on the negatives. Because the truth is, giving in to negative thinking isn’t changing anything, it only takes me further into depression. The way out is finding the balance between realism and hope. I have to have hope that collectively, we’ll make it to the other side of the pandemic and the political strife surrounding it. I have to have hope that “normal” life will return.
Being thankful is part of what gives me hope. When I think about the good things in my life, the people and the joys in my life, I’m reminded of what’s important, and what hasn’t changed because of the pandemic. Love, purpose, simple pleasures…they exist every day, and aren’t lost to lockdowns or pandemic fears.
What about you? How are you faring as we enter year two of this collective experience? I almost said “nightmare,” but that’s the rabbit hole I want to avoid. (And I have to acknowledge here, my experience has been challenging, but I know some people really have experienced a nightmare with loss of family or another overwhelming difficulty. I mean no disrespect to anyone in that situation.)
I find myself writing the things I need to hear, saying the words I want someone to say to me. Focus on what’s real, what’s nurturing, what’s lasting. Family, love, good works, purpose…all these things will outlive the Covid pandemic. And that’s my focus today. The rest is a waiting game, and there’s no way out but through, however long it takes to reach the other side.