If there was a word to describe 2020 (besides the unprintable ones, of course), I think it would be “pivot.”
The human brain is a strange and wondrous thing to behold. Especially during the pandemic, we have seen how adaptable and creative it can be. I marvel at how nimbly many people resculpted their brains to accommodate the changing times. There are many examples.
After a brief period of discombobulation, the world figured out new ways of doing old activities. Disney World scrambled their approach to queue management and replaced parades with cavalcades- single floats that wandered through an entire park to prevent people bunching together to watch a parade. Churches have employed various online platforms and “drive-in” methods to continue to engage congregants. Doctors have developed “telehealth” to handle medical visits that do not require “hands on” examinations or treatments. People who never thought they could work effectively from home and collaborate with their teams are running efficient, effective businesses from inside their Zoom accounts. In times of plummeting sales, many retailers have expanded their product lines to include snazzy face masks and hand sanitizer.
It is also true that the strain on our collective brains has caused many people to temporarily throw in the towel on “normal” activities. They started spending their time doing new things that they never would have explored before the pandemic. I hear a lot of people talk about completing big home projects, catching up with old friends with whom they have not communicated in ages, taking up new creative pursuits, learning new skills, and finding more time to settle into God’s arms.
The more deeply we delve into the COVID19 world, the easier retooling our lifelong routines, thoughts, activities, and perspectives seems to become. I hope we have not become so comfortable with our new circumstances that we permanently discard some of the activities and traditions that used to give us joy. I can see people thinking that there is no longer a need for in-person continuing education conferences because, while it was pleasant to get together and share ideas, “we’ve been doing the same thing on Zoom for a year, and it is so much cheaper.” I can see people thinking that they miss traveling, but it does take a lot of work and planning to implement a vacation. I can see people thinking that they used to like going to church services, but it has turned out to be so easy to simply watch YouTube in their pajamas. I can see people thinking that they enjoyed all the clubs and activities they had pre-COVID19, but that it has turned out to be quite restful not to have to juggle such a full calendar. I can see people abandoning hugging, shaking hands, and touching each other because it now feels awkward.
I have been worried about the slow degradation of communal life since we began the “two week” stay-at-home order. Our experimentation and discoveries about alternate ways of doing things have been wonderful. I love that the pandemic has forced us to re-examine the way we live and relate to one another. I love that some of the strategies we are forced to employ to promote social distancing have allowed us to be more inclusive. For instance, my Alpha course is meeting online, which has allowed guests from all over the country to attend. Entertainment has become more interactive, in some ways. I am thinking of the Disney Sing-along television specials that popped up during quarantine. In the past, most television entertainment was extremely passive. The action focused on the performers while the audience just sat at home, staring at a screen. Because performers could not be on stage together during the pandemic, Disney changed the emphasis to creating strategies to allow the audience to provide their own entertainment. The place where I get my nails done now has a plexiglass wall between my face and the technician’s face. I put my hands through a small opening at the bottom of that barrier. Surely, this is a better procedure, COVID19 or no COVID19. The technicians really do not need to have client after client breathing their germs of any kind into their faces all day long.
All the positive changes aside, I still believe there is a more sinister downside to month after month and year after year COVID precautions. As people’s acceptance, tolerance, and lethargy about our “new normal” grows, so does the danger that we will never regain the things we have lost. I do not want to lose the warmth of hugs, the excitement of traveling, and the rich connectedness of gathering with people in person. All the restrictions and adaptations have been necessary over the past year. I am glad we did them. I just do not know how long we can continue without permanently losing some of the emotional and social richness of living communally in the world.
I do have some hope. A friend and I have been stubbornly supporting our community’s book club over the past year. Before the pandemic, our club was extremely well-attended. In fact, it was starting to get a bit unwieldy, with 20 members often attending the discussions. We discontinued meetings for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic. We discussed going to Zoom, but most of our participants were not ready to enter the Zoom-asphere at that time. As soon as our community center opened, we went back to scheduled meetings. For several months now, our attendance has ranged from 4-6. Well, things are changing. Many of the people in our community have now been vaccinated. At our March meeting, we had 10 participants. Clearly, people are emerging to start searching for the good things we left behind in the pre-pivot world.
What’s next? Hugging?
Have you seen any indications that the world is starting to get back to its pre-pandemic state? What are you observing? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a normal day!