This past month, we have arrived at a certain milestone as we mark – certainly not
celebrate – the anniversary of the arrival of COVID-19 in North America. Post-COVID
life has changed our daily routines in many ways, or at very least has impacted the way
we see the world we live in and how we operate in it.
Many of us are still spending more time at home than ever before and while we are conscious of the acute and highly specific threat of COVID-19, with the public health restrictions and social isolation came new challenges mental health. This is no surprise. Experts and lay persons alike, we all knew it was coming.
In April last year, what seems like very early on in the pandemic, one New York Times article reflected, “The internet is a very dark window through which to view the world.”
But it was the primary, if not only, option many of us were left with if we wanted to connect with others and stay informed on current events, social and political, as we necessarily stayed socially distanced for the majority of the last year. And what an eventful year it was.
In the same month, I had written on the impact of the pandemic already being felt, urging people to take stock. “Maybe the world’s events lately have brought a whole new anxiety, eclipsing the other stressors you were already trying to navigate. Maybe your community’s collective grief has left you feeling unseen. Maybe you already felt you were on a spinning path and now that path is even further away, under the muffling of snow or too deep water… I get it… We can be defined by trials and the pre and post shifts they cause to our identity.”
I repeated some of those sentiments the following month when I was asked to speak at my local church. Where my kids go to school, where my husband and I curated lasting friendships, where I’d founded a women’s advocacy group and poured time and energy into fostering community based on acceptance and deeply life-affirming values – I was given a platform to publicly discuss how isolation casts a spotlight on our lives.
Whatever you think about COVID, and whether you follow political news or not, the year’s events impacted everyone and the spotlight under which we found our lives squirming was not kind to all of us. Conversations surrounding tough issues were held without the ability to read body language, tone, and other social cues. More of us than ever before discovered our computer screens’ catalytic ability to diminish inhibitions and promote narcissism. And from classrooms, to workplaces, to churches, to family gatherings, our need to produce connection was now value-correlated dependent on our human ability to communicate through virtual means.
So, just as I asked the public one year ago to take stock of their lives as we plunged down the rabbit hole that was 2020, I ask you to sort of do the same thing now. How are things going? How has your job, family life, church and overall community connection changed – for the better, or for the worse?
For many of us, we reflect on distinct conversations (that happened primarily online) which have cemented, perhaps for the first time, our distinct differences between friends, coworkers, family, church and community leaders. The homogenous group you thought you were part of and found safety in healthy social attachment, was suddenly more colourful than you realized – and you were the neon in a sea of pastel. If you spoke up, you were tone-policed, demeaned as a non-expert, admonished to do your own research (usually by someone who meant “watch more YouTube videos”), and asked to remain pastel for the sake of unity.
Differences will always cause “disunity” because unity is an attitude, not a set of prescribed belief statements. Our social norms do not deserve to be tolerated if they are discovered to be intolerable. If something can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.
It’s safe to say that in Canada here, one year into the pandemic, we are not yet on the post side of our public health woes. But many of us are on the post side of information we didn’t know before 2020, and the relationships that have altered because of them. If COVID disappeared and social restrictions completely lifted overnight, are there relationships you can not, would not, should not go back to?
The communal grief of the pandemic has been explored by better writers than myself. So many things have been hard, and not in the “I want to go eat at a restaurant” kind of way, but in a “my worldview, communication style and relationships have fundamentally changed” kind of way. And lifting restrictions won’t help those who no longer have a group they realize they can journey authentically with.
I think there are so many out there right now who don’t have a clue with whom they can actually speak their most true thoughts. Now THAT’s isolation.
There’s a whole bunch of us who want to go around with our heads down and wait for this all to be over, the scary COVID germs, the public health restrictions, the demands for social, political, religious discussion and change. There’s also a bunch of us who want to be able to talk about these things in a space that values evidence-based, rational thought and the ability to hold space for nuance.
As a woman, as a writer, as a community advocate, as an evangelical Christian, pre-2020, there were tables at which I simply just wanted to be offered a seat. Now I just want a different table.
This post is the first place setting at that table. Or it’s the table cloth. Or a wobbly table leg. I don’t know. The analogy breaks down.
Welcome to this space. This blog is my COVID anniversary gift to me. I don’t yet know what all it will be, but I think it represents the start of my post-COVID identity. I’m a very different person than when this all started and I’m willing to re-introduce myself to the world.
What is something you are chewing on lately? If it would be helpful or interesting to you, I’d be pleased if you followed along, commented, requested I write on a certain topic, request I write a topic for your publication (yes, I freelance) or requested to be a guest writer on The Prairie Thistle. Comment below or send me an email today. Cheers.