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Updated: Oct 12, 2020

August 23, 2020

(continued from August 20)

But I think when we look back on the year 2020, many of us will see that the real story of COVID-19 is how we were forced to face ourselves.

And when I say “ourselves” I mean we ourselves, yes, but also our society: the people we love, the things we’ve built, how we spend our time, what’s important to us, and how we want our future to look.

Many of us don't want to go there. Really not. Facing the choices we've made can be deadly uncomfortable. And introspection, deep soul searching — that's not really the American way, is it?

Therefore many of us have spent the spring and summer of 2020 impatiently waiting for life to go back to normal. Self-reflection was something we believed we could still avoid; also inner change. Deep change.

I, personally, believe that before we’re done with this virus, all of us will have to do at least a little of both those things. Plenty of us have already started. Those who were coasting along before this are likely not coasting now; those who were already inclined to change may be well along in the process by now. But I wonder if those who are dead-set against it — those who won't or maybe can't face themselves, or the economy or the social upheaval or the terror of the virus itself — are still able to preserve their belief that this will pass soon, leaving them unscathed.

Here in the New York region, lockdown was pretty much what the word suggests. Having literally NOWHERE to go left us face to face with our own choices: this is the person I married. This is the work I do, and this is how I spend my days (or used to). This is how I'm raising my children, this is the education I've gotten, and this over here is what’s important to me.

So then of course we had to ask: is what I’ve made and done really what I intended? Have I let myself or other people down? Have I helped or harmed? Will I make those choices again when COVID is over, will I make reparations, will I re-order my priorities?

I think those of us who have been sick have definitely done soul searching like this. Also those who have lost loved ones. But even those of us on the "sidelines" (I don't really think anyone is on the sidelines in 2020, though some experiences are much more intense than others) may well have gone down some of those mental roads as well.

Today, August 23, how many of us feel exactly the same about our lives as we felt in March? In May? Last week?

Like people in wartime, we're faced with these baseline, almost mid-life crisis type of issues daily, because we don’t know if we’re going to get sick and if we do, whether we’ll survive. OK, sure, the odds are in our favor (not to sound like the Hunger Games … though my nephew calls the young woman who does our grocery shopping our “tribute” and, well, there are other similarities -- you know you've thought of a few!). But they’re still just odds. We all hear about the 9-year-old suffered organ damage, the 78-year-old who breezed right through it, the young mother who succumbed in days. So we can’t really rest easy in the odds.

And there are so many constant reminders — the masks, the new rules, the fear of a stranger’s touch, all of it — that it’s not like we can ever forget what this era is, either. ( I know many of us want to, and we try, but hello, we get our temperature taken at the hair dresser, and the cashier at the 7-11 is standing behind a Plexiglas shield. I just got my first outdoor mani-pedi! How can we forget this virus for even a minute?)

But when we try to stay tuned in — even, heaven forbid, stay caught up — we are quickly sucked into a tornado-like whirl with no exit.

I know, because I keep trying.

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