In the US we are seeing rapid changes related to COVID-19 cases, the ending of mask requirements and messages of “a return to normal”. I want to be sensitive to the fact that not all parts of the US or the world are seeing improvements and in some places the unbearable grief, fear and uncertainty continues into a second year.
As we enter this new phase in the US, there are a flurry of “how-to’s” circulating: how to navigate anxiety about returning to work or social settings, how to have conversations IRL again, how to reflect on your last year and look to the future. Commercials that once resounded messages of “we’re here for you” are now romanticizing first road trips, hotel stays and social gatherings. In articles the all-remote vs. full-time office vs. hybrid debate rages on.
How do I not just add to the noise? What is helpful to say here?
We all have different medical histories, experiences of loss, distress tolerance, and family obligations. Of course there isn’t just one way to feel as pandemic realities change. Of course the choices you make going forward are going to differ from others, even those within your own family. As our personal differences in how we respond to the pandemic continue to be on full display, this concept from social psychologist Devon Price has been helpful to return to: “If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple.” We are all operating within different contexts. Give yourself some grace for the context you are operating within.
The Work/Life Center is here to support SAS employees with life outside of work. My team and I have been right here with you, simultaneously experiencing and learning what it’s like to survive a pandemic and what people need to get through.
For me the recent “return to normal” or slow ascend into the next-unknown phase of my life, as I prefer to call it, has taken place bit by bit with both momentous and small but significant firsts. It began with the tears of relief and grief that I shed when getting my first vaccine shot. The first deep breath I took after getting the shot that released a weight of worry but was followed by a pang of humbling sadness for those who died or suffered from illness this year. It was my first time in over a year hugging family and friends. The awkward and quite frankly exhausting first gatherings with groups of people. The first morning meltdown I had simply trying to get ready to go into the office because I was so unorganized and discombobulated (tip: plan the night before if you are not used to that new routine). It was my first walk to F Café on campus to grab a premade salad to go. It was seeing a slew of top-half, familiar masked faces at the SAS HCC vaccine clinics.
Last year, I wrote a post called “Permission to Widen the View”. I encouraged readers to occasionally allow themselves to imagine life beyond 2020: 5 years from now, 10 years from now, and so on. But today, I want to recommend the opposite. It’s ok to narrow your view a bit right now. People are feeling a sweeping pressure to be ready to move into a "post-pandemic" life and shake off any emotional luggage they’ve accumulated this last year (i.e. grief, loss, overwhelming stress, to name a few). It doesn’t work as simply as that. It’s ok to slowly get your sea legs and take it day by day, bit by bit, tending to your unique needs.
I’ll share one last quote that is also helping me right now. It’s written on a sticky note in my office. I regret at the time I didn’t write the author’s name on it and a google search wasn’t fruitful in providing a name to attribute it to.
"Healing is about letting go of the things that cannot give life and daily doing the things that can."
My focus right now is on those small things that can.