Quick: grab a pen and paper. Or just open a document on your computer. Let’s write together.
Think back to March, 2020. Where were you, when the world stopped? How was it to turn inside? What things changed about your life? Let yourself remember those first days, weeks, months of the shutdown. What was closed? Did you leave, and for what? How did you talk to your coworkers, your family?
Now jot down five details of the pandemic. Here are mine:
- Bluelight glasses.
- Sunsets with friends, distanced.
- So many Zooms, the strange novelty and the quick learning curve.
- Waiting outside for my doctor’s appointments; no one being allowed to come with me.
- Crossing the street to avoid someone sharing the sidewalk.
What’s your list? Share it here, if you’d like. And write more, if you are so moved. This is where those memories took me this morning:
Yesterday, I picked up the blue light glasses I’d bought somewhere near the beginning of the pandemic. They’ve sat, neglected, next to my computer for so long that the lenses are now thick with dust. Who knows if they did anything, but wow, we sure did wear them for a while.
In the Sunday New York Times, there was an article about how people turned to group chats on their phones for connection during 2020 and 2021. Now that we’re more in person again, those chats are fading, or ending altogether. I thought about my own. One predated the pandemic, and will keep going. A few others were borne during that time; one has become precious to me. One feels very much like it’s coming to its close.
I often wonder what we’ll remember. I sometimes wonder who will want to know.
One of my dear friends – a natural organizer, a true connector – drove journals to and from others’ houses, encouraging each person to write or draw in it before passing it along again. Art in the Time of Covid, she called it. I joined halfheartedly. I liked the idea of documenting, but I didn’t want the round-robin journaling that was the hallmark of the project. I felt too shy to actually write what I was feeling: the fear, the frustration, the strange peace.
I didn’t know if I could admit that last part, that I liked being told to stay inside and focus on my family. I was pregnant, and for a while that was my secret. Then it wasn’t. Suddenly working from home, I could tune in so easily to what my body was saying, what I wanted and needed. My dogs were the only ones home with me, and they were always nearby, right at my feet or watching me from a perch upon my bed.
My life had so recently, drastically, changed; the pandemic gave me a chance to slow down and absorb all of that.
It was also, of course, terrifying and sad. People were dying, we didn’t know much about the disease, vaccines were an eternity away. We were told to wash our groceries; leave our mail outside. The trails were closed, along with so much else. Seniors were told to go to the store only at certain early hours, if they had to at all. Masks weren’t required, then they were.
Sometimes, now, I think how proud I am of us. It can be hard to see that; there was such a crack in our society that showed itself immediately, that grew wider and deeper in the course of the pandemic, and I wish we’d taken some lessons permanently about work, balance, love. But so many of us took the responsibility to each other seriously. So many of us still do, since this isn’t over, as we try to still figure out how to navigate this strange time.
We – sort of – did what we were told to do. We kept our distance; we reached out to people we loved, especially the ones who were isolated. We stayed inside; we started group chats.
We put on our blue light glasses, and got to work.