As sheltering and snacking in place is becoming routine I sometimes find myself on my knees and leaning my head on my arms resting on the windowsill like the cartoon where the guy says to his dog that he now understands why he always barks as people pass the house. It is an event! I don’t have many events about now unless getting the cookies or chips out of the cabinet classifies as an event!
But recently I have been trying to figure out what it is going to be like when the quarantine is lifted. At first I thought we’ll all race to the local establishment and drink a toast to the death of the virus, clinking glasses, shouting “salud!”, slapping friends on the back, hugging and kissing folks we’ve missed for months. But I don’t think it’s going to work that way now.
Our Governor, who has become a guiding light in leadership through this darkness, uses the term “reimagining” how it is going to play out. The thought of returning to post quarantine life as being a return to normal is probably far from actuality, hence reimagining.
So my thoughts go to how will young love be expressed? New emojis online? Pulsating red hearts and lips after each text. We probably won’t be kissing anyone soon. Kids playing on the playground won’t be playing tag cause we can’t have kids touching each other! How will detectives catch criminals cause fingerprints will be a thing of the past! Rubber or polyethylene gloves have replaced skin So DNA must be encased on the body. I worry that a generation of kids who don’t play outside much anyway will have even fewer experiences interacting with humanoids. Will we just keep to
ourselves and be reduced to written communications with LOL’s and OMG’s expressing our emotions?
Life is going to be different. But hopefully with time touch will return as a venue for interaction. Human contact can once again comfort people in need. Laughter and tears will return as ways of expressing our emotions. And maybe even a renewed urgency to put the electronic technology down and reach out to those we have desperately missed. My reimagination I’m afraid is limited but I long for an earlier time when my scraped knee could be healed by my mom or dad’s hug. I hope our grandchildren will experience this again and future generations will talk about the time when people had to isolate as a dark spot in history they have only heard about!
However, we can’t forget that the air over LA is breathable again, the canal waters of Venice are clear enough to see the sea life that lives in them. That’s part of the reimagining that we have to take advantage of and protect. I’ll take one from column A and several from Column B! Call me old fashioned!
Both George and Hen focused on the intimate details of person-to-person interaction in a possible “new normal”. I think their comments are cogent. The effect of the virus on physical closeness will certainly outlast the current edition of the corona. For instance, we can imagine that hand, mouth and nose coverings will morph into enduring fashion accessories. Perhaps grooming and fashion styles will gravitate toward the easily cleaned and maintained – maybe lapels and pleated layers give way to smooth lines and treated fabric.
If we look down from 5,000 feet, the macro influences of surviving a pandemic – and the fear of the next one — says the future is a less tolerant society. Individual choice vs. the ‘summum bonam’ is in constant tension. As we experienced during the New Deal and World War II, the tendency for central control and larger government seems like powerful leverage to attack economic – and perhaps social — problems… and I don’t speculate in this manner as a fan of big government.
But, after all, will we be able to tolerate not having universal healthcare in some form or another? If we cannot assure that every citizen will have effective access to health services, how can we assure the containment of future outbreaks? When the dust settles, our infection tallies will show large discrepancies by race and economic variables. Will this place more emphasis in future on large, homogenous public policy solutions? Certainly it is doubtful that piecework approaches will be encouraged, when disease crosses borders and governments.
It’s probable that we won’t return to past behaviors quite as readily as we’d like, but we will move forward. Even now, dating apps have apparently been successful in hosting virtual dating experiences. I’d guess this fad subsides, but lingers as a bit of dating rehearsal while individuals try to ‘qualify’ one another before investing in a more physical relationship… unless we can have virtual careers, babies, and parenting experiences all from the comfort of your own couch? (Sounds like the old ‘Second Life’ application experiment).
At the end of the day, I sign up with George and Hen – soothing behavior is a basic need — and that behavior is an experience of touch that is unlikely to be abandoned for long. We are smart enough and resilient enough that solutions will be invented to allow kids to be kids, friends to be friends, and loved ones to all come together.
It’s How We Respond
I’m with “Old-Fashioned” George when it comes to physical touch. If I’m suffering from anything these past two months, it’s likely from hug withdrawal. Of course, there is an old fashioned way of forgetting the hugs that I miss. It’s called a bourbon old fashion! I’ve had one or two of those “quarantinis” over the last few weeks. They helped!
I appreciate the notion George brings up of reimagining what our new future will be. At first, my thoughts go directly to what I’ve lost: not necessarily a positive or proactive endeavor. After all, transitioning from no direct social interaction to spending time with others in groups will take a very long time and will likely require a transition phase of wearing masks, no touching, and physical distancing. I can easily equate this to a negative. But if I push past the loss, and, as George reminds us of some of the gains we made, we might be able to reimagine a way of being that can benefit us and future generations. And without this global “pause,” the idea of exchanging old habits for even better ones, would have been near impossible. In his New York coronavirus briefing this morning, Governor Cuomo reminded us that it often takes a crisis to wake people up. And Dave Pelzer, a contemporary American author, said, “Something good comes out of every crisis.” So how do we revise our behaviors and spaces to make life even better? I believe each of us begins with what we can control:
The evidence of a healthier environment for all living things is enormous. I will continue to make changes to use fewer fossil fuels, create less waste, and to be more aware of my purchase power regarding products and their environmental impact.
I will be more aware of the direct contact time I have with family, friends, and colleagues. I will work harder at being more present and attentive when I am with them. I seek to remember not to take any handshake or hug lightly.
I will create a set of reminders for me to continue the relationships I’ve re-established during this time of remaining at home.
I will strive to remember that it’s never about what happens to me, but how I respond that grants me to happiness and contentment.
I’d like to end with the essence of a story I recently read written from the perspective of a senior citizen who was a child during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was responding to his grandchild who had just studied in school about this horrific time in history and how difficult and troubling it must have been for him. His response was something we can still create as we live out this moment in time. Grandpa said it was a difficult time for many indeed, but in his case he remembered it differently. He remembered more time for playing with his mom and dad. He remembered baking with his mom and fishing with his dad. He remembered having movie nights three or four times a week rather than just once. He remembered his mom coming up with new ideas for him to try and without the need to rush or to put them off until a better time. He remembered impromptu games of tag, barbeques, and peanut butter and jelly picnics when the weather turned warm. I hope many of today’s children will remember this episode similarly, when their grandchildren ask them about it.