Exiting COVID Lockdown
Aaron and I took the lockdown seriously. He is a frontline medical worker and witnessed early on what COVID could do to a body. We knew the possibility of exposure* was high for him—especially in those first months when PPE and testing were scarce. We also have medically fragile family members who we couldn’t bear to unknowingly expose. So for the last 14 months we have largely kept away from social gatherings, haven’t taken unnecessary risks, and have always worn masks in public.
*Despite our vigilance, we both came down with COVID. Aaron was indeed exposed at work and I caught it from him before we realized he was sick. Thankfully, we were both able to treat our cases at home.
Lockdown was easier for us than for many, I speculate. Aaron and I are introverts who enjoy each other’s company. Incomes were down, but we had enough. Our home is small, but cozy. And Aaron is one heck of a cook.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about emerging from lockdown. On one hand, I’m eager to see friends. On the other, I don’t want to ever return to double-booked weeknights and over-scheduled weekends. And I cringe at the thought of spending time at future gatherings on small talk. Especially now—after a year of loss and social change—talking about small things seems like squandering more time. (Small talk exception: I still want to hear about your dogs 🙂
I’ve been thinking about the questions I really want to ask people when I see them again. Here’s what I want to understand about their experience:
WHAT HAVE THEY LOST?
The most obvious aspect to this, of course, is if they lost someone to COVID. But other things have been lost this year: friends or relatives lost to conspiracy theories; joy lost to overwhelming responsibilities; jobs lost; marriages lost; opportunities lost; security lost; faith lost; self-confidence lost. I fear the full reach of grief’s many tentacles has not yet been identified, and I wonder if the only way out of this is to first and foremost acknowledge what has been lost.
WHAT ARE THEY BRINGING FORWARD?
I’m not talking about sourdough starter.* I want to know what they are intentionally bringing forward into post-pandemic life. Did they protest for social justice or volunteer for a campaign or non-profit organization and intend to spend time and energy continuing that work? Have they learned a skill or started pursing a passion that they are bringing into post-pandemic life? I want to know what they hope to do with post-pandemic time and energy.
(*Maybe it is sourdough starter! Maybe they have become the best damn sourdough baker in the entire country and have plans for a sourdough empire. If so, I want to know!)
WHAT ARE THEY LEAVING BEHIND?
This question might seem similar to “What have they lost?” but it’s different. “Lost” implies they did not want to let that person/thing go. “Leaving behind” implies it’s a conscious choice. An intentional shedding. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s an aspiration. Maybe they are less willing to accept the status quo, or less interested in traveling the life path they had been on. Changes like this might be completely invisible, so I want to understand how can I support those changes.
What do you think about these questions? Would you add any questions to this list? What do you want to know about people’s pandemic experience?