Every time you think Covid is over, there’s a new variant to freak you out. Omicron is the latest in the “let’s-worry-before-we-know-if-there’s-cause-to-worry” parade in the news, but it certainly won’t be the last. In other words, Covid isn’t actually going away anytime soon. We just have to learn to live with it as a present reality in our lives, which, to my view, must go on.
But the more important question in my mind, as opposed to what does the future hold (since we actually have no way of knowing), is, “What have we learned?” As we round on two years since Covid, what has stuck with us from those early, fearful weeks and months? Have we changed, as a species, and as individuals, since March of 2020, a month and year, that, to borrow the words of FDR, will live in infamy?
When I look back at my writing from that time, here’s what jumps out at me: a deep desire to never again take life for granted. To never take normalcy for granted. To never assume that things will just continue the way they have always been. Also, a deep fear in not knowing the future; a sharp, almost painful awareness, perhaps for the first time, and I say this as a woman of deep, abiding faith, that God, not us, runs the world. A sense of shock that the experts actually have no clue, and that the future lies in total obscurity.
I’ll just speak for myself. Have I held on to those truths?
The short answer, I confess abashedly, is mostly no. I have started to take life for granted sometimes. Although I definitely pay homage to the fact that “who knows what will be in two weeks, or next month,” somewhere in the back of my mind I still kinda think it’ll be what I think it’ll be. I do have a heightened sense of God’s power, and I definitely now know that much of the time, the experts are guessing, and on only a slightly more educated level than the rest of us.
After 9/11, how long did it take for New Yorkers to go back to “normal”? In a 2018 article on the topic, entitled, “New York is Still Healing, 17 Years After 9/11,” professor of psychology and sociology Susan Opotow says, “There are some common truisms and expectations about how disaster trajectories proceed, but what I found surprising was learning that recovery is a multiple rather than singular process. It proceeds in its own way in different urban sectors.” We are probably just at the very beginning of learning how what happened is going to affect us all. Recovery happens differently for different people in different communities, and we’re not even enough out of the woods yet to definitively say we’re in recovery mode.
There are going to be studies and support groups and much ink to paper when we begin to process what happened to us these past 20 months, how this virus has affected families, communities, education, the economy, the health sector, and public confidence. But we’re not even there yet, because we’re still in it. We’re moving forward in it, but it’s still here.
So here’s what I hope: that the lessons, those we’ve already unpacked by remembering who we were in those early days, and those we cannot even begin to unpack until life truly returns to normal, will stay with us and change us. Let Covid not be in vain. Let it make us better, nicer, more emotionally intelligent. That’s, at least, one woman’s prayer, as I stare Omicron in the face and head into another winter with Covid.