The Elephant in the Room

Finding a topic to wax on about is always tough. Not so this month. We’ve all been impacted in enormous ways by the spread of COVID-19 into our world. I can imagine that most if not all of the articles in this month’s Colorado Serenity are about the coronavirus in some way. It seems like writing about anything other than the huge elephant in the room is frivolous. But what I’d really like to explore is a theme that was important before this literal scourge upon us began, and what will forever be important to us all, and that’s community.

I remember just after 9/11/2001, the spread of ferocious patriotism. There were American flags everywhere we looked and that united us all in a time of such great sorrow. As the years passed, that sense of unity faded and we began focusing on our differences more than what we all had in common.

In January and February, we watched the virus spread in far away countries. It’s funny now, looking back on how I watched with detachment. I knew that it would spread to the U.S., but it felt like something happening to others and so I was able to push it out of my thoughts. I couldn’t have imagined my kids would be out of school until August. I couldn’t have imagined that we’d be ordered to stay home for eight weeks. And I couldn’t have imagined that work meetings, book club and Jazzercise would only be available virtually. I’ve written before about how much I love this community that we are lucky to live in. I truly love it. As we started closing up our lives, I felt so disconnected from the people and places important to me. Disconnected from my community, and in turn, disconnected from myself.

I realize that not everybody is a fan of Facebook or Instagram, but social media served a wonderful purpose for me. It kept me connected to my friends. It made me laugh with silly memes and posts about how horrible we were at being teachers to our kids, how we were wearing pajamas all day, and the institution of cocktail hour at 2 pm. We focused on unity again. To some degree, we were all using our connection to focus on things other than the fear of becoming ill, of losing loved ones and watching people suffer. As time wore on, more fear and anxiety crept into those posts. I checked into social media less frequently as my anxiety and fear ramped up. And, as the anxiety started to show, so too did the finger pointing.

To be honest, I’m ready to get back to it. I’m worried about our economy and how long it will be impacted. When I go out, I do wear a mask and try not to touch my face or get too close to others. I am still concerned about getting sick, but I’m far more concerned about all the people who are out of work and can’t pay their mortgage or their rent. And yet, I understand that for many of you, your primary focus is still self-isolation. The fear of getting sick outweighs the fear of the economy stalling. And that’s ok. I created an informal poll on social media to ascertain where most people fall on the stay-at-home/resume-to-life spectrum. Out of 40 people polled, the results were nearly split down the middle. I have one friend posting on Facebook about being appalled that people aren’t wearing masks. And I have another friend posting about how he will not be wearing a mask and his reasons why. They both make passionate arguments. I am urging everyone to maintain that sense of unity that we’ve all built up around ourselves. It’s ok to be where you are, to move forward however you feel is appropriate. And please, let’s cut each other some slack. There is no right answer, no rule book, no precedent (yes, I realize that we had a flu pandemic in 1918, but our world today draws little resemblance to that of a century ago). We all need to move forward into our new world in the way that we decide is right. And we need to continue to be compassionate to our neighbors, even if their path looks different than ours.

I wish you all peace, comfort and health.