The size and speed of the changes in the past several months is breathtaking. We’ve learned very quickly that the world can change overnight.
It took a pandemic to make me realize that normally my life is crammed full of activity, every inch of my day filled with projects, phone calls, the inevitable running of a sports mom, and the usual chaos of keeping up with a busy household. When I first faced the prospect of a lockdown, I thought: “Well, this won’t be so bad.” I work from home, I reasoned. This won’t be so different.
Instead, I found myself completely unmoored.
It wasn’t that just that I couldn’t run to the grocery store whenever I wanted—and when I did I went feeling as if I were going into battle—or had to forgo lunch dates, and scheduled medical procedures. It was that every moment of every day was filled with the awful grayness of the unknown. How was I supposed to go about my normal day when people I loved were in danger and the prospect of a worldwide recession, or even a depression, was a very real prospect? People I knew were getting sick; people I knew were losing everything they had worked their whole lives to build. Life as we knew it had changed, practically overnight. I’ve never felt so alone, so un-tethered from other people.
The most ironic thing about this pandemic is that it separates us, just when we need people the most. We’re all scared; we’re all grieving for lost love ones, and lost opportunities. We’re grieving for a defunct future that looks completely different than it did just a few short months ago. We need to be together right now, sharing our strength, and instead we are standing six feet apart.
I’ve come to realize, however, that we are coming together. While I may not have seen my friends and extended family for weeks, I’ve talked to them far more than I did in the past. How are you doing? I’m scared too. We’ll get through this. People are helping out elderly neighbors, bringing them groceries, checking to make sure they are all right. Kids are leaving chalk messages on the sidewalks; people are singing in the streets. In my neighborhood, people step out on the porch every night and howl together against the darkness of the night. Despite a disease that is driving us apart, we are coming together.
I remember the strong sense of community and unity in the aftermath of 9/11. We felt like we were stronger together than apart. It wasn’t me and them in those precious days and weeks, it was we and us.
As this pandemic continues tearing apart the fabric of our lives at dizzying speed, I think we have a choice. We have an opportunity to make something good out of this, to make changes that will last even after the pandemic wears itself out. In a society fraught with division, and a disease intent on clawing these schisms even wider, we can succumb to the siren call of us-against-them, or we can fight to repair what is broke.
A national disaster is wreaking havoc on us as a nation; it is a shared burden, a threat that is bigger than all of us individually, but not bigger than all of us together. We can’t let this rip us apart, just when we need each other the most.
The world will return to normal. On that day, I’m looking to stepping outside at dusk and listening to my neighbors still howling together in unison.