Not to be too risqué in a family publication, but lip service is so much less sexy than the images the term conjures would suggest. I strongly prefer when people’s actions mirror the words that escape their mouths. As we flutter in the lee of the pandemic, as it lingers slightly, the lofty ideals espoused by many in the depths of quarantine have revealed to be nothing more than teases of the present in which we could be reveling.
Isolated physically, with anxieties and emotions churning at whirlpool levels, there was nothing left to do but hunker down and face the drama head on. Human contact, at quasi-remote distances, became an invaluable commodity. The social interactions that we once took for granted became life-saving respites from crippling solitude. Epiphanies about the folly of our pre-pandemic ways rained from the skies and we bathed in these realizations, grateful for the perspective. We swore copious oaths to never forget the lessons of that dark time, we comfortably ensconced ourselves in the fiction that there was no going back to what once was.
Fools. We suffered a collective trauma and yet we have also all apparently communally decided to bury that trauma, carry on with our lives largely as before, and wait for the inevitable regret to metastasize until it crushes us under the weight of its malignancy. There is an understandable urge to gloss over the travails of that bonkers time in our lives. And, of course, there were varying degrees to which people were affected by the pandemic. Some suffered horrible loss while others blossomed into the best versions of themselves and it is hard to reconcile the two ends of that spectrum in any cogent, fair way.
Yet there is no justification for regressing so rapidly and thoroughly. Not only have we not internalized the education of the pandemic, but we have somehow gotten worse: less patient, less kind, more intense, more sectarian, terrible. Yes, there is latent stress from not being able to take a breath these last few years. Yes, we are all clad in armor whose weight we have not been able to shed. Yes, the cracks revealed by quarantine are seemingly impervious to attempts at repair. These are ready excuses, quick to our lips, but ultimately bogus because we have proven that we can survive difficult circumstances.
Witnessing the manner in which humans have resumed treating each other fills me with a gray, cloudy despair. Ever the optimist, ever the believer in the essential goodness of humanity, the strength of my enthusiasm is being sorely tested. Each cross word, each violent altercation, each brusque mannerism makes me want to scream for mercy at the top of my lungs. We learned that everyone is going through so much, that everyone has their private struggles; these facts were discussed amongst ourselves and broadcast across every media platform. Which makes it all the more maddening when absolutely no quarter is given, when the petty demands of the idly rich and/or supremely lazy are shouted in the face of a person merely treading water to survive.
We can be retrained. Behavior is nothing more than that which we make routine in our lives. When faced with a stressful situation in which conflict may be imminent, it would be wise to conjure the image of your most desperate pandemic moment, to hold that feeling in your heart, to feel the compassion flowing through your blood. Imbued with the power of this empathy, you can then engage in a manner that would make your quarantine self proud and not ashamed. If this pattern is repeated and then extrapolated across our population, then we may finally be ready to ascend to the next plateau in our societal development.