I’ve noticed something through these last couple months.
A narrative that I’ve gleaned through my interactions with people on both sides of the gun while working in the service industry. It has become increasingly apparent, at least where I live, as life struggles to put on a good face and appear as if everything is normal. Limping along, feeling the soreness under an ice-pack at night when the adrenaline plummets, worsening the injury when its forced to jog and keep pace.
There are two schools of thought that people have about the pandemic, but I want to focus mainly on one of them. On the surface, uttering a phrase like everyone is going through it, we’re all affected by Covid, or we’re in this together appears to be at the apogee of compassion. Shit, it’s downright empathetic. The ability to manage our expectations and emotions with the realization that what has happened for the last calendar year is a beast that we are all fighting. It’s especially considerate when we do it as a group.
I have no problem with it. I do the same. I think it’s lovely. To rationalize these mad times with the understanding that everyone, whether they seem it or not, is going through something foreign, and that we all might be limping, whether wve show it or not.
However, my concern is that it has become just something that we say. That it may fall victim to a serenity now type of lip-service that exists only as a spoken mantra, a hollow motto, and not something that we genuinely feel.
Allow me to explain…
A lot of people that I know went through it. They succumbed to drinking, drugs and the pitiable abysses of self-centered loathing and self-hate. They hit bottom. Found a blanket of ashes from their charred dreams to take week-long depression naps.
But, like a phoenix, many of them picked themselves up, brushed the ashes off their shoulders, and changed their lives for the better. Exercise, school, new employment, discovering a passion within themselves, or for something, that was hitherto hidden or under-explored. These may be the folk that came out of the gate with gloom and reluctance to do anything productive or even get out of bed. They drowned in their woe, and damned the worlds as a cruel sadist with a ski-mask and a chain flail.
Perhaps we tried to help them, and still offer a perfunctory nudge. Perhaps we pushed them away after a few cursory attempts. Sadly, there is a chance that some haven’t come out the other side of that tunnel and are pounding against the wall in darkness.
For those that did, they realigned their existence. Took the horns by the bull. Adapted to the upheaval. Made a rope out of whatever materials were left in their scant cell and pulled themselves out. Congratulations on your new life.
Returning to the we’re all in this together maxim, well, we are and we aren’t.
I repeat that there is nothing wrong with it. It’s a good way to think and feel, so long as its authentic. I find it important to remember that you are going through it in your own way, regardless of everyone else. While there is solace in finding a place among the many, a major part of my year has been to use those moments of excruciating sadness, or loneliness, or despair, and compel myself to make use of the present. We don’t know when normal will be, or even what it will look like. While we are in this together and we are undeniably social beings, we are also individuals with our own minds and unique situations.
We are all in this together is a wonderful saying, so long as its felt and understood. Just jawing it, without understanding it can make you angry when others put themselves over and defy that statement.
I’m guilty of resentment to those that take holidays and prize gregariousness over distancing, but, that’s what they chose. It was their decision just as mine is to isolate; which I can argue I would do whether it was flimsily mandated or not.
It’s important to note: they aren’t a them, they’re still us, just working through the slog in a different way. It might cause you to feel a type of way, but all prisoners get the itch after a long enough bid.
To say we’re all in this together, without addressing your own existence and mental health, feels like a Pavlovian response of base sympathy to fit in with the popular crowd or simply the practice of negotiating our sanity for another day.
Serenity now, insanity later
Just as lying in the fetal position helplessly at the depths of depression is unhealthy, I argue that reflexively repeating something because it sounds right isn’t totally healthy either.
And what happens when it’s all over? When the chastity belt is unlocked? A rumspringa that imperils the impoverished peoples in tropical lands with the false narrative that it is to save their economy? The genesis of some other new virus after airline companies offer overly-competitive deals to get us anywhere we missed out on visiting? An economic or environmental catastrophe that results from our collective release, akin to putting a can of soda on a paint-mixer?
We aren’t supposed to travel right now, but some still do. What if that person’s travelling isn’t an indulgence as you presuppose, but the thing that keeps them from hanging themselves with that old orange extension cord that never seems to ever rid itself of knots, because its hastily shoved in the closet, every year, once the Christmas decorations are taken, because its already January 4th (where has the time gone/When will it be summer) and it manifests a sadness within you to remember that your favourite time of the year, full of family, friends and food, is as far away as possible, and the promise of a new beginning is already jeopardized by your gloomy outlook thanks in large part to the bitter cold and shortened days due to the Arctic cold front that is moving in, and that another year has indeed passed, and in spite of your resolution to be a better you, that in the same time next year, it will be the same, but worse, because now another underwhelming birthday will be added to your age, and any accomplishment which would seem far more impressive had you been smart enough to have done them earlier, will sparkle that much less, just like the twinkle in your eyes, whose bags are getting darker, with a radius that will soon swallow your cheekbones entirely.
So, remember. We are all in this together, but don’t forget to clock you own footsteps among the masses.