The perpetual pandemic
On his podcast, Bret Easton Ellis first referred to the pandemic as “the season of the virus” and then “the year of the virus.” Because we can now see that this pandemic may rage on indefinitely, I propose that we refer to it as “The Perpetual Pandemic.”
I've been trying to come to terms with what exactly a perpetual pandemic will entail, not for the sake of fear mongering, but for the sake of managing expectations, an exercise that I (and many others) failed at when I saw the availability of vaccines as a sign of smoother sailing across these chaotic seas. I now believe—as I read elsewhere—this uptick in covid cases is a reminder that this pandemic will not be over until the world at large has access to vaccines.
The good news is that, as things stand, vaccinated individuals do not have as much reason to worry as they did last year, as they now have a line of defense against the virus. However, the newer strains of the virus are more infectious, and the vaccines are not a guarantee against infection. Maybe the virus will mutate to the point that vaccines and boosters are useless. Who knows, but isn't that always the case? Also, children under 12 are not currently eligible for vaccines, so parents of young children are likely feeling extra stress as cases rise.
Over the last few weeks, I've been telling myself that this perpetual pandemic is an exercise in Stoicism. I recently heard a great summing up of Stoicism on a podcast which I unfortunately cannot remember to credit, but the summary went something like this: Doing the best you can with what you've got, where you are.
Stoicism also sounds a lot like the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,courage to change the things I can,and wisdom to know the difference.
Basically, Stoicism urges people to focus on what they can control while ignoring everything else.
Keeping that in mind, I have to accept that I cannot control whether others choose to get vaccinated. I did what I thought was the right thing and got vaccinated. That's all I have control over in this situation. I'm not convinced that yelling at people and telling them to get the shot is going to do any good, as their minds are made up. At the same time, I can't tell others that they're wrong to have concerns about the vaccines, because I've had my own concerns. That said, my energy would be better spent in preparing for what lies ahead.
So what exactly lies ahead?
Because I live in Texas, I do not expect to be subject any more lockdowns. That's pretty much where the certainty ends. The rest is anyone's guess.
I'm embarrassed to say that, even though I've had it pretty good during this pandemic, I still had trouble adjusting in 2020. I was never able to embrace working from home before offices reopened. I had difficulty accepting I couldn't go somewhere else just to get away for a bit. I will give myself some credit and say that adjusting to the pandemic brought a lot of change at a lightning pace, and at times the adjustment felt similar to grief. And remember: Grief isn't linear, so of course our emotions have bounced all over the place since March 2020.
But this time around, I'm leaning in to working from home, along with other necessary changes. Instead of surviving until get things better, I'm working on thriving during the inevitable. I'm reminding myself that waiting around for situations to improve is often a terrible strategy.
The few months of letting our guards down after being fully vaccinated were a nice reprieve from what first started as a two-week struggle to “flatten the curve,” only to morph into a seemingly never-ending plague. While the current mood is a step down from our spring optimism, at least things (hopefully) won't be as bad as our initial response.
But still, I want to get it right this time. Life is hard enough without your getting in your own way.