Does a pandemic end with a bang or with a whimper?

Okay, we’re just in Step 2 of our BC pandemic experience, which is a soft re-opening, with gatherings capped at 50 and house guests limited to 5, (or one other household,) and interprovincial travel still on an essential basis only. But it’s easy to feel as if we’re moving into post-pandemic life.

As the Globe and Mail reported on the weekend:

Premier John Horgan announced British Columbia’s latest step toward emerging from pandemic restrictions on Monday morning. Within 45 minutes, the BC Ferries online booking system crashed, as B.C. residents responded enthusiastically to the end of regional travel limits.

The travel restrictions were just one of the measures eased this week. Movie theatres reopened for the first time since November. Alcohol can now be served in bars and restaurants until midnight. Playhouses and banquet halls reopened for gatherings of up to 50 people. Playdates are a thing again. A postpandemic society is now appearing on the horizon.

In a recent newsletter, Peak Resilience counselling asked:

Does the thought of crowds, travel, and hugging make you feel… something?

Well you’re not alone! A recent Ipsos poll found that 51% of Canadians feel nervous about returning to ‘normal’. 

It’s okay to have a reaction to the easing of restrictions.

I’m glad to have this normalized.

While I’m relieved, personally, to be able to ease up and move around more freely, let my kid play with friends or sign up for summer camps, or think about a summer camping trip, I’m not as enthusiastic when I think about everyone else being able to do that.

Partly, this is because a big part of my pandemic experience was to treat it like a very long and harder-than-I-bargained for meditation retreat. I practiced meditation and took online courses and thought a lot more about invisible things like ancestors and mycelial networks and systems and the imaginal world… and it was … something… and I’m still integrating it all…. and I don’t know how to talk about it yet …. and it’s made me slower and thoughtful… and more inept at small talk … and … I feel as though all the people who experienced this essentially as a prison sentence, a restriction of their liberties, and are full of energy and pent-up vibes ready to surge out into the world and dine and drink and travel and book ferries and gather and camp and party their faces off… are coming into these shared (understaffed, underresourced, deeply in demand) spaces with a really contradictory energy to mine.

I’m kind of scared of that. Like, maybe I need a t-shirt that says, “still processing. Give me space. And please don’t litter or be rude and demanding to serving staff or I’ll completely lose my shit.”

Peak Resilience continued:

We have been in survival mode for the past 18 months and our nervous systems have been working on overdrive. It’s important to take. it. slow.

Listen to your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable seeing people indoors, or going out to restaurants – don’t push it.  You get to do this on your own time! 

I’ll be honest. I’m sick of being asked to be kind, to dig into my kindness reservoir, which is kind of tapped out. And so, I don’t want to land back on this square, all the way at the bottom of the snakes and ladders board, after all that has happened since the pandemic was declared: be kind to others, and be kind to yourself, as we emerge from one set of uncertainties to a new set.

But ultimately, that’s probably what is called for.

The one bonus is that I did attend enough meditation classes to learn something about what that actually looks and feels like.

It looks like taking a deep breath.

Or two.

And then adjusting again, squirming around a little bit and finding my footing, until I’m comfortable in my body.

It means noticing feelings or sensations, and naming them. That weirdly disarms their itchiness.

It means acknowledging them, with a kind of courtesy. Oh, hello stress response, that pile of litter really sent you from 1 to 5 instantly didn’t it? I guess you’re still on high alert, and little things are going to activate you.

As my friend Lisa says, “good job noticing.”

It means remembering that gratitude is a superpower… and that, if you’re really stoked to be getting a latte at your favourite cafe for the first time in a while, you can say that, to the person who has quite possibly been working the line for over a year. “Thank you. I really appreciate you being here.”

None of us hear that enough, do we?

Peak Resilience recommends this Anxiety Canada article that outlines 12 tips for reengaging with a post-pandemic world. Which is professionally endorsed and might be helpful.

One thing the article doesn’t mention something that my friend Kera and I have talked about, as one possible positive outcome from pandemic life: that we might become better at navigating consent, as an every day thing. We can normalize checking in with people about their comfort level, with intimacy. That doesn’t have to be restricted to sexual intimacy. Any kind of relationship involves intimacy – emotional, proximity, interacting… It can just be: hey, are you hugging now, or would you prefer not to? Oh, sorry, I got so excited to see you, am I standing too close for your comfort? My kid is super excited to have a play at your place. Can we keep it outside for now, please? Or, hey, I’m kind of used to having a lot of personal space and I imagine you’re as excited as I am to get this burger, but would you mind just taking one step backwards? Or if you’re in a huge hurry, why don’t you go ahead of me, and I can get the space I need behind you.

Maybe this is just in my rich fantasy life, my well-developed pandemic-created inner world, that I am capable of having these conversations with the people around me. Maybe in real life, I will revert to being the old silent-but-steaming person I always was… then again, maybe I did gain something from this strange year.

It’s all new, a strange new world. We’re all emerging with some scar tissue – most of which is invisible. Tenderness is okay. Tenderness might even be just what we need – to feel, to notice, to extend to each other, to ourselves.

One thought on “Does a pandemic end with a bang or with a whimper?

  1. finafunk says:

    I agree Lisa! After covid, I now realize I am a closet introvert living in an extrovert’s body…. And where can I get that tee shirt?? Especially one that says don’t litter and don’t be rude or I’ll lose my crap 😂😂

    Thank you kindly,

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