Opinion: Mourning The Loss Of Normalcy During The COVID-19 Pandemic
Zoom meetings and Netflix have defined my life for two months. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve felt low at times: hopeless and a little out of breath, wondering what could have been had we not had to live beneath the umbra of a pandemic.
Yesterday, I read an article on The New York Times entitled “How Pandemics End” by Gina Kolata. It was interesting in the way it explained exactly what the title suggested.
According to the article, the first way a pandemic ends is medically: it happens when a vaccine or cure is found. The second way, socially, is when people simply grow tired of the restrictions and learn to live with the disease at bay. In what Times magazine terms as “caution fatigue”, people have become lax about social distancing, yearning for a return to normalcy, when life had allowed us into crowded sporting events, parties, concerts, and all that good stuff.
In many cases, it seems as if the coronavirus pandemic is ending socially way before it will end medically. The mayor of Las Vegas has been itching to reopen casinos, and bars at Lan Kwai Fong (in Hong Kong) have also begun operating again after weeks of shutdown. France has allowed joggers to take to the beaches, while in Britain, Boris Johnson, has announced a rather baffling reopening plan. Manila, without aggressive mass testing, is set to transition to “modified enhanced community quarantine” (MECQ) on the 16th of May, partially opening up a few key sectors. All of this is overwhelming — especially for someone like me, who has been glued to a routine in the confines of her home for a little over two months. I’ve always hated routine and the monotony it brings about, but in lockdown, it has (ironically) become the saviour of my sanity.
Today, the 14th of May, marks the penultimate day of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). So why am I still so uneasy? For two months, I’d prayed for this day to come, and here it is, right before me. I think: two reasons. One, I still feel unsafe. I’m caught in a strange limbo, a grey area of “I want to go outside” and “But people could die if I do”. Sadly, that isn’t even a hyperbole. Besides, MECQ is hardly the time to resume a normal, pre-COVID life — which is ultimately what we all want anyway.
Second is inertia. Hear me out: an object at rest stays at rest while an object moving at a constant velocity tends to keep moving at that velocity, unless acted upon by an outside force. I’m no physicist but I’ve always believed that the law of inertia could be applied to an overall lifestyle. In the past three months, we’ve had so much change around us. For the lucky ones, all that meant was not being to step outside. For others, it meant more serious things: a layoff, a health scare, the death of someone they know. Now, here we are again, at another crossroads, having to battle against the inertia of being kept safely away from potential hazards. It’s tiring and it’s scary and it’s frustrating and it’s crazy.
No one can say how the city will all look like a month from today — so it’s okay to be frightened. It’s a scary thing. The familiar is something to be mourned, especially when everything is so unfamiliar. I remember reading an article a month ago where the author termed the phrase “change fatigue”: the tiredness that comes with having to bear tectonic shifts within a matter of months. It’s not exactly a term used by psychology organisations but it’ll do. After all, we’ve all had to deal with transitioning from normal life to lockdown and back again to reopening — all before hitting the year’s midway point. In many cases, the sense of normalcy changes from month to month, week to week, day to day.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reaching out to a support group is encouraged. Many recognise that COVID-19 is also a mental health issue, not just a physical one. Know that plenty feel the same way you do and that, quite literally, the whole world is in it together. Mourn for the things that you’ve missed out on and the things you’ve had to let go, the people you can’t see at the moment or even anymore. Take your time. Soon, the new normal will just be normal. 2020 can’t last forever.
And next week, when you step outside your house, don’t forget to bring your facemask and your hand sanitiser, to wash your hands always, and stay six feet apart from one another. Thank your frontliners and always keep safe.
Read also: How To Avoid Covid-19: Tips To Stay Healthy & Sanitised