Reflections in the Time of Pandemic: Stephanie Keep

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As an anxious extrovert, the pandemic did not come easy.  As I recall I spent the first week or so of it figuratively (but sometimes literally) curled in a ball, my emotional brain firmly in charge.  If I stayed curled up, my emotional brain reasoned, I could be blissfully numb and unaware.  It didn’t work for long, of course.  As days and then weeks went by, I felt the tug to re-engage with the world.  Able to apply my training as a scientist to critically analyze and sort information, I got my rational thinking brain back in charge and saw things more clearly.

And through those clear eyes, I have seen an undeniable truth: that compared to so many we’ve been extremely lucky.  Even the simple fact that here in Bedford we have space to safely walk around is something that should be acknowledged as a privilege.  Moreover, no one in my extended family has gotten sick, I don’t have loved ones in care facilities, nor do I have family in frontline positions.  Without the need to commute my husband eats dinner with us every night and we have even had a few honest-to-goodness conversations (!!).  We have truly been…fine.  Not great, certainly not better than ever, but fine.

All of this is not to say, however, that we have been okay.  I don’t think anyone has been truly okay.  Maybe share-holders in Clorox and Purell, but other than them?  Nah.  Watching my kids struggle with home-learning despite the most valiant efforts of their teachers has been extremely difficult.  Finding myself losing my temper with my girls, even though I know anxiety and sadness are driving their poor behaviors, has been hard, too.  Heck, not being able to casually walk into a grocery store to pick something up is hard!

I think it’s important to give ourselves permission to mourn these kinds of small losses in whatever forms they take.  But at the same time, I have to recognize that my disappointments and struggles, though valid, are hardly noteworthy.  What is noteworthy are the devastating and rampant inequalities and injustices – even here in Bedford – that have been laid bare this last year.  I refuse to return to my figurative ball of blissful unawareness over these challenges, far scarier than any virus and impossible to hold at bay with handwashing or vaccination.

I miss singing in my choir, I miss restaurants, I miss alone time, and oh-my-goodness do I miss hugs.  Thanks to science these and other small pleasures will be available to me again soon.  It will be extremely tempting to toast the pandemic’s end and move on in the coming months but I think it’s more important to circle back, pick up those left behind, and figure how to all move forward together.

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