On Safety and Sanity
When Do We Allow Ourselves to Worry and When to Let Go?
The question of whether or not to let yourself feel safe is an interesting one. We’re worried to run into an ex at a party and we look over our shoulders for fear of being followed. It’s a decision we make, often without a thought, over and over through the day. We can change how we breathe to change how we feel if we’re paying attention, but the feedback loop runs whether we’re looking or not. If our biology can save us from a lion with adrenaline and a pumping heart, how does it save us from a year-long pandemic? We don’t seem to have a script for long-term isolation along with this ambiguous threat to our lives.
‘Maybe, but not probably.’ — waiting in the office for medical results for the “possibility” of a serious illness. At some point, we may have felt this ourselves, or for our loved ones. We sure have this year.
But we weren’t built to feel this dread for over a year, we’ve all come to realize that — with the burnouts, the second winds, and paranoia at someone coughing at the other end of the frozen aisle. It’s exhausting, and our our boats can only take so much water.
“Should I hang out with my three friends this weekend without masks? Should we go to a restaurant because we haven’t in such a long time?”
*Should I risk an improbable mortal danger for a moment of definite connection?
I was thinking about this last week as I was desperately trying to hold my breath at the grocery store check-out line. I was texting about plans with a friend while looking for the nearest place I could inhale; somewhere that seemed ever-so-slightly safer than being right next to the person in line behind me who drastically underestimated the length of six feet.
“Well when do you think you’ll come visit?,” asked my mother once again— the amount of times one would expect a mother to ask when she hasn’t seen her son in over a year. Always met with “Once it’s safe to,” an honest but poor replacement for a long-awaited family reunion.
This terrible uncertainty seems to have rained down like a plague of locusts upon us, but look at us playing online party games and planning masked hiking trips. We’re making it work as best we can.
I can only tell you to trust the guidelines of the doctors and the experts, but I will say this: If the wise Yoda were here before us he would, in irregular cadence, tell us there is only to “do, or do not, there is no try.” And if there is any value to be gained from a 2ft tall green puppet with the ability to lift x- wings out of bogwater, it’s to minimize the ambiguity as much as we can in our lives.
When I next see my old friends, I will choose to set aside the worry and be with the people I value and have fun with. Because I’m here now, and tomorrow I may be in the grocery store aisle. I can worry then from the moment I walk in to the moment I close my car door holding my groceries. But I will be here now, and take in the joy and connection unhindered and without worry.