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The Pandemic Clock Mirage

How many good things in life came to you because of COVID?

Key points

  • Is it fair to compare the feelings of these Covid discomforts to those that felt during World War II?
  • Past years brought expectations of life too high for the realities of post-Covid years.
  • Will we ever accept the slowing down of time to fit a more relaxed lifestyle?
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Severin Roesen –Two-Tiered Still Life with Fruit and Sunset
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Every season has its moments, and every era does, too. We learn many things about life by living in troubling times. I can tell you what I learned over these past 20 months. What have you learned?

Hopes for a return to normal public life declined after several high spikes of Covid-19. There was plenty of burnout, either from isolation or too many virtual meetings and Zoomed classrooms. Compared to the horrors and chaos of being in war zones, though, as long as our friends and relatives were not infected by SARS-CoV-2, living in isolation was just a relatively brief disturbance.

From March to August, two of my granddaughters lived in my home with my wife and me. Once vaccinated, life changed. The grandchildren returned to their parents, leaving a bit of a hole in our lives. But we all knew more about love than we did before. We knew that we were all alive with the gift of family and the ample comforts and food and lodging. We were missing friends and some entertainment, but knew that all things taken away would return someday. Life is a gift, but we get annoyed when routines and habits are challenged. Aggravation is not pleasant, but neither is tragedy nor misfortune. The pleasures of life were all there, behind the everyday routines, right there even in the breaking of those routines.

Every generation lives through at least one pan-troubling experience

Yes, we indeed had some disturbances of being not able to get some things we routinely could, such as toilet paper and refrigerators, but that pales compared with what we couldn’t get during WWII. I can still remember when I had to give up my toy metal fire engine when all the kids in my neighborhood lined up to throw their toys into a truck headed to a recycling furnace that would melt metal destined for the war effort. Meats were rationed, and so was rubber. So much of what we once enjoyed went to feed the troops or to manufacture arms. Time moved slower back then when we had windup wristwatches and analog clocks to measure it.

In these rough times of war with SARS-CoV-2 and the high number of acute casualties taken (and are now waning as more people become vaccinated), I can feel the joy of just being alive. It is a gift that Covid has given us: a reminder of the essentials, the purpose of living, and why we are still here. I can still ride my bike endlessly on rail trails without a mask. My wife and I could still take long walks together and have picnics after kayaking in lakes. We could still have wonderfully cooked and baked dinners and long breakfasts with plenty of fruit, cheeses, and teas because time was at our command. Our dinners have improved because we learned to take more time to enjoy them more. We found that we had the luck to Zoom and FaceTime with friends anywhere in the world. We had the coincidental fortune and wherewithal of communication technologies we never had before.

Time has expanded its pace

In this century, we are teased and encouraged to expect too many things that could not last. The iphone and overnight delivery created an expectation of a world that was both shrinking and speeding. Before Covid, I once tracked the delivery of an item I bought online on a Thursday. It came from a warehouse in China to my home in the U.S. the next day. That was surprisingly fast, but not astonishing. Did I care whether or not it would arrive the next day? Had it taken two weeks, I should have been happy. But those in those years, expectations were high and unsustainable.

Joseph Mazur
It could still be a wonderful life
Source: Joseph Mazur

In 2020, we focused on news, mostly bad. In 2021, we contemplated more, blamed more, worried more, and became politically uncomfortable. We became an anxious society and a confused nation. There were fewer car fatalities but more suicides. All along, the balance is roughly the same. If we look back at what we were and who we were before Covid, we can learn something. We always discover a few things from living through rough years, though it may feel that the clock on the wall is just a mirage.

SARS-CoV-2, will soon be defeated, leaving us with some good things to ponder. As with all wars, we learn, or we don’t.

© 2021 Joseph Mazur