Rushing toward Certainty

I think I was a little tough earlier this week on people who don’t wear masks in public. They could probably use a little compassion.

I was reminded of this last night, when I was chatting with friends on the phone – the phone! How quaint! – and one of them (who had just described venturing out of her Brooklyn apartment to find herself surrounded by the unmasked in the park, on the streets, running the gauntlet between bars who are desperately hanging on like that kitten on the branch by serving people food and booze “to go” which those people choose to interpret as “stand in a crowd on the sidewalk outside the bar, drop their masks, and bar-shout to their buddies about how glad they are to see them. Where was I? Oh yes, she was dodging friends she was happy to see who were happy to see her too and just wanted to give her a big hug and kiss her hello. She retreated to her apartment and remarked to us, “I just want this to be over.”

We all just want it to be over.

I suspect this is like when someone in your family has a disease like cancer – you take one day at a time. You may not be able to plan for the future. You crave certainty but you know there isn’t any. You may be in great pain, your quality of life sucks, and you just want a resolution. But if you decide that you are cancer-free when your doctor has not cleared you, the resolution you will rush toward is not a good one.

I get it. One of the things I hate most about change is the long pause between when I learn the change is coming and when it actually occurs. When my husband and I got engaged, I knew it was coming but the ring was delayed and the actual event couldn’t happen fast enough for me and I remember driving friends crazy with my complaints. Part of the irritation of uncertainty was not having a date, a finish line, when I knew I could say we had moved from the state of being pre-engaged to begin telling friends and family that we were engaged.

I’m a doer. You tell me that change is coming, if you tell me a date, I’m good. But if you tell me that the job description for the new position I’m creating has to wend it’s way through HR – a process that takes, in large organizations, a ridiculous amount of time – I will be climbing the walls. If you tell me change is coming, I want – like the girl who wanted the golden egg in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – I want it now!

Part of the problem is that this certainty that people think they’re rushing toward is a return to “normal.” Normal? We need to think about a New Normal where people wear masks in public without fail – and not just pull them up when you enter a building that won’t let you in if you are maskless – where we don’t eat out on the street, where we don’t greet people with a hug and a kiss, where we stay home more, where we go shaggy longer, where – when we finally do return to the office – we take in-office meetings virtually instead of in the conference room. Where every morning, before we leave the house, we go onto our employer’s tracking app, and report that we do not have a fever, we haven’t traveled, we aren’t coughing or sneezing, that we don’t have a rash, pink eye, disorientation, stomach problems, etc. And, if we do show any of those symptoms, and the app says, “Work from Home” we do so willingly.

Time only moves one way – forward. We can’t go back to a memory, we can only take one step today, one step each day, until we reach tomorrow.

Until then, stay patient.

Stay calm.

Stay home.

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