Don’t get me wrong. I was so glad when that young man stuck a needle in my arm. It’s coming to an end, I thought. Soon I’ll be free of this Covid time, of this fear of being struck down and leaving my young children fatherless.
But I’m also afraid. I’m also mourning this end a bit. I’m really going to miss this time in a lot of ways. Especially, the quiet, the streets that just aren’t as jammed with cars and drivers leaning on their horns so often.
And not just the quiet outside, but also the quiet, the calm, within me that has come with spending so much time inside the house. It freed me from the drudgery of having to go to the supermarket to get my groceries. It freed (deeply introverted) me from the psychic drain of having my day filled with countless shallow verbal interactions with other humans. I prefer the scheduled Zoom interaction in so many ways. It has a surprising one-on-one intimacy that can yield the kind of deeper, more authentic interaction that my (introverted) soul craves.
It’s not just me. One of my favorite scholars, Ann Cvetkovich, a professor of gender studies and a leading scholar of affect, likes to talk about what she calls Covid silver linings, like not having to commute through traffic to her job. She gave a great online talk last week where she discussed the dialectic — the back-and-forth interaction — that is part of the fundamental nature of the seemingly opposite poles of hope and despair. This pandemic has brought us both. Yes, there’s been the fear and dread, and the strain of having less opportunity to go outside and to have social interaction. But we’ve also discovered new ways to be and to work that we’re probably not going to give up when it’s over. We’ve discovered new ways to bridge great physical distance. We can be hopeful for many new possibilities for work, community and interaction after this is over.
But there will also be a dialectic of hope and despair in the after time. Above I said I was afraid of an end to this time. That’s because it’s been a time of a kind of cocoon for me, where I’ve spent most of my time inside and where I have put a pause on my most ambitious projects; the pandemic has functioned in some ways as a kind of excuse for me to not have brought more of those projects to fruition. Now, I won’t have that sheltering excuse anymore. It’ll be up to me to start getting out there and making things happen. So, there’s new hope now. But that hope brings with it a greater fear of falling short, of failure — of the things that lead to despair.
I know I’m lucky to have been able to get my first vaccination already, and I’m grateful for that and for the hope it gives me that I will have health in the future. I hope that you too will soon also have the opportunity to feel this hope, if it hasn’t come to you already.