My husband is a member of our local School Board. Anyone who thinks school board meetings are boring obviously hasn’t attended one recently. The pandemic has turned meetings into shouting matches between the maskers and anti maskers, vaccers and anti vaccers. Many, it seems, just wants to get back to normal, whatever that is, and if that means denying reality, so be it.
There is no going back to the way it was, pandemic or no pandemic. All we have is now. This minute. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. That’s the whole logic behind AA’s living one day at a time. While no drunk can commit to never drinking again, they can stay sober in this moment, this one day. It’s always easier to deal with reality when we focus on now and what is possible right now. Nostalgia, however, is a natural response to uncertainly and dissatisfaction and few of us deal well with uncertainty. Thus, I suspect, much of the resistance to wearing a mask or getting a vaccine is motivated by a yearning for a remembered time before the gravity of the pandemic had set in.
As an article in The Atlantic pointed out, many are grieving for a present that is no more. This is made more complicated by the fact that we tend to edit and glamorize the past. To the degree we can hold on to positive memories, we can block out the negatives that were also part of the past. Consequently, we tend to look back on those early days of 2019 when the pandemic was more of a threat than a reality with fondness.
Anyone in AA or another 12 step program will tell you that living one day at a time does not make our troubles go away, but it does help make them manageable. By living one day at a time we open the windows to unseen possibilities. Difficult and unpleasant tasks are made easier by reducing them to doable chunks of time. I may dislike wearing masks, but I can wear one while doing my grocery shopping. I may not like staying socially distanced or not giving hugs, but I can do what’s needed one encounter at a time. I can get a vaccine, not just to protect me, but those I care about as well. I can wash my hands and use hand sanitizer. Doing so will not make the pandemic go away, but it makes dealing with the present threats easier. By living one day at a time, by focusing on the positives of now, by intentionally finding things for which to be grateful, I can make sense of today’s challenges and grow into my better self.
To be truthful, I actually appreciated the way Covid19 forced all of us to slow down. I see real advantages to doing and going less, giving our planet some breathing space. For the first time in my life I’ve had a good excuse for not going places or attending church. While I much prefer face to face meetings and dislike zoom services, there is still something freeing about drinking coffee and working on a quilt while attending church. Yet, as much as I may miss the slower pace of this past year, I’m still worrying about what lies ahead as the pandemic still defines what we do and where we go.
Returning to the school board meetings, I suspect negativity is motivated by fear. Living in transition is never easy. Even the most adaptable of us longs for the predictable, yet we had no more idea what tomorrow might bring pre-pandemic than we do now. Living one day at a time does not prevent us from planning for tomorrow or the future. The trick is not becoming invested in outcomes. Things went well at our granddaughter’s wedding last weekend as it was an outdoor wedding, and it thankfully did not rain. Just as trusted in good weather and planned accordingly, we now have to trust that we will not get sick and plan accordingly since those of us who chose to attend did so aware many of the guests were not vaccinated or wore masks.
Given the current resistance to vaccines and preventative measures, we may never be free of Covid19 and its many evolving variants. In fact, we are probably moving from pandemic to endemic, with predictable future surges of infections and deaths all too real. That leaves us looking for ways to process our fears and losses. And while many are turning to the internet with its chaotic and confusing mishmash of misinformation and conspiracy theories, we’d do much better if we simply chose to live one day, one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Longing for a time that never was or ever will be, leaves us frustrated and fearful. Yet, by living one day at a time, one moment at a time, we will not only be able to cope with each day’s challenges, we can move with confidence into a future that is yet to be.