COVID-19 fatigue is now a part of our lexicon. Some show their weariness by asserting the whole coronavirus thing is overblown and presents no real threat, if not an outright hoax. For others, it means going out without a mask or sneaking into a hairdresser.
For me, the biggest temptation is whether to visit and hug those I love and miss. No one should have to make such a Sophie’s Choice: Stay away from the people we love or risk infecting them with a potentially fatal virus.
At a time we need others most, the sagest advice is to settle for phone contact, visit through a window on the balcony or not see them at all. Many of us have elderly parents or other relatives who are scared, isolated and in desperate need of human comfort. The configurations are endless and poignant. I have friends who have begun new relationships, feel a deep connection yet live in separate homes so face-to-face contact may endanger not only their lover but the families they live with as well.
I don’t know anyone who is navigating this with an abiding belief the decisions they are making are sound. Our lives have become a series of trade-offs. Take a risk or feel even more alone during the worst pandemic of our lives.
Human touch is among the most sustaining and vital of all interactions. Undergraduate psychology majors learn what happens to monkeys in experiments and humans in orphanages who are not cuddled, spoken to or touched. Their minds and souls atrophy; many never normalize.
The advice we get is too often conflicting. It’s OK to go out; no, it’s best to stay indoors. Maybe it’s permissible to socialize in small groups or bubbles?
I don’t fault the scientists; they were the first to identify this as a novel virus, meaning just that — it’s unique. No one knows what to expect and predictions are prefaced with phrases like, “Our best guess at this point is…”
So, when I say it feels like our lives are a series of trade-offs, it means we have to take some risks but hope to God the ones we choose don’t bring harm to ourselves or those we love. The physicians and nurses we see on TV speak about the eeriness of denying their patients visitors, knowing many will die afraid and alone. The professionals don’t want to risk infecting the families of their patients with the virus, so they make the heart-wrenching decision to advise saying goodbye through a FaceTime chat. Then they go home, disrobe in the garage, put their hospital clothes in a washer outside and when they enter their homes, try to keep their spouses and kids as distant as possible.
I notice that I have become less judgmental and harsh with the personal decisions of others. Sure, if someone is just being selfish and intentionally disregarding the wishes of others, it’s hard not to loathe the self-serving behavior. But for those who choose to visit a loved one, hug a relative at a funeral or begin a romance, it’s hard not to have compassion and understand.