Oh, Change, what a cruel taskmaster you are!
Advice columnist Carolyn Hax fielded a question today from a reader feeling anxiety about returning to life as it was.
This COVID-19 pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving. First, we’re anxious about the world shutting down. Now we’re anxious about the world opening back up.
Change is hard. As usual, Carolyn Hax offered a nuanced answer. One of her suggestions was that “this year may have taught you a way to live that suits you better, and if so, that’s great. Preserve as much of that as you can.”
That thought reminded me of the year I resolved to eschew retail shopping. For a whole year about a decade ago, I stayed out of all retail stores except supermarkets, drugstores and pet supply warehouses. I avoided bricks-and-mortar retail outlets and purchased as much as I could online; in caveman terms, I was hunting and killing rather than wandering and gathering.
I proved my theory that the more I shopped, the more I wanted (and therefore, bought). Except for trying on shoes and browsing bookstores, I discovered I didn’t miss in-person shopping all that much. When the year was over, I went shopping a lot less often and I was therefore less tempted to buy things I didn’t need. I learned a way to live that suited me better, and I preserved it.
This year, I even knocked back grocery shopping. With online ordering and curbside delivery, I managed to stay out of even supermarkets.
Back to the anxious reader. Her missive got me thinking about my pandemic experience. I’m firmly on the side of longing for “back to normal” though for me, “normal” means working from home and actively avoiding stranger’s hugs, so not much changed there. Still, I long to enjoy a church service or a baseball game or a musical performance in a crowd of like-minded fans. I really hate how my mask fogs up my glasses, and I’m sick of take-out and socially distanced restaurants. In those arenas, I could use some normal.
Still, the world has changed and “back” to normal may never come. People died, vaccines have become the stuff of social currency and never again will we be able to say, “oh, society couldn’t possibly shut down in a day.” Oh, yes, it could.
When change is hard, I remind myself change is constant.