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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: The Bends

Tommy Tomlinson

A lot of these last two months has felt like time spent underwater. But this is the point where we’re in danger of getting the bends.

Some of us in North Carolina started venturing out this past weekend as the state lifted some restrictions on the stay-at-home orders. Most malls and retail stores that choose to be open are open now, even though there are rules on how many people can be in a store at one time. State parks and trails are also open.

So we have more freedom to roam and shop than we’ve had since back in March. The question is, can we balance that freedom with responsibility?

Because we’re still nowhere near solving the coronavirus. We’re still short of the expected peak in cases in our state. And a lot of us are still not practicing even the most basic methods of stopping the virus, like wearing masks in public, or staying six feet apart.

These simple steps, among some twisted minds, have become a symbol for tyranny and weakness. Those folks aren’t part of the conversation the grownups are having.

For the rest of us, it’s not a war over the soul of the republic. It’s a battle with longing and habit.

In my family, we’ve decided to stay in a while longer. We’re lucky because we have jobs where we can work from home. We’re also worried that a spike in cases will overwhelm any benefits to the economy.

But the hardest thing for any adult to do is to change a lifetime of habit. We’ve built routines for years around going out to eat, going to the movies, buying tickets to ballgames and concerts, sitting in the same pew at church on Sunday, just gathering in the backyard with friends. I’m tired of breaking those habits. I suspect you are, too.

The success we have in tamping down the virus over these next few weeks probably depends on how much longer we can keep from doing things we really, really want to do.

The problem is not so much the virus. The problem is our own human nature.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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