© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
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: Paying Our Emotional Bills

We have spent this last year with COVID-19 maxing out our emotional limits. And now, finally, it looks like we can begin to pay back that debt to ourselves.

There have been a few times in my life — some for good reason, some not — when I have maxed out my credit cards.

It’s a scary feeling to know that you’re stretched about as far as you can go.

We have spent this last year with COVID-19 maxing out our emotional limits. And now, finally, it looks like we can begin to pay back that debt to ourselves.

President Biden hopes to make everybody in America eligible for a vaccine by May 1, with the hope of people being able to have small gatherings by July 4. If it happens, there will be some serious fireworks — maybe enough to blow us all the way out of the holes we’ve dug for ourselves.

Because we have dug in deep over these past 12 months. We’ve been isolated and depressed, overmedicated or undermedicated. We’ve indulged old, bad habits, neglected showers and shaves. It has been like hibernating, except without the good nights’ sleep.

And of course for some of us the hurt has gone much deeper. There’s no good way to lose someone you love, but it’s especially cruel for it to happen from a virus that punished us for touching and hugging and laughing together.

There are others who survived the virus but still have lingering medical issues. And then there are the rest of us, who have been lucky so far to not get the worst of it. But every single one of us still bears some weight from what the virus has done to our communities, our country, our world.

I wonder whether we’ve all now got a little agoraphobia — the fear of leaving safe places. So many of our normal routines, pre-COVID, now feel dicey. Even when the doctors and scientists give us the all-clear, how long will we still flinch when somebody at the next table coughs? How long will it still feel weird to pass the peace with a stranger at church?

There’s no psychological windfall coming, no way to pay back that debt all at one time. We’re going to have to chip away at it.

Back before everything was digital, when you borrowed money for a house or a car, the bank gave you a payment book with a coupon you sent off with your check every month. The best thing about those was that once you made the last payment, you would have a little ceremony and burn the book.

Paying down our debts from COVID-19 won’t be quite as clear. We won’t know we’re paid in full until we wake up one morning and feel normal again. That day will be different for everybody. But it will feel so good to have burned this particular book.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays 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.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Select Your Email Format

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.