On My Mind: Six Months In

Sep 14, 2020

Six months.

That’s how long it’s been since we all had anything resembling a normal day.

Six months and three days ago, the World Health Organization officially called the COVID-19 virus a pandemic. Six months and two days ago, most American sports leagues canceled or postponed their seasons. Six months and one day ago, President Trump declared the coronavirus to be a national emergency.

And it has been just that. More than 190,000 Americans have died from the virus. That’s more people than died all last year from accidents or Alzheimer’s or diabetes or strokes.

But for most of us – I guess you could call us the lucky ones – the pandemic hasn’t been an emergency as much as it’s been like an endless stay in a hospital waiting room, full of anxiety and fear, a place where you can never get comfortable.

In our house, we still don’t go out to eat. I’ve been to the post office a few times, the barbershop twice, the bookstore once. The furthest we’ve been from home is York County. I look at other people’s vacation photos online and ache with envy. We haven’t figured out how to do that in a way that makes us feel safe.

The father of one of my best friends died from the virus. My brother and my nephew both tested positive, and their wives both got sick even though they tested negative. A few weeks ago, two good friends came over and made supper for us – a surprise gift from my brother-in-law. It felt so good to talk to other human beings, live and in person. But we took our masks off to eat, and kept them off to talk, and for days afterward we worried about every little cough.

And of course we have it so much better than most. We have a roof over our heads and jobs we can do from home. We don’t have kids and so we don’t have to solve the daily Rubik’s Cube of juggling work and child care and kids taking classes on Zoom. My wife’s mom has been living with us, but she’s great company. Her major daily requirement is ice cream.

Take the pandemic, add the moral reckoning churning in the country after the death of George Floyd, and top it off with what feels like the most important election of our lifetimes. That’s a heavy weight for any of us to have to carry. There’s no shame in feeling beaten down and asking for help. But maybe some of us have also learned that we’re stronger than we thought.

How have these six months changed you? I know my wants and needs used to be as big and sprawling as an epic poem. These days they’re just a haiku. I want time around the people I love. A place to do the work that’s meaningful. Somewhere to escape to once in a while and look at the water. Some sweet music late into the night.

These last six months have taken so much from us. Maybe the one thing we can take from it, once the days are bright again, is a sense of what matters.

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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