Sarah is also my first cousin thrice removed but on the other side of my family. Like Dóra, Sarah found me (actually, it was her husband Jason who was brave enough to call) when doing genealogical research. Both these young women, in their thirties, mothers of young children, have a deep commitment to unearthing and understanding our family history and the impact the Holocaust continues to have on us.
Sarah kindly gave me permission to reprint this post from her blog, Writing Light in Dark Corners. I always appreciate her “Musings on life, politics, religion, motherhood and anything else that animates my soul.”
4 – 6 weeks
by Sarah Doeppner Snow, Fairfax County, Virginia
Now that many of us have been in this quarantine for over a month, I feel a shift in the way we’re operating. It’s not the best shift. The grace and forgiveness that flooded our veins in the beginning of this, when we were all figuring out our “new normal,” has started to subside. I’m not saying people are being less helpful or kind, but we’re ramping up our expectations of normalcy. We are sure that it’s time for things to be OK (whether or not they indeed are).
Some of this is evidenced by states and localities who are planning to open up despite evidence that this is unwise. Some of this I see in work places when folks are now expected to go back to their usual workload (or be able to increase it), as if now is the time when we should have this work-from-home thing figured out. (Thank God not my work place, but I have friends who are back to the grind times ten!) Some of this I see in ourselves, where before we said, “It’s OK, I can be gentle with myself in this time,” we are now saying, “Well, I really should have this figured out by now, why am I so stupid?”
I don’t know what the science or sociology is behind all of this, but I suspect that there is something empirical about 4 – 6 weeks as the amount of time humans expect to adjust and be back in business. After 4 – 6 weeks, no matter what is actually happening, something in our brain says, “This should feel normal now, all unrealistic expectations are invited to return!”
We’re at that mark, when folks are antsy. What was good-enough is now not. What was reasonable is now ridiculous. What was above-expectations is now sub-par. But here’s the problem: just like a mother in week 6 postpartum, a time when women are often expected to be ready to rejoin the work force, we’re not fully adjusted. We’re not fully healed.
Also, I don’t think we’re ever supposed to be fully adjusted to a pandemic. Just sayin’.
So instead of being fully adjusted and completely ready to move into this new way of being, we’re actually losing it. We’re less adjusted because what we’ve really been doing is holding our breath. We’ve been holding it as long as we could, still functioning and moving around, but knowing that it was weird. We’ve just all finally broken and taken a collective breath of pandemic, and I think all of us just went “OH Hell no. This cannot be what it is.”
So, we close our eyes and walk off a cliff.
Sorry, no, I mean, we close our eyes and just imagine that it is, in fact, normal. That this is all fine, we are fine, you are fine, it’s FINE. And in order to fuel our collective delusion, we just will normalcy into being. I am now fully functional, and so are you. So help me God, or I have to open my eyes to see the truth.
I believe that there is a new normal in all of this, but we’re not there yet. It’s going to take a little longer, and it’s OK if you are not feeling OK yet. It’s going to take a lot longer than 4 – 6 weeks. We are doing good work; we have made lots of adjustments. Now we need to give ourselves some time to adjust to the adjustments.
It’s OK if this is still hard, or actually, harder.