This blog features reflections on current affairs through the lens of my Quaker faith and practice and offers not only analysis but a perspective on hope, renewal, and reconciliation - a “lift”, as I call it - during these stressful, chaotic times.
I find this post-Covid season awkward. Being "awkward,” of course, isn’t all that bad. Among its definitions the simple one is “ill at ease.” It’s a little like going from the neighborhood grade school into the larger, consolidated middle school. You see old friends, but they have grown and changed and the new structure and unfamiliar culture of middle school demands adaptive attentiveness to change. A new setting provides both the possibility for new friendships and new challenges, but as we wade into a place both familiar and yet a strange and unknown, we can just feel somehow awkward. So it seems to me right now as I/we emerge from the past two and a half months of being engaged in an often alien Covid lockdown reality.
Maybe many of you don’t experience the post-Covid world this way. Perhaps you didn’t find transitioning from the lockdown and masking and health anxieties (not to mention the politics in the past year and a half) as unsettling as I do, but I suspect you share some of my apprehensions and tentativeness.
For me personally the whole transition process was accentuated these past two weeks when Cathy and I traveled to New England for a family a reunion with loved ones we hadn’t seen in over two years (or ever before in person, counting the baby!). Although we had maintained steady and mutually rewarding Zoom contacts with everyone, actually holding our ten month old granddaughter for the first time, and never quite adjusting to pubescent voice, attitudes and body changes of our "tweens" needed a lot of reorientation, especially amidst the swirl of meals, games, and family group dynamics in contrast to our accustomed insular lives. And, of course, our family was also reorienting to us as well as they observed my aging process of often hesitant steps and shaky balance.
And then when I returned home and went out shopping here I was suddenly aware how many fewer people wore masks, and I just didn’t feel all that comfortable after so many months of masked faces and societal health anxieties.
But like the transition from grade school to a middle school culture, I am expecting continuing moments of both grace and awkwardness. The grace primarily comes from recognizing and embracing our opportunity to adapt and successfully adjust to new circumstances.
On the other hand the continuing awkwardness of any major transition, whether in our personal maturation or societal, is that we must learn to cope with being “ill at ease.” In the case of post-Covid transitioning, we are still dealing with all the aspects of the lockdown. We mostly feel able to unmask ourselves, assuming a cumulative vaxed community, even as we warily wonder who among us refuse get the vax; we mostly feel safe from the perceived threat of severe illness, although the news of a new Delta virus continues to make us vigilant; we wonder what ongoing impact the lockdown has had on our children and families; we have little assurance the divisive politics can be overcome; and we well recognize the ongoing challenges to our environmental and economic security.
Perhaps the “new normal” is a state of continued awkwardness, of being “ill at ease” with life. If this is so, we will need to develop new spiritual and emotional coping practices that buffer the ongoing anxieties we will face. We will need to continue cultivate acts of kindness and nonviolence. I understand that somewhere around half Americans now practice some form of meditation, and that is certainly a start. I personally practice a prayer life that is deeply grateful for the blessings I have while also accepting the limitations of what I can know about the complexities of life and the future. And I am learning to trust in the ultimate redemptive power of Love and Truth, two powerful synonyms for the name of God.
Blessings to all of us as we continue to “awkwardly" adapt and cope with our precious lives.