Here in the Bay Area, as for most of the state of California, we’re back under strict guidelines and new shelter-in-place orders. Cases are on the rise, hospitals are filling up, and while San Francisco is doing relatively well by comparison, we’re closing up again to prevent things from getting worse.
I tend to agree with taking strong measures, and see how our cases have stayed lower than so many other states who aren’t being as strict. I haven’t been eating out—the number of times Josh and I have actually sat at an outdoor table at a restaurant instead of getting takeout is very low—or getting together with groups or traveling.
That is to say, my life won’t drastically change under these expanded lockdown orders.
But, even for me, this sucks. The stress of rising cases and continued rules is real. I have compassion for families with kids who had paired up to allow playdates and some human interaction in the era of online school. I have compassion for the businesses that have to re-close after a few months of some relief. I have compassion for healthcare workers and teachers and parents and caretakers and everyone who is internalizing the weight of more lockdown, more uncertainty, more anxiety.
Where I struggle mightily with compassion is when I hear about throngs of people lining up for outdoor tables that are packed together, when I hear about “creative” interpretations of rules, when the same people who are relaxed about guidelines say “show me the science” about public health decisions.
Even for us rule-followers, there is obedience fatigue. I don’t want to do any of this. I will. But how much longer can I put up with it? And if I’m getting exhausted, anyone who isn’t motivated by rules is going to be absolutely at wit’s end.
I try so hard to keep that in mind. But I’m exhausted.
I wish we could bond over the fact that we’re all exhausted rather than bond over being angry at the rules. I wish we could bond over our collective grief rather than eschewing safety. I wish we could build each other up and share our struggles rather than share our ideas for finding loopholes.
Every other week, my work team and extended unit meet. There are about a dozen of us, some of whom report to me, all of whom work closely together on a daily basis. The format of the meeting is to have one person present, and then we go around the Zoom squares and give brief updates on what we’re working on. The presentations range from work tools to trivia to hobbies. This week, a colleague shared what has been helping them through the pandemic. They shared their own struggles with being isolated, with motivation, with anxiety. I, for one, was nearly in tears watching everyone nod and say, “Me too.” Most of us could share a story of needing to reach out for help, of feeling unable to be productive, of feeling lost and unsure. I felt incredibly grateful to work with a group of people who are so willing to be fully human with each other, something this pandemic has allowed us to be.
Instead of railing against the rules or state of affairs, we shared our personal struggles, and that brought us closer together.
It was a reminder that we’re all human, not robots designed to work. We’re all dealing with anxiety—some of us since pre-pandemic and some newly wondering what to do. We can help each other not by trying to find solutions but by first acknowledging how we’re feeling, then by sharing how we’re trying to cope.
I wish we could all find at least one person to share our struggles with in a safe place where the focus isn’t on solving a problem but on sitting with just how fucking hard all of this is.
If you need someone, please reach out to me.