For nearly a year now, the pandemic has been on my mind in one way or another. I've lived with it, worked through it, learned to function in its context. It's not over yet; according to many, it's far from over. Throughout this time, I've gone from pessimism to optimism, and from fearful thoughts to happy ones. Here is an attempt to verbalize and give shape to some of the bad voices - and to provide each one with a positive antidote. These are in no particular order. Your mileage will vary.
1. What if Covid never goes away? (Then we will adapt)
Much of my strength lately, and much of my determination, came from believing that the lockdown and the pandemic would be over one day - that there's a kind of "normal" to return to once this is over. What if this belief is unfounded, though? What if there will always be a virus from now on?
The answer must be adaptation. I think we must have done this so many times before, as a species - and other parts of the living world are doing this all the time. We will find a way to keep living our life and keep chasing happiness. Somehow or other, we will work around the virus, even if it decides never to leave us.
2. What if the virus messes me up? (Statistically, age and health are on my side)
The main reason for me to be anxious about the virus is how it's reported to work - which is, super chaotically and unpredictably. Every case seems to be different, and equally baffling. If I catch it, who's to say what will happen?
The most comforting answer I can give myself here is that I'm still quite young, and comparatively healthy. This gives me a greater chance of going through the virus relatively unharmed, and of restoring full health later. I've taken care of myself before, so I'm in a better position to recover from any sickness.
3. What if my dear ones get it? (Then I will take care of them)
This it perhaps the greatest worry I have. Some people in my life should definitely not get Covid, and it would be more dangerous for them to come down with the virus. We were super cautious this past year, mainly because of this fact. So what happens if they catch it in the end?
It's a worry. And it's been a bad thought for almost a year. We did what we could to prepare for it, and we're in an OK position to deal with it when it comes. But there is nothing more we can do by worrying about it beforehand; if the virus appears, we will deal with it then - drop everything and start fighting it. I will then take care of my folks. Until then, there is no point in worrying about it any more.
4. What if the pandemic messes up the economy? (These things come and go in cycles, anyway)
Being in a recession sucks. Knowing that everyone around you is fighting economic monsters as well as health-related ones - sucks even more. Having to find a job when it's scary out there - also sucks.
But none of this is new. I'm old enough to have gone through several good and bad years - old enough to have lost and found a job several times. Economy isn't a magical creature and it seems to work in cycles, and this is one phase of it. It's always been good or bad, so it's probably best to ride it out and do what I can. And there's more of what I can do each year.
5. What if this situation messes with my brain? (Then I will seek help, and re-wire what needs changing)
I know burnout is real. And I know I'm worn down by the winter. Sitting by the kitchen window for hours on end, worrying and sighing - this has been happening a lot more, lately. I'm not OK. What if this is just a start? What if the not-OK-ness deepens?
With this, I'm grateful for others in my life who can spot the warning signs and check in with me. I am also happy to see myself looking for help, and I've done so in the past. So if this becomes a problem, I will resort to tools which I know I can use. This post is actually one of them, and there's more - many of them tried, tested, and free.
6. What if this country never recovers from it all? (Then I will adapt, or build my home elsewhere)
The UK has Covid and Brexit to worry about now. And a government which is only good at messing up and lying about everything it touches. As a result, this is a country which now gets hit by a double whammy, and its citizens are told to look for a scapegoat.
But again, this has all happened before. The scapegoat strategy wasn't invented overnight. The recessions and downturns have made the UK poor in the past. And the mentality which pisses me off - well, this has always been here, too. There is plenty of space for me to keep doing my thing, still. And plenty of chances to seek new ways of being happy. If this no longer feels possible, or good, or safe - then I can go somewhere else, as I've not got too many things holding me back.
7. What if it's no longer possible to stay in touch with my friends? (Then I will find ways of meeting new ones)
This one is actually something I will need to work on. In the middle of this pandemic, I've changed jobs - which meant that a lot of my social contacts, already eroded by not going into the office, simply disappeared. Add to this the fact that my other folks were connected to doing face-to-face things (board and card games, sports, hikes and walks, book clubs) - and I got myself a loneliness problem.
So out of all this, I think this one is actually the first concern I can think of as needing action. I have already done a few things, and will probably need to do some more. I am an introvert, so this doesn't come easy. And meeting anyone via Zoom just feels like more work these days. But this is what I definitely need to do, also to help several points above.
8. What if I can't do sports any more? (I will always be able to do them, in one way or another)
My triathlon races all got cancelled last year, obviously. This made me unhappy, and made training a bit less motivating. There is still a worry in my head - what if this will always be affected?
But at the same time, I know I'm lucky to have picked an individual sport. Team games are probably finding it much harder to go ahead, and I know some of my friends lost a huge chunk of their social life this way. For something I can do alone, there will always be a way for me to do it. Running and cycling have actually become more popular lately. Swimming is trickier, but I'm lucky to have access to open water swimming. So I'll be fine - just maybe racing less frequently.
9. What if I can't travel? (Then I will explore at a smaller scale)
I have always enjoyed going to different places and seeing new cultures. This meant that most holidays, I found myself in another place - sometimes traveling to cities I've been to before, just to relax and feel like someone else for a while. My fear about Covid is that it will make these things impossible.
I know this is not fully rational, and that this situation must be temporary. I can see that the world is getting more virus-free thanks to the vaccines. So there is a chance that this will actually be resolved. But even if it isn't, there are still lots of places in this country - in this city, even - which we haven't yet explored. And even walking down a street in our neighbourhood can feel like we're somewhere else. So travel will still happen, just on a smaller scale - until we can go big again.
10. What if Covid was just the beginning? (I will do my part, as best I can)
It's easy to pick up this particular fear from any news outlet you choose. Indeed, it's sometimes hard to stay away from the doom and gloom narrative. The virus, plus global warming, plus the recession, plus violence, and then who-knows-what-else. 2020 truly felt like the most apocalyptic year. Mainly because it was filtered not through lived experiences, but through so many media lenses.
So yes, maybe this is just a small part of a slippery slope. But as with many things above, some of it is in my power to control, and other parts aren't. I will be trying to live the best, greenest, wokest life I can (largely out of spite - it seems to upset more folks around me recently), and do my part. For anything else, I will be trying to stay away from doomscrolling. I still wish for a boring timeline - and I'm sure I can generate one for my own tiny part of the world.