What if this is the new normal?

Something I’d like more of, regardless of the pandemic: the interestingly-named Hooker’s Evening Primrose. It blooms in the morning and is native to California.

Last week a friend told me she’d decided to go ahead with a necessary but non-urgent surgery. She’d been putting it off because of the pandemic – but now? Better not to wait. “Covid is going to be with us for around two years,” she said, as if it were common knowledge. 

I felt as if someone had punched me lightly in the stomach. Two years? 

These past few months I’ve been living moment to moment, day to day or at most week to week. I think that’s true for a lot of us in the US, and no surprise: our country doesn’t have a plan for schools or employment over the next six weeks, let alone two years. 

But when I talk to colleagues or friends outside the country, I realize their perspective is different. From London to Sydney to Paris to Tel Aviv to Tokyo, they seem to be past talking about next month. They are looking further out – and that’s what I was hearing from my non-American, not-US-based friend. 

Two years? We might be lucky if it’s only two years.  

Two years, however, is a manageable amount of time to think about. It’s half of a traditional four-year college, or enough time for a baby to learn to walk. It’s not so much time that it can’t be imagined. 

This leads to the question: 

If things are going to be pretty much like this for two years – and setting aside the unnerving possibilities of (even more) civil or political unrest, syndemics (a word I just learned, which does not bode well), global warming, and widespread recession and unemployment – a lot to set aside, I know, but bear with me – 

If life is going to be like this for two years, what do I want to be true at the end of that? How do I want to be? What do I want to have done? Where do I want to focus? 

And is it better to think in those terms, or go back to day-to-day? 

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