In her interview with National Public Radio, Christina Koch remarked that one of the psychological strategies that she employed while living at the International Space Station was to imagine what she would miss about living there. It was easy to enumerate what she missed about home, but she would purposely engage in this technique in order to stay in the moment, and not pine for what she didn’t have. Never again would she have a view of the earth from above, the ability to see the aurora from space.
Arriving back to Earth on February 6, 2020, she was just ahead of the pandemic and realized that this same strategy could be used for life under quarantine. Living with eleven people for three hundred twenty eight days put her immediately in the expert category about living in a specified space with a short list of other beings.
As the pandemic and its consequences continue to churn us around like clothes in a washing machine, we are forced to revisit both the limitations and invitations that emanate from this state. Part of the massive challenge is the constant shifting of the rules and people’s interpretation of them. In addition to the worries about catching the virus are the differences between states (geographical ones), and even within ourselves.
With the gradual reopening we have been afforded in Massachusetts, people have very different comfort levels and reactions to the opportunities. Contradictions abound, making it difficult to even assess where on the platform any of us are. One friend was happy to have her teeth cleaned, but declined to see her chiropractor. Another woman was livid when her friends in New Hampshire would not wear masks while in the same vehicle with her, but she was looking forward to picking up her son who lives with other people in another town.
Our priorities surface, intentionally or not. I marched right over to the nail salon to get my toes in presentable condition (for whom? No one sees them on Zoom), but I have not yet returned my dentist’s email, or kind chiropractor’s call. Hoof more important than mouth? No, it’s the level of risk that I evaluate, plus the good fortune of not experiencing any discomfort with either my chompers or spine. When will I return to seeing my care providers? I have an eye appointment next week, and an appointment for my rescheduled physical in a couple of months. I’m thinking I’ll go, but I’m not even positive about that, or exactly what metric I’m waiting for if I don’t.
I have struggled with my compelling desire to return to seeing clients in my psychotherapy office. As grateful as I am for the technology to be able to see people’s whole faces on the screen, I miss the gestures, the shifting, the whole picture. I have enough space to distance in my office, and people can wait in their cars. Yet, I like less the notion of sitting in person while masked, thus have not yet invited people into my space, despite the temptation.
The push/pull of normalcy set into a background of limitation gnaws at us all. We cannot move through the stages of grief so much as revisit them in every order and out of order as new situations arise. The uncertainty and unpredictability drive anxiety, making it challenging to stay even. But now more than ever we can benefit from Christina Koch’s wisdom to consider the quirky, the incidental and the larger life lessons that coexist with the myriad of insults. By bringing a light to our new outdoor projector, by trying out new recipes, family zoom calls or new biking routes, and considering what meaning we can extract from this turbulent time, we can beat back the covid blues.