I’ve been having COVID dreams lately.
This didn’t happen to me for the first six or seven months. I often laid awake feeling great anxiety, but I didn’t dream about it.
But I am now. The first time, I dreamed that the church choir I lead all got together on Wednesday night as usual, no masks, and decided to sing. It was wonderful. We just naturally pivoted to “rehearse for Sunday.” And then–still in the dream–I woke up Sunday morning and had a horrible moment where I realized the choir was going to show up at 9:30 and we weren’t actually allowed to sing together.
It sounds silly, but it was really real.
Last night, I dreamed of a gathering of friends hugging each other and sharing food and letting kids run everywhere. Just a totally ordinary get-together. My “color commentator” was shrieking about masks and distancing, but none of us seemed to be aware that we were doing something wrong.
I’m not sure what those dreams mean–most likely nothing more profound than “I miss normalcy.”
I’m also not sure what I’m hoping to accomplish by sharing them here. We’re all suffering. The question is how we deal with it.
We all wish we could rewind time, but we are where we are. We aren’t going back. Moving forward into a new normal is going to require sacrifices none of us like and none of us were prepared for. American culture is built around “more” and “bigger” and “better” and especially RIGHT NOW! We have no practice in self-control or moderation, let alone self-denial. As a Catholic who’s been doing Lent for forty-six years, I have yearly reason to reflect on this cultural deficit. Lest I sound self-righteous, let me be clear: we suck at it, too.
That cultural weakness makes what we’re facing now much more difficult. Few, if any, of us have the emotional tools to handle the current situation in a healthy way, and I think that drives a lot of the angst we see coming from both sides of the should we-shouldn’t we argument. Adjustments are necessary, but which ones? How do we determine when we’re piling unnecessary suffering upon necessary sacrifices? How do we help our kids who are suffering?
These questions require a lot of careful discernment. The easy answers are the extreme ones: on the one hand, indefinite, near-complete isolation; on the other, acting like it isn’t real at all. But neither one of those is correct. Human beings need interaction. But we also can’t act like nothing’s changed, because it has.
This year, we are recognizing something fundamental about being human: touch and interaction. I went to a listening session at church on racial issues a couple weeks ago, and a woman grasped my wrist on her way past. It was such a shock, being touched by someone other than my immediate family. A good shock. But jarring, to realize how something so necessary and foundational has become something we feel we have to avoid.
I have a feeling the trauma of this interlude is going to be with us for a long time to come.