Last March, when the world shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic began to ramp up, the reality of being forced to stay at home didn’t disturb me. My more extroverted children and friends were not coping well. I, however, just pulled on my “Social Distancing Expert” T-shirt and hunkered down. They longed for connection with people. Me? I had all the people I needed locked down here in our house with me. I was doing just fine.
I tried to understand and sympathize with people as they struggled. I tried to help them find ways to adjust and to open their eyes to the many benefits of introversion. I used the time to cook and bake all the recipes I had saved to Pinterest. I read the stack of books that had sat collecting dust, and I even played—not very well—video games with my kids. I reveled in the fact that I no longer had a commute to work and was able to just hop out of bed and head to my computer.
Yes, it was great . . . until it wasn’t.
People Need People
As the quarantine began to drag on, though, I got tired of cooking, reading, and playing games. I started to miss the everyday interactions with people that I had obviously taken for granted. I missed seeing my dad in person instead of on a Zoom call from the nursing home, and I wanted to spend time with my in-laws. I missed going out to lunch with my friends. I wanted to walk next door to my coworker’s office to ask a question rather than set up a virtual meeting. I got tired of watching Mass on the computer. But most of all, I longed for human contact. Basically, I just wanted a hug.
In short, I hit what they are now calling “the pandemic wall.” The phrase was popularized by New York Public Radio host Tanzina Vega after she posted on Twitter: “Lots of people—including me—are hitting what I’m calling the pandemic wall this week. The burnout from working nonstop, no break from news, childcare, and isolation is hard. It’s OK not to be OK right now. I think we need to accept that.”
I began to realize that, even though I prefer to spend time alone, we are all wired for human connections and community. Suddenly, I got why this was so difficult for those who need that connection on a more regular basis than I do.
It is also why I was diligent about following the instructions laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and insisted that my kids do the same. I knew that doing so would bring us back into communion with those we hold dear. The sooner the better, I thought.
Moving Toward Easter
As I was traveling the season of Lent, I was struck by the similarities of what was happening in my faith life and what was going on in the world around me. During Lent, we travel the 40 days of sacrifice, not unlike what we have done for the past year by following safety protocols. We endure the darkness of Holy Week, but then look toward the hope of the Resurrection.
On a broader scale, we are traveling the same type of journey with this pandemic—we’ve just been doing it for much longer than 40 days. We have walked in the darkness of illness, separation, and the shadow of the pandemic wall. We have suffered watching loved ones die. And now we are beginning to see the light in the promise of vaccines.
In the meantime, we lean on each other—not literally because of social distancing— knowing that there is hope on the way.