I'm Less Anxious About COVID-19 Now, And Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

by Christine Organ
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Last year at this time, when our school district decided to move to hybrid learning, our family opted to continue with full-time remote learning. Now, a year later, with the case counts in our county nearly double what they were at this time last year, I happily and without much hesitation sent my kids off to full in-person school.

It doesn’t really make sense, does it? Sure, we have more information now than we did a year ago and one of my kids is vaccinated with my younger son to be vaccinated in a few weeks (from my lips to God’s and the FDA’s ears). We know that the risk of community spread in schools is rather low when mitigation efforts, such as mandatory and universal masking, are followed. And 75% of my family is vaccinated. But even with that knowledge, when I think about this logically, none of this makes any sense.

Last year, when the case counts were lower than they are now, I didn’t let my unvaccinated kids hang out with their friends unless it was outdoors. We didn’t dine at restaurants, even outside, and we didn’t gather indoors with small groups of family and friends. Now we do all of these things.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Yes, we are fully vaccinated. So are the people we are spending time with. At least I think they are. I hope they are. They must be, right? Except the kids under 12. Then they aren’t vaccinated. Yet. Make this make sense.

Yes, we have more information now. We know more about what’s safe and what isn’t. For the most part. While there is some logic involved in current decision-making process, I will openly admit that most of it is pandemic fatigue with a splash of trusting my instincts. I’m worn out and beat down. My mind has shut off and is incapable of making logical choices at this point. After living live with some amount of normalcy earlier this summer, the Delta variant and the selfishness of the shockingly large number of willingly unvaccinated folks pushed the door closed on normalcy. But it isn’t as simple as reverting back to our old standards of pandemic living. We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak.

So we’re left in this anxious-numb-illogical way of navigating life right now. It’s a hot mess of confusion and cognitive dissonance, always with our fingers crossed. This would be bad enough if I didn’t have young kids, but for those of us with unvaccinated kids, it becomes an impossible equation to solve.

“Should we let our kid go to a play date with a new friend? Well, let me just check the case rate in this ZIP code and multiply it by the number of pediatric hospitalizations, then subtract the loss of joy and normal socialization my child will undergo by missing out on yet another typical childhood experience,” Jessica Grose wrote in the New York Times.

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I can complete relate to this impossible calculus of every single decision. One of my kids wants to play miniature golf with his friends this afternoon. It sounds about as safe as can be, right? They’ll be outdoors. They are vaccinated. But what about the folks working there and the other customers. Are they vaccinated? It’s anybody’s guess. And I could tell him to wear a mask to make it safer, but c’mon. We all know what would happen as soon as he’s out of my sight.

My husband and I have set a few parameters that guide our decisions, but for the most part, my response to the myriad Covid-related decisions to be made in a day depends on my mood, emotional state, and my gut instinct. None of it makes logical sense.

Even my own emotional response doesn’t make sense. I’ve spent most of the past year consumed by anxiety, and now? Well, I’m shockingly less anxious. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m calm about things, but I’m not nearly as anxious as I was a year ago when case counts were far lower, including for kids. Turns out, I’m not alone in this either.

“I would have predicted that this renewed level of uncertainty would make me more anxious, the way I had felt for most of 2020,” Grose wrote in The New York Times. “But instead I have been pretty numb about it all, bombarded with too many statistics and too many confusing choices to feel anything other than dead inside when confronted with a new decision. It’s like all my old ways of considering risk levels are completely broken.”

I think a lot of us are feeling broken, not just cognitively but emotionally and mentally as well. Our internal wiring is on the fritz. And while this faulty wiring causes some parents to overestimate the actual risks involved, others just shut down because of “psychic numbing.”

All of this can feel like a free fall sometimes. Like we’re on a roller coaster hurtling into some unknown abyss. We think we’re strapped in okay, that we’re being “safe enough,” but we aren’t sure. It feels unsettling, chaotic, and terrifying if we think too much about it. It’s all too much.

To get some sense of control, some semblance of logic perhaps, experts recommend looking to a few trusted experts for advice and using your values as a guide to certain potential decisions. This is helpful, for sure, but right now – for me – the most helpful thing has been knowing that I’m not alone in this “WTF is happening?” sense of confusion right now.

We are deep in the “none of this makes sense” stage of the pandemic, and I suppose just like the “we’re in this together” phase of the early pandemic days, this too shall pass. I don’t trust my own decision-making abilities right now, but I do trust that they will, one day, return. And in the meantime, I’ll rely on the advice of trusted experts and good old fashioned gut instincts.

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