As we emerge from COVID, give space and grace to those around you

By | May 21, 2021

I am guessing you have felt it.

Maybe you have participated or contributed to it.

Exuberant hope

Unmasked optimism

Guiltless travel

After a year of living in fear and isolation, bound and gagged, there is a loosening of the bonds. We struggle and wriggle to get free.

Relaxed restrictions, a return of sports, and indoor dining. Whispers of live music and public swimming pools about to return.

All of it like a fresh breeze on a summer evening, a break from the day’s heat endured.

Enjoy it, brothers and sisters.

I think of a patient I saw yesterday in the clinic, where I am still only seeing about 30 percent of my patients in person. In this case, we got to some deeper things that were going on with the person’s health and in their life. These are the things that are never listed on the “reason for visit” in medicine. As I got up to leave the room, I paused and shared, “I don’t know that we would have dug this deep if this had been a phone visit.” They nodded in agreement.

Take this opportunity to connect with people. That same intentionality that has led us to protect each other over the last year now a chance to connect with one another. There is a lot there under the surface. Fourteen months’ worth of stuff, to be exact.

I also know that this next stage will be hard for many of us. It will be guided by social science and a year of conditioning to be wary and fearful as much it will be guided by the science of COVID prevalence and vaccine rates.

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There was a moment in our running medicine group a week ago where we dealt with very different feelings about getting the group of masked runners and walkers into a bigger circle. There was clearly no consensus to form a larger group, so we kept the circles separate and small. It was not a moment to cite stats on the transmissibility of COVID. It was a chance to listen to each other and do what was most comfortable for everyone present. A week later, the bigger circle formed.

Just as we have done since last March, let’s respect each other’s space in these months ahead. Space to digest a new CDC or state update in very different ways. One might exclaim, “We aren’t ready to do that yet,” while their neighbor exclaims, “It’s about time.” Neither end of the spectrum right or wrong.

Enjoy this stage of the journey.

Connect with others.

Give space and grace to those around you.

Good things lie ahead.

Anthony Fleg is a family physician who blogs at Writing to Heal.

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