COVID-19 INTO ITS 2nd YEAR

The world is well into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far the toilet paper and pasta seem to be holding up well.

I recall reading, sometime at the end of February – about a virus alert in Italy. Alarmingly large numbers of people were becoming infected by a severe respiratory virus and the number of deaths was also alarming. I recall distinctly reading that an entire region had been closed/locked down and then the surprise (a few days later) of reading that the entire country of Italy had closed its borders (internally and externally).

That was 9 March 2020. Italy was the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe – and back then we were talking about 9,000 cases of infection and around 450 recorded deaths.

around 6 weeks later COVID-19 had escalated in Germany (where I live) and at the end of April, the compulsory wearing of masks was introduced (in shops and on public transport). This gave a graphic, tangible ‘face’ to the invisible threat of infection – COVID-19 was here and apparently not going away any time soon.

I started a full-time training (as a participant) in May 2020 – which would run until the end of August. Our group was the first to be able to meet in person in 2020. The previous groups had had to switch to a virtual form.

There were 14 of us – and the COVID-19 measures included a specific distance between tables, heightened levels of hygiene, and certain group activities that had to be modified. For a while, the cafés and shops around were open and accessible without masks. That quickly changed to open but with masks.

My wife switched to full-time home office as her company embraced the requirement to limit/restrict/stop use of the offices.

2020 was a surreal year – but for me personally a fantastic year of personal growth and reorientation.

I had entered last year coming out of a major crisis – with stress on major – involving a complete mental breakdown. By the time the pandemic really kicked in (in April) I had been able (with excellent support from medical specialists and my family) to not only stabilize but enact a major healing program. Including the 6 months full-time course I mentioned. I had my last alcoholic drink on 15 December 2019. A commitment to abstinence was also a fundamental element in my healing program. Therapy too.

Life, in 2020, was very different to the previous year – not only because of COVID-19 – but also because I wasn’t spending each day in a personal crisis, gradually yet inexorably in the grips of a worsening addiction and depression. Covid-19, for me personally, was not a big deal compared to the personal crisis of 2019 in the shape of depression and alcohol dependency.

It’s difficult for me to imagine how 2020 would have been had I not entered the pandemic without having emerged from a breakdown. If I had been a happy camper, employed in a job I loved and free of depression and addiction. I can totally imagine how frustrating the experience would have / could have proven. Cut off from daily – ‘real’ contact with my colleagues and customers. Quite possibly seeing my business suffer and decline because of the measures taken to combat the pandemic. I can imagine this could well have nudged me in the direction of negativity – quite possibly increased consumption of alcohol and a loss of structure and routine. None of which would have been good for my relationship with my wife and son (who lives at home with us). I can imagine how if I were single – the increasing restrictions created by the pandemic – would have chipped away at my peace and contentment, undermined a feeling I was in touch with others, with community – and with myself. I can imagine being single in the pandemic brings with it its own challenges. If I had elderly parents who I couldn’t visit – that would also be horrible.

It’s not difficult to feel compassion for others – dealing with and suffering because of the effects of the pandemic – emotionally, mentally, existentially. Performing artists – tens of thousands of them – not able to do what their love and passion drove them to do – perform: music, plays, using their voice to earn money and entertain their audience. It’s a profession where only a few get to achieve ‘security’ financially and where the level of self-employment and freelancing is high. Covid-19 hit that insecurity out of the ballpark of uncertainty and insecurity. And there was no end in sight.

In the pandemic ‘big picture’ I have asked myself a couple of questions:

Is this a pandemic? Are we experiencing a pandemic – with COVID-19.

It’s a definition easily checked and for me – the answer is yes – this is a pandemic.

I asked myself to check a few times and from several sources what the scale of infection and death looked like. So I looked at the top 10 countries on several sites:

The deaths so far – as a result of COVID-19

US – 580,00 people
BRAZIL – 380,000 people
MEXICO – 200,000 people
INDIA – 185,000 people
UK – 120,000 people
ITALY – 110,000 people
FRANCE – 100,00 people
RUSSIA – 100,000 people
GERMANY – 80,000 people
SPAIN – 75,000 people
IRAN – 65,000 people
SOUTH AFRICA – 50,000 people

I took the lowest figures and made them lower.

The total global death figure is 3 million.

A pandemic means infection. Infection automatically raises the question – how do we a) combat it / decrease its spread and b) find a cure/vaccine

(I am unwilling to accept a word from anyone denying there is a pandemic)

Once it’s agreed there is a pandemic and the seriousness of the challenge is accepted – then the narrative is about what can be done.

For me, wearing a mask in shops, on public transport and in congested public spaces is a no-brainer.

The heightened level of hygiene makes sense too.

Reducing physical contact makes sense – during a period of rising infection rates. But clearly, to what extent is the big question. So we have the debate about total lockdown, lockdown lite, no lockdown, etc.

I am all for changes of perspective. To unlock new thoughts and ideas. What if, for example, we re-opened all the restaurants, bars, and cafés? From Monday 31 May. What if we also reopened all cinemas and theatres from Monday 31 May?

That gives us (remember I am German and living in Germany) a full 4 weeks to get ready for the ‘return to normal’. Then let’s monitor the situation and in say, in September, see if things are looking good – the rate of infection has declined massively – a huge number of people have received their vaccination and fingers-crossed – 2020 and the first months of 2021 will begin to just feel like a bad dream.

If that doesn’t play out that way- if there are continued serious levels of infection if the death rates are also alarming – no one will be held to account or penalized – least of all the government – because the counter-pandemic measures are intolerable and driving people crazy and ruining the economy (the cure is worse than the disease scenario).

I guess millions of people would go along with that idea.

I look forward to spontaneously going into a shop again (without a mask). I look forward to the non-compulsory wearing of mask times, I look forward to planning a holiday and going to another country. I look forward to a decline of the uncertainties created by the pandemic. I look forward to going to museums without a mask and to hearing live music and going to the ballet and theatre. I didn’t go that often but enjoyed the opportunity and I genuinely love and welcome the prospect for all the performing artists in Germany to be able to earn a living and do what they are passionate about doing. I look forward to going to restaurants again and appreciate and admire all my favourite bars, cafés, and restaurants.
I look forward to people I know being freed from the stress, fear, and uncertainty created by these pandemic times. I look forward to them returning to working patterns and social patterns they so much enjoyed before the pandemic.

I’m not so much interested in a ‘return to normal’ even a ‘new normal’ – because that feels like most everything was okay before the pandemic. That’s not the way I see it. The scale of unsustainable consumption, the scale of decadence, the scale of greed, the scale of environmental destruction … all that stuff was very much a part of the pre-pandemic world and so I am not thrilled by the idea that not having to wear a mask, being able to take a flight whenever and to wherever I want, regaining access to cheap tourism, a reboot of the gig economy – that all of this and more makes life wonderfully normal and nice again. But that’s just me.

One of the fundamentals I learned through my personal crisis and the healing aftermath is that an equilibrium will appear if I allow it to. If I lose balance that’s okay, I just have to stay as calm as possible, and the balance will be felt again. When I am smitten with terribly dark thoughts the thing is to ride it out – those thoughts won’t stay. What is with me when the equilibrium is felt and the dark thoughts are gone is up to me. I cherish having this choice.

To anyone who has read this, I wish you good health and love.

May your equilibrium and good spirits serve you well and afford you the treasures of choice.

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