Remembering to remember
Three years after COVID lockdown, some questions to bridge the distance between then and now
This essay started out relatively light but ended up going deep. I wouldn’t call it tissue-worthy, but I do ask questions that gently prompt you to look back on the last three years. It’s a healing exercise for me, but if you’re not in the mood, I totally get it. Just skip it and check out this funny text from my son instead. — Asha
The three-year anniversary of COVID lockdown passed this week and I almost didn’t notice. It took a news article to wake me to the memory of it.
I suppose that’s good, because it means my thoughts are no longer dominated by the pandemic. I still wear my mask but it’s not a big deal. I’m back at gatherings; I’m making overseas travel plans. I’m almost ready to dine indoors at a restaurant. The days are longer! Crocuses are blooming! There’s a tingle of adventure and possibility in the air!
But I wouldn’t say I’ve “moved on.”
This “post-pandemic” moment has all the signs and signals of normalcy, but it doesn’t quite feel normal.
And I’m not even talking new normal. It’s as if someone sneaked into my living room and swapped the furniture out with exact replicas. I can still flop down on the metaphorical sofa, but it feels…different.
My mood has brightened, but I continue to struggle with focus, especially while writing. Writing was never effortless, but I have to work harder than ever to settle into the words.
Even weirder: lingering social hesitancy. This is totally unlike me. I’m most myself in conversation, but when I see an acquaintance walking toward me I have to resist the urge to duck behind a bush. This, after craving connection for years! What the hell?!
I’m trying not to take any of this too seriously. I figure I’m still finding my post-pandemic sea legs and the unease is temporary. My big strategy is to be kind to myself and just keep going. Keep stumbling back to habits that nourish me even as I rebel against them (or forget about them altogether), and begin again. I’ll see where I am in a month or two and course-correct if necessary.
Do you feel a sense of surreality, too? Are you chafing against the cultural pressure to stop talking/thinking about the pandemic already?
If no, that’s wonderful! I’m sincerely happy for you. Most of my friends are farther along in their reentries, too.
But if yes, I just want you to know you’re not alone.
I have a terrible memory, so anniversaries and milestones help me locate myself in time.
This lockdown anniversary, in particular, helped me remember not just in my head but in my bones how far we’ve come.
I needed a reminder that grocery shopping is no longer terrifying, and I can hug my Mom now, and yell at a football game, and watch my son graduate from college, and not worry too much when my daughter goes overseas on a cultural leadership tour. Remembering this gives me a shot of joy.
What do you relish doing now that you couldn’t three years ago?
I don’t want to forget even though remembering means revisiting what was lost.
In the last three years I’ve become intimately familiar with grief. I used to think of grief as my enemy, but now it’s a quiet companion whose shadow lends dimension in ways I couldn’t have imagined (and wouldn’t have believed).
I’ve learned that letting go of my losses doesn’t mean I have to leave them behind.
How might you honor your losses? What might that look like for you?
Our parenting cohort will always be connected by this pandemic, no matter how different our experiences. Our young adults are moving out into the world at this particular moment in history. So are we. As a result, our approach to our empty nests is different than for parents who preceded us, and for those who will follow. I want to remember that connection.
Remembering helps us do more than move on. Remembering helps us heal.
This is Parent of Adults by Asha Dornfest, a newsletter & community about life after the kids grow up. Weekly posts are free — subscribe now to get them in your inbox: