Reflections at the Start of (Still in Pandemic) Springtime

As I write this, the beginning of Spring is evident all around us – the days are longer and brighter, the birds are singing, trees and flowers are blooming, and more and more people are enjoying the outdoors. Cultures around the world are celebrating – Easter, Passover, Holi, Nowruz, and many other festivals include the particular teachings and traditions of people of different faiths, marking the cycles of the year and the seasons. Also as I write this, the growing deployment of COVID-19 vaccines is providing hope to so many that the end of our prolonged time of isolation, fear, and grief is in sight. Families and friends are beginning to see each other in person again, and many have been able to finally feel the joy of a hug from loved ones long missed. Children are beginning to return to school, and other gatherings have either begun or are in view.

Yet, we all collectively have now experienced over a year in conditions few could even have imagined. The beginning of “pandemic life” was marked by shock, fear, and uncertainty that no amount of stockpiled toilet paper or homemade sourdough could alleviate. Over time, this way of life has in some ways brought out remarkable acts of heroism large and small – the health care workers in overcrowded hospitals, the scientists who developed treatments and vaccines in record time, the grocery clerks and delivery drivers who supply our needs, the teachers and performers who rapidly adapted to providing remote services to keep us educated and entertained, and the parents who somehow have managed to care for children full-time while also maintaining home and work. At the same time, this past year has revealed some of the most deep-seated, intransigent problems of our society and its people. Perhaps because of our inability to turn to the usual distractions, or because the insecurity of this pandemic has stripped away many of our defenses, we are now forced to face and reckon with the inequity, division, bias, distrust, injustice, and anger that previously were better hidden.

As a psychotherapist, I frequently work with my clients on replacing “either/or” with “both/and,” as a way of understanding and accepting that people and societies are complex, and often contradictory. Understanding, and even embracing, these complexities are a necessary component of healing and progress. I was reminded of this during my own family’s (small, socially distanced, COVID-safe) Passover Seder this past weekend. While we celebrate the miracles and gifts of freedom, we also acknowledge the suffering of others both past and present, and use this time to renew our commitment to fight the injustices of today and in the future. Gratitude and resolution, grief and hope, joy and anger. As we move into springtime and see the beginning of the end of the pandemic in sight, let us embrace and experience all the seemingly conflictual emotions we have, and let us use them to envision and work toward a future that can be brighter for all of us.

Marcia Mofson, Ph.D.