As some of you may know, I’ve had more than my share of accidents. In addition to boating accidents and skiing accidents, I’ve been known to walk into walls and signs and through screen doors.
In fact it’s a running joke in my family that I need a keeper. What can I say – I’m an artist and a writer and I tend to live between my ears and not pay a lot of attention to what’s right in front of me.
As a result, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in hospitals and in various forms of PT. So I know whereof I speak when I tell you that recovery isn’t linear.
Recovery isn’t linear. It doesn’t go in a straight line. It’s one step forward and two or three or four steps back. And sometimes you just get stopped in your tracks for what seems like forever.
But change is inevitable so inevitably you will take another step forward. The real question is in which direction.
The temptation is to try to go back to what you were or where you were or what you were doing before everything changed. In the case of my back, that meant running. Nope. Not anymore. And my knee? After brutal surgery to reconstruct what was left and two years of PT, I can ride a bike and cross country ski. But downhill? Nope. And cold, damp weather? The knee’s gonna bark at me.
We’ve all been through it - those events that change everything. I actually credit the accident that broke my back with teaching me irrevocability. Sometimes you can’t change it back. What you had is gone. It’s a crushing realization – that you lack the power to restore yourself. That all you can do is accept the loss.
But those endings are also beginnings if we’re willing to look forward and imagine something different. After all history proceeds dynamically. As we’re taught in school, we can actually parse it – thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis.
These days that equation feels a bit optimistic. We seem to have settled into a contentious binary – A! No, Z! And back and forth we go, each side blaming the other with little chance to learn from one another and create something better.
Look at the Women’s movement. In my lifetime, I’ve seen women’s opportunities expand from housewifery and teaching and maybe nursing to just about anything…. except president. At the same time, sexual assaults have risen drastically with one in three female college students assaulted. As women in all sectors have raised their voices, demanding that the complaints be addressed, some alums have closed ranks, demanding that their alma maters protect male students. In business, it’s even being reported that men are refusing to work on teams with women lest they be “falsely accused.”
And Civil Rights? The election of Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a “post racial” era. Instead our politics is more divided than ever with racist rhetoric curdling discourse and the rise of brutal attacks by rogue police officers on Black Americans and the baked-in inequities in many police departments driving protesters into the streets.
And the Environment? We lose evermore species in the name of profit, the lungs of the planet chopped down every day to make room for agribusiness. Organic produce is flown thousands of miles to “natural” markets. Water is polluted despite the outcries from scientists and environmentalists.
So back and forth we go. Or maybe it’s just too soon to see the results of these polar arguments. After all, the arc of justice is long or so they tell me. And in truth, we have seen progress. The problem is that one man’s step forward seems to be another man’s step back. And until we learn to learn from one another, we seem doomed to ping pong between extremes.
The problem is we can’t afford an immature mindset, not anymore. We’re in the midst of a pandemic that’s only expanding. And attempts to roll back the clock and resume life as we know it are failing.
Look at what happened when Novak Djokovic launched the Adria Tour, hoping to get tennis up and running. Dimitrov tested positive and had to bow out of the final. And now Djokovic and his wife and his coach have tested positive along with several other players.
Disneyland tried to open… and closed. Hollywood says it’s open… only showrunners and directors are refusing to start production, worried about what will happen if someone gets sick.
And in states that have insisted on opening up before their curves have flattened such as Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona? New cases are skyrocketing. Nurses and doctors are coming forward once again to share about the horrendous impacts of the disease and how they’re running out of beds. Haven’t we seen these videos before? Yes – too many times. And we don’t seem to be learning from our own experience. In fact there are now folks insisting it’s their right not to wear a mask.
And I get it. We’re taking an enormous economic hit. But insisting on “opening up” in the midst of rising numbers is kind of like insisting on throwing a garden party in a hurricane. You’re only going to get wet.
We can’t go back to the way things were. Life has changed. And now we have to change with it if we’re going to survive. And I don’t use that term lightly. The virus is a predator and it will continue to feast on us until it either finishes us off or we smarten up.
Bars? Where folks are shoulder to shoulder? Or subways? Or concerts? Or theaters? Or stadiums? Crowds don’t work right now. We’re going to have to find a different way.
Schools? Where students and teachers are in classrooms or lecture halls breathing the same air for hours at a time? Not now.
Gyms? Where we exercise in the same space, touching the same equipment, breathing the same air? Where we’re close together in locker rooms? Where we’re engulfed in steam and spray in the shower rooms? Not now.
Trains and planes and Ubers and cabs? Where we’re trapped together in the same space breathing each other’s air and touching seats and armrests and doors that have just been touched by others? Not now.
Real estate? Where strangers walk through your lobby and ride in your elevators and walk through your apartment? Or saunter through your house? I don’t think so. Not yet.
Offices? Where we may have to get into elevators used by dozens of people and then share cubicles and conference rooms and equipment? Uh uh. Not yet.
It’s all got to be reimagined. Because as long as the virus is with us, we can’t go back to business as usual. We’re going to have to make changes in how we operate.
Connecticut is respecting the science and giving sensible guidelines to its businesses and citizens. And we have done a good job of responding to the virus and taking care of one another. But it’s not over yet and we have to continue to be patient and vigilant.
And yes, I know, the vaccine. But ask yourself this. Is it even possible? It’s been centuries and we don’t have a vaccine for the common cold – a corona virus. And I know, Dr. Fauci promised. But remember, after 40 years we still don’t have a vaccine for AIDS.
So I wouldn’t count on a magic bullet.
Instead I think we have to go back to our recovery model. There’s a story that’s often told to illustrate change. The road story. It goes something like this.
You walk down a road and fall into a hole.
You walk down the same road and see the hole. But you fall into it anyway.
You walk down the same road and see the hole and walk around it.
You walk down another road.
We need another road.
(Thank you so much for all your emails. Reach me at WelcomeToThePandemic@gmail.com. And find me on Twitter at @epagenyc or on Facebook at ElizabethPage.)
Elizabeth Page’s work as a writer and filmmaker focuses on folks impacted by social issues. Plays include Spare Parts (produced by Olympia Dukakis at Whole Theatre, Off B’way at Circle in the Square Downtown and nominated for a John Gassner Award), The Nazi Plays (Denver Theatre Centre’s US West Theatrefest) and Aryan Birth (Best Short American Plays.) Her work in television brought her six Emmy Awards and four Writers’ Guild Awards. As a filmmaker she has made lots of award winning shorts, and web pieces for artists such as Melba Moore. Her latest short film, Safe, about an accidental shooting, is currently in distribution in Europe.