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Reflection

Recalibrating Risk During COVID

Bookmarked I Had a Chance to Travel Anywhere. Why Did I Pick Spokane? (nytimes.com)

After 18 months of pandemic parenting isolation, the writer Jon Mooallem knew just where the cure might lie: a minor-league baseball game in eastern Washington.

Emphasis mine.

It hadn’t been too painful, initially, to settle into a small, circumscribed life — going grocery shopping, volunteering at our local vaccine clinic, getting together with friends outside. But it meant I’d never been forced, or forced myself, to acclimate to the virus as much as other people seemed to have done. I wasn’t learning to live within the odds. This made me uneasy — personally uneasy, because I interpreted it as a lack of toughness, but also ethically uneasy, because I knew that in a broken society like ours, my comfort came at the expense of other people’s demoralization and discomfort. Still, that’s what happened. And while I’m sure this left me with an exaggerated sense of the risks of leaving my particular bubble, the real problem was, I’d started chronically undervaluing the rewards. I’d been forgoing so much that forgoing felt easy. Too many things I imagined doing began to feel skippable, arbitrary, not a tragedy to decline. Either I was approaching some new state of equanimity and contentedness or I was depressed.

After so many months of tracking Covid statistics and deciphering health-department dashboards, of being forced to visualize formerly mundane situations and make bungling calculations about distances, densities, air flow — the trajectories and life spans of billions of invisible aerosols eddying omnidirectionally through the air, and the odds of too many of them lodging up my nose — it was fun to imagine something random happening to me that was good.

[H]ow could anyone with moral integrity — look back on his survival and feel unequivocally good and deserving of it and also not wind up racked with compassion and hypersensitive to risk?

I was enjoying myself! I was energized! … Still, concurrent with all that, I never stopped clocking my proximity risk. All this expert entertainment and distraction and I still couldn’t mentally escape the pandemic as fully as those people just sitting around my hotel lobby seemed to have done…I had never managed to embrace that one pandemic mantra: “It’s probably fine.”

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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