The Thaw


Although last month’s polar vortex wasn’t as difficult to get through as the spell of beyond-frigid weather we had here a couple of years ago, having to deal with a prolonged period of super-cold temperatures was still incredibly difficult. What makes matters worse is that because of the pandemic, I didn’t have to leave my apartment at all during that time, so the cold weather really wasn’t a burden to me on a practical level. Psychologically, though, I couldn’t wait for the polar vortex to leave, just so I’d have one less thing to worry about. I think this is just another manifestation of the strange energies we’re all dealing with as we approach the first anniversary of our lives being turned upside down, where all the concerns we have just make every additional burden seem heavier, and even matters that would have seemed totally inconsequential before the pandemic can feel like they’re too much to deal with. Judging by my friends’ posts on social media in recent months, it certainly appears that I’m far from the only person to feel this way.

The polar vortex has been gone for a couple of weeks now, and a warm front just came through here. We’re supposed to have high temperatures above sixty degrees Fahrenheit for each of the next three days, and I’ll probably keep my bedroom window open this afternoon just to help me get some fresh air in here. We’ll return to more seasonable weather after that, but this late-winter thaw has already done a number on all that snow we got earlier, and more importantly than that, it’s reminding us that warmer weather will soon be here to stay for longer than a few days. Especially for those of us who dislike cold weather and snow, this warm spell is a desperately-needed balm after the trials we endured in February.

The fact that this thaw is coming in the midst of an easing of pandemic-related bad news seems positively poetic. I wrote here last week about my campus organizing vaccinations for employees, and how I’d decided to take advantage of that plan, thinking that I’d get immunized in the later months of this spring. Thanks to the push that President Biden made to get teachers vaccinated quickly, though, I’ll actually be getting my first shot tomorrow, which means that if everything goes according to schedule, I’ll get my final shot before the start of April. Even though I don’t think this will alter my plans that much, since I was already planning on devoting my summer to researching my next book (again, please join my Patreon for exclusive details about that work), I’m certain that getting vaccinated will ease my mind considerably, and make it easier for me to do all of the tasks I need to accomplish over the next few months.

Right now, though, I’m worried about how quickly and effectively we can all pivot to taking care of larger issues of recovery. As vital as it is to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible, that is only the first step towards finding, and adapting to, the post-pandemic “normal” that we’ll all live in afterwards, whatever that ends up being. Long after we reach COVID-19 herd immunity, there will still be a lot of work to do to help people recover from the myriad tolls — physical, mental, emotional, financial, and otherwise — the pandemic has taken on us. I bristle every time I read a news report where someone says that the pandemic is “almost over” and we don’t need to worry about recovery programmes any longer, because even if we were somehow able to vaccinate everyone today, the effects that COVID-19 have had on our individual and collective lives will continue to be felt for years to come, especially for those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic.

As we work towards defining how large any future recovery programmes should be, and to whom their benefits should be targeted, I can only hope that we take into account the lessons we’re learning right now from the weather: Even when things get better, they may go back to being worse a few days later, and good spells don’t erase the bad things that happened when conditions were awful. More to the point, disasters are bound to happen again — there’s no guarantee that we’ll have to wait a hundred years for the next big pandemic, or ten years, or even one — so the more we can do to prepare for those disasters now, the less difficult it will be to deal with them when they occur. The tragedies we are dealing with right now are a result of our failures as a collective, and until we start treating the underlying problems as collective problems, all of us will continue to suffer both individually and as a people. I may be enjoying the warm weather right now, but I’m not about to throw my winter coats out.

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