Hazlett: Lessons from the pandemic prepare us for the future | Family

SUSAN HAZLETT For The Pantagraph

Here comes the second anniversary of living with COVID-19.

“Two weeks to flatten the curve” turned into two years, and at times it’s felt more like 100 years, hasn’t it?

This past week, however, we saw progress. In Illinois at least the masks are off in most public places and there are lower case numbers reported in many areas. This is welcome news.

But, our relief may be short-lived. As I write this column, another global crisis is growing: Russia has invaded Ukraine.

As we consider the implications of this new threat, let’s not forget all we’ve learned in the past two years. After sharing the extraordinary experience of living through a pandemic together, we know people are resilient. We understand full well life can change in the blink of an eye.

Like many families, we suffered the painful loss of loved ones during the pandemic. Worry and grief were compounded by restrictions surrounding health care and even funeral arrangements. Thank goodness, some of those limits are now easing.

Our family contracted COVID, but thankfully recovered within a few weeks at home. Despite vaccines, compulsive hand-washing and N95 masks, the virus caught up with us in early 2022.

But along with the seriousness of our collective journey, there have been a few minor pains.

Like stinky hand sanitizer.

One spring night in 2020, as we sat down to dinner, my husband’s nose twitched.

“What’s that awful smell?” he asked. (No, it wasn’t the food.) An overpowering floral scent filled the air, making our eyes water and the dogs bark.

“It’s hand sanitizer from the gas station,” I said. Really, the smell of gasoline was less offensive.

The gallons of sanitizer we scooped up during early days of the pandemic varied from slimy goop to sticky syrup, and most of it smelled gross. Like Lady Macbeth, I obsessively rubbed my hands and said, “Out damn sanitizer spot!”

We also survived awkward Zoom calls, really bad home haircuts and toilet paper hoarding. Early on, I radically altered my “beauty” regimen. Not that I had much of one before, but at least I combed my hair every day. For most of 2020 and 2021, my daily uniform consisted of pullover shirts and pants with an elastic waist. It’s as if I lived in a button free universe.

And then there were supply shortages. (Which, by the looks of things, aren’t over.) Finding a new couch or a bicycle was virtually impossible last summer. Remember at Thanksgiving when there was no cream cheese to be had?

The shutdowns also changed how people manage their time.

“I am eating a bowl of cereal for lunch right now,” said Lindsay, mother of two, at 2:30 in the afternoon.

“Our whole schedule has changed,” she said. “We used to eat dinner together at the table. But when the schools closed and we were cooped up in the small house 24/7, everyone was worn out by dinner time and needed a break. I let the kids eat in front of the TV.”

Even with schools and offices reopening, how we spend our days seems permanently altered. People have reordered their priorities. Some quit their jobs to explore other pursuits.

Jack, a single 42-year-old male, rented his house and joined the “van life.” He’s been living and working on the road with everything he needs in his minivan. Jack missed the holidays with his family, and temperatures at night, even in the South, are colder than he expected, but he loves the adventure.

Life is different now. 2019 seems a very long time ago indeed. But we’ve survived hardships and discovered a resilience perhaps we didn’t know was deep inside.

Looking across the globe this week, we may need to draw on that agility and perseverance once again. The future is fragile, but we’ve learned to live with the uncertainty.

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 205 N. Main St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.

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