Pandemic Guilt

I didn’t want to say what I’m about to say, but it’s on my mind all the time. I’m enjoying the time I have, at home, in the woods, with my family, and on my own, as a result of this pandemic. In fact, I like life this way, with less traffic, less hustle, more peace, more quiet. With the exception of not being able to travel, even regionally, things couldn’t really be going better for me.

I am in a deeply privileged position. I work in the bike industry, which is booming. My wife is employed. We don’t have the worries that millions of people have, and we’re healthy.

We have talked about it here before, the emotional awkwardness of having a global crisis go really well for you personally, of living your best life while so many others are living their worst. Is acknowledgement enough? Is gratitude enough to make that ok?

I don’t recall a time in my life when I was in the woods so much, when I was so on top of the laundry, when I had more time to read, when I lost track of what day it was.

The circumstances are curiously unique, the social distancing requirements meaning that office life, kids’ sports, store shopping, etc., have all been canceled or seriously scaled back, and that produces this “extra” time in every day.

What if the outcome of this particular crisis was a long term internet outage? Social life remained the same, but we had to go back to non-digital communication for this period of months. How would that have forced us to change? Would we have found the silver lining in it? Would we have rediscovered all the things we left behind when our web browser began to define how we spend our time?

I think, at root, what I’m grateful for is this forcing of change. In my guts, even before I’d heard ‘Covid-19,’ I was feeling the need to shift my personal paradigm. Life had become both a sprint and a marathon, exhausting and endless. I was looking forward to a day I couldn’t even see, when I could slow down and refocus on the things that were important to me. I daydreamed about it.

I am sorry it had to be this way. I am sorry that what hurts most people so much, works so well for me. I want the pandemic to end (if a discreet ending is even possible), but I don’t want to go back to the way things were, and I worry that they will, and I’ll be sucked back into old habits. I’ll be forced back by the simple dictates of how we’re expected to spend our time, collectively.

That’s how it goes. We decide collectively, probably unconsciously, how each other’s days will be organized. It’s our blessing and our curse. Without always knowing it, we’re in this together, and that’s true whether there’s a global health crisis or not.

Guilt is a pretty useless feeling, self-made and self-indulgent in a way. In this case, guilt presupposes that we live in a world where good things happen to good people, and bad to bad, and that there is some moral order to the universe that can be mapped onto each moment in our lives. But since that’s demonstrably false, I’m going to shrug off the guilt and get back on the trail. Whatever this is, it won’t last forever.

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  1. The pandemic works for my family too. In fact my daughter is leaving next week for her freshman year of college. Around January I was really bumming out. With band, sports, work and hanging out with friends, it was like she already left. Now I’ve had a 6 month intensive period with her where I’ve been able to get to know her more as the adult she’s turning into. Our mountain bike season started in July and I’m coaching so I’ve lost that “nothing is expected of me” vibe. I Sort of miss it and sort of don’t. I think as the world settles down, we won’t have much trouble going back to our old ways. But the improved family relationships will always be there so I can be forever thankful for that. BTW-I’ve written several times about how much I’m enjoying the pandemic infused changes in my life. Every time I write that, I get a bunch of ‘yeah, me too’ comments. Clearly not a universal feeling, but I suspect it’s pretty common, especially with office workers.

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