Anne Helen Peterson's latest midweek edition of her newsletter talks of what it might be involved in being ready, or not ready for the resolution of the pandemic.
She makes the point:
"... few people are actually making room for an actual strategy. Americans in particular are very, very bad at grieving. We don’t allocate space for personal tragedy and we don’t allocate space for national tragedy, other than brief displays of televised political grief theater, generally with lots of flags.
We are not ready, not in any form, not for this still-growing mountain of grief"
And in reading the David M. Perry's piece "America isn't ready for the coming wave of grief" - I was struck by this quote:
Preachers and teachers, HR executives, parents, coaches, friends, we all need to think about how we can build more space in our work, families and communities to make space for a long process of grieving. It's not just about policy. Everyone you meet -- and you too, even if you aren't quite ready to face the trauma yet (I don't blame you!) is waiting to properly mourn all the things we've lost this last year. That we're still losing. We're going to need to engage each other without demanding that people prove they are still struggling. Assume that everyone is struggling with the trauma of living through a year of mass death, faced mostly alone.
Because we have been so incredibly blessed in Aotearoa.
This past week I had lunch with a friend who landed back here from the UK in early January, and processed out of MIQ after their isolation. As we sat in the sun, with mussel sandwich and corn fritters, enjoying a coffee and surrounded by Level 2 spaced people with no masks, he told me fragments of the final two weeks before their flight home, staying with a friend, who'd had no hugs for over 10 months, and who made a ritual of a single daily hug during their stay.
He stared into the distance across the water.
"We've changed. We're so glad to be back. But we are not the same. We won't be the same."
And while we look to support those of us, who've returned to this place, with hugs and coffee catch ups and in small simple ways, I think it's useful to reflect on how insulated we've been here, not only from the physical and literal challenges of the pandemic, but from the sheer scale of the literal and psychological disconnection that Perry and Peterson talk about within the US, and that my friend spoke of in the UK.
Disconnection that is still ongoing, even if it's not headline news.
Jacinda's "Be strong, but be kind, we will be OK" - in March of 2020, is laughed at by some. Dismissed as just pablum. As platitude. But in reality, it's enabled so many to be actively kind, and actively strong.
It was a call to do.
And to be.
In deliberate and specific ways.
In the face of a great challenge.
Even today, as the Director General spoke at the 4pm briefing to announce the reduction of alert levels across the country, he had this to say...
These words directed at the Pacific Island communities of South Auckland are deliberate and humane. Strong and kind if you will.
Yes, there are many struggling economically and emotionally across Aotearoa. Yet I think on balance, we are as a society in a useful starting point to emerge from this pandemic, with an economic resilience and an emotional stability - that is far more embedded than in many other nations.
This version of our society doesn't make for good media headlines or coverage though - but it was evident today across the North and East Coast, as thousands moved inland and to high ground in response to tsunami warnings. Looking out for each other and those in their communities.
This being kind doesn't come naturally in our mostly inward looking world. So we need to keep making those small, deliberate efforts in our circles of influence, on our commutes, in our neighbourhoods and throughout our workplaces.
To reach out. To connect. To do what so many around the globe cannot.
As we move forwards into this new normal, towards this future at uneven paces, waiting alongside others as their needs demand, we can as Peterson says...
....start clearing trail for our paths away from this pandemic year. We just have to make them meandering, with ample stops for rest. We will be collectively discombobulated and bewildered, working through layers of bittersweetness, anxious and angry and thrilled. Our post-pandemic selves will contain multitudes, and I cannot wait to get reacquainted with myself, with all of you.