The next 5 months are probably going to be kinda weird. Uncertainty and anxiety flying all over the place. Duck! And then after that ... it's also going to be kinda weird, but a different kind of weird, as we move into the After Times, and figure out what exactly they're going to be like, and what exactly WE are going to be like.
It is in times like these, that I like to turn to art to help make sense of it all.
I refer, of course, to the art known as the television series Doctor Who. I mean, if we know things are going to be weird, we probably should look at some art that deals with the weird, right? Now's the time to examine Hieronymous Bosch and Marc Chagall. And Doctor Who, that time-traveling, face-shifting hero.
Part of the Doctor Who story (and why it's been able to keep going so long) is that rather than die, the Doctor regenerates, retaining who they are, but with a different face, body, and to a certain extent, a different personality.
Immediately after the regeneration into actor David Tennant's Doctor, the character mused:
I’m the Doctor. But beyond that I just don’t know. I literally do not know who I am. It’s all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy? Right old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed, left-handed? A gambler, a fighter, a coward, a traitor, a liar, a nervous wreck?
We have survived a global pandemic. We have experienced a year like no other. Who are we now? As individuals?
Cartoonist Emily Flake did a strip about this for The New Yorker, sorting through feeling different about hugs, being around other people, and her feelings about herself. I don't know about you, but "I eat flies now," may be how I introduce myself for the next year.
What this means: we cannot assume anything about each other anymore. Our ourselves, for that matter. So for a while, we need to learn to communicate very clearly and directly about what we want or don't want, and most importantly: do not assume.
Do not assume that your friend who was always a hugger still is.
Do not assume your extroverted friend still is.
DO NOT ASSUME THAT WHAT YOU ARE FEELING, EVERYONE IS FEELING.
DO NOT ASSUME THAT PEOPLE CAN KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING.
One of the positive things that may come out of this pandemic is if we will take more seriously the entire issue of consent. Not just sexually, but all touch. Everything, really. For the next few months, I can see "Do you mind if I remove my mask?" becoming a fair question, even when everyone together has been vaccinated. Our threshold for risk, and for comfort, will not be the same.
Like everything, there is opportunity in this. Including opportunities for ourselves.