At this point in the pandemic, saying that life is weird is both obvious and an understatement. We’ve endured lockdowns, ongoing debates regarding the legitimacy and importance of science, and we’re living through several social movements that are changing the fabric of our nation. It’s becoming more and more clear that a return to pre-pandemic life is not possible because that world no longer exists. What comes next is anyone’s guess.
It’s this aspect of the pandemic that I find to be both incredibly interesting and unbelievably frustrating. In some ways it seems the world has stopped while continuing to move forward – it’s a paradox for the ages. Over the course of several months our entire way of life has changed. Values are changing, priorities are shifting, and our futures seem to be decided by numbers that are always changing. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is uncertain in so many ways.
In the meantime, we all have to continue living our lives to the best of our ability. We’re all experiencing the same pandemic, and we’re also experiencing it differently. Decisions have to be made, and making decisions is difficult because none of us know what the world will be like in three months. The economy is struggling, our politics are changing, and expert opinions range from relentlessly optimistic to doom and gloom. How do you prepare for the future when you have no idea what the future will bring?
The way we make decisions is a reflection of who we are as individuals. Some of us rely on data – information gives us a better idea of what to expect and helps us understand the pros and cons of our options. We take in this information and weigh it against our values and what we want for ourselves before making a decision. Others rely on intuition, trusting their “gut instinct” to provide the necessary guidance. Often, we use a combination of these approaches, making “smart” decisions that “feel” right.
Now that so much is uncertain and/or unreliable, making decisions is harder than ever. Part of the problem is that we’ve all been living with varying degrees of stress for months and we’re mentally and emotionally exhausted. Our social lives and support systems are also different now, leading many of us to feel lonely and isolated. There’s a cruel irony to the sentiment that we’re all in this together when the reality is that a lot of us have to do it alone.
It’s important to remember this because in order to deal with a problem, you first have to deal with the emotions surrounding the problem. The way we feel affects the ways we think and behave, which can easily turn an inconvenience into a full blown disaster if we’re not careful. We’re all going through a lot and heightened emotions are to be expected. Find healthy and appropriate ways to vent and voice what you’re experiencing – you’ll be surprised by how much better you feel.
Decisions, especially big decisions, usually come with a fair amount of stress. We don’t like stress, so we focus on making a decision to settle the matter so the stress will go away. The problem with this approach is that it can lead to a bad decision that creates even more stress and lands you back to where you started, except this time it’s more complicated because you may also distrust yourself and your ability to make good decisions.
This brings us to another, often overlooked, approach to making decisions. If the “smart” decision doesn’t “feel” right, ask yourself if a decision actually needs to be made. If the answer is no, it’s perfectly acceptable to decide not to make a decision. This has become my go-to approach during the pandemic because it helps me differentiate between real and perceived problems, usually meaning that I’m worrying more than I need to.
One day this will all be behind us. In the meantime, the decisions we make as individuals will affect our lives, our communities, our country, and the world. Let’s make good ones.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.