I find myself entering a certain mental state more often than I would like. I’m still capable of accomplishing what needs to be done; I do my work daily and I answer my emails. My clients should experience nothing different. I’m still reactive; however, when provided with no immediate inputs, my mind just fades into the background.
Bavarians have a word for when your eyes go unfocused and you stare into the middle distance; the call it goaßgschau, or “the stare of a goat.” I haven’t spent enough time around goats to understand the relevancy, but I find myself doing this often lately. I had started to think of it not as goaßgschau but as the corona stare. The corona mind state.
All of my hobbies have faded away. Due to my extreme workload, I even put my D&D games on hiatus, as while I love the time spent playing, I couldn’t see myself having the time to actually focus on preparing materials for upcoming sessions.
When I am not working, I am mindlessly surfing the web. Watching old movies. Staring and not thinking about much of anything. Goaßgschau. Coronaschau?
I suppose on some level we’re all processing the trauma of this. There isn’t anyone in the U.S. whose life hasn’t been impacted by our efforts to control this outbreak. Our lives are completely different now, and may never go back to normal. Some theorize what we’re doing is grieving.
I’ve grieved before and I’ll grieve again, I’m sure. This feels different, however. I’m not sure that’s what I would describe it as. To me, it feels more like we’re holding our breaths. We’re conserving energy. We’re waiting. For what? The next shoe to drop? The big collapse? I keep calling this 2020: The Year That Didn’t Happen, but what if it becomes the year Everything Happened? Which would be worse?
Uncertainty. Fear. Doubt. It would be unbearable if not for the glimmers of better lives weaving through all of it. People are gardening. People are baking. People are gathering through the internet and people are listening closer to their communities. My neighborhood shares toilet paper and other resources. People, on a small scale, are kind and generous. But unfortunately, that generosity appears to not be scalable to the national level.
Maybe all the corona virus is doing is accelerating the atomization of our society that we were already going through; the era of walls, figurative and literal. Maybe it’s building walls, and maybe we’ll tear them down? Or maybe we’ll decide that we like those walls, and they’ll stay up for good.
There’s that uncertainty again. I keep expecting myself to grow more comfortable with uncertainty, but that’s the damned thing about it. It changes shape too often; it’s restless. It never settles, and you can never get used to it. That’s the whole point of uncertainty.
But in my heart, I believe nothing can last forever; not even uncertainty. This too shall pass, and one day those of us who survive will look back on this time with a mixture of regrets and guilty nostalgia.
Life with the corona stare isn’t all bad. For those that make it. For those that live to remember, anyway. All we can do now is stay distant and hope that we’re in that group, and not the other one.