The pandemic is still with us, obviously. March seems like a long time ago, let alone the blissful ignorance of January when it all sounded like a distant problem being faced by people half-way around the world.
Back then, it felt like the world was being turned on its head by the evolving spread of the disease, and the ever-changing advice as new facts emerged. Precautions appeared at first unthinkable, then laughable, then became incorporated into everyday life.
Now we are settled in for the long haul. Who knows when a vaccine will be available, or how effective it will be? Meanwhile, the world has to keep turning and we continue living our lives as best we can. Masks, distancing, and other changes in how we live and work have become an accepted part of life.
But, underlying all the more obvious disruptions and anxieties, I've noticed a more subtle source of stress. It's not something I've heard people talk about, because most people I know work from home most of the time, and this stress is most noticeable in the office.
Social distancing means deliberately and consciously keeping your distance from other people. That requires constant awareness, and active avoidance behaviors. That is not normal behavior for a social animal. In fact, it goes fundamentally against our very nature.
Intellectually, I understand the reasoning. Heck, I'm doing exactly the same to my co-workers – keeping distance, backing off if I see someone coming the other way in a narrow hallway. But on the receiving end, it feels like being shunned, rejected, cast out from society.
Casting people out is a harsh and cruel punishment practiced by societies since time immemorial. It hurts.
Of course, this isn't punishment, it's precaution. But knowing that there's a good reason, that it's not about you, doesn't lessen the hurt. When intellect conflicts with gut feeling, intellect loses. I don't know what the answer is here, but it doesn't feel like something I can just “deal with” or get used to.