Ask Amy: Reader worries about post-pandemic relating
Dear Amy: I am feeling anxious about a return to pre-pandemic normality and am hoping you can help me find effective ways of navigating.
My anxiety is not about health precautions like mask wearing, which I believe you have already addressed.
I am more concerned that we have all been apart for a year, with widely varying pandemic experiences, and have grown apart with respect to our expectations for what kind of relationship or experience we want to emerge into.
Some people want to go back to the world exactly as it was.
I met someone recently who immediately launched into a 30-second commercial on what a big shot he was, reminding me of a common way of interacting before the pandemic, based on trying to prove your worth based on some external marker of success. This was jarring for me because for the past year most of my conversations have been about what each of our pandemic experiences were like, whether we had lost anyone important to us, and how we were doing in helping our loved ones get vaccinated.
I have grown accustomed over the past year to interacting with people from a place of compassion, treating people as human beings — not human-doings.
I am anxious about interacting with people who expect me to snap back into the pre-pandemic, competitive, transactional approach to relationships that was common among people I knew.
Can you help me find ways to navigate a dialogue with people I haven’t seen in person in a year, on how to reintegrate with each other?
Dear Anxious: I appreciate this thoughtful question, as I have had my own anxieties about reentering the world – not as it was, but as it is. My own experience has been one of drawing-in, and like many people I assume that some of these changes – in perspective and temperament – will be permanent.