Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

A New Normal

CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM

            Unlike too many others, the pandemic didn’t hit me hard—no one in my immediate circle was badly affected by the virus, neither health wise nor financially. The social distancing didn’t affect me adversely either–at heart I am a home-body, a loner.

            Wearing a mask wasn’t exactly comfortable, especially in the heat of summer or when dog hairs got trapped inside it, but it wasn’t a major issue, and it was necessary. I wasn’t afraid for myself, though I was concerned about my loved ones. Also, I felt obligated to do my part in flattening the curve—the possibility that there would too few beds in hospital for COVID patients was unthinkable.

            On the other hand, some issues did significantly upset my equilibrium. Distance teaching was particularly frustrating. Though I had no problems learning to use the technology to teach virtually, trying to engage the students was. The challenge of addressing a wide variety of thinking styles and connecting with the students brought me tremendous satisfaction and joy. Unfortunately, direct and timely feedback from students, so fundamental to effective teaching, was now missing. Teaching became little more than a chore.

Bans on travel were an issue as well—I had to cancel my trip to visit my ailing parents. I also had to postpone my travel plans to celebrate my recent retirement indefinitely.

But when it came to living with new restrictions, having a brain injury was an advantage—I have had to adjust and readjust on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Because of severe neuro-fatigue, I’ve had to slow my pace down–I’ve had to cut work sessions short, cancel plans at the last minute, restrict myself to one errand a day. Adapting to new situations was not much of an issue for me.

In addition, I was no stranger to fear–I’ve had to learn to live with the possibility of another brain bleed, another brain surgery. And having faced my own mortality, the threat of dying did not elicit terror. Hope, to me, was an ongoing state of mind.

I knew that life on this planet would never be the same, but I had faith that, similarly to 9/11, we would adapt to the new normal. I was also sure that our quality of life would improve in the foreseeable future, once we had a better understanding of COVID-19 and found a way to bring it under control, as we’ve done with other viruses.

But the extent of the hatred triggered by COVID-fatigue in general, and the mandates about wearing masks in particular, were different issues. No effective solution came to mind–I held no hope for better days. The possibility that the hatred would diffuse even as the impact of the virus diminished seemed unrealistic.

I had no way of adapting to the environment of hate—I couldn’t accept this widespread animosity as a new normal.