By Karen Hendricks
It feels like a case of December déjà vu.
The holiday season is once again a backdrop for COVID-19 complications. A new variant is here, adding a new wrinkle to our lives, less than two weeks from Auld Lang Syne. It’s a pandemic-weary wonderland.
How do we handle holiday gatherings and hoopla? What are the latest protocols, and are all of our friends and family members adhering to them? How safe are restaurants, flights, etc.? It’s a Christmas conundrum, all over again.
I’ve always been fascinated by déjà vu. It’s a sensation that’s somehow both creepy yet cool, haunting yet familiar. Kinda like Scrooge and his ghost of Christmas past. As déjà vu chills run down my spine, I usually enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out why the situation feels familiar.
But this season’s déjà vu is one I could do without. I don’t want to slide backwards, revisiting restrictions and lockdowns, but I fear that’s where we’re headed. I hope I’m wrong.
Every new year feels a little déjà vu-ish. A time of new beginnings, fresh starts, a clean new calendar. Dream a new dream, set a new goal, make a New Year’s resolution. But dare we dream about 2022? Dare we dream about an end to the pandemic?
It feels like some dreams and goals are on hold, amid the pandemic. On the flip side, other dreams have actually been inspired by the pandemic—innovative new businesses, creative WFH opportunities, brave relocations as some of us redefine “home.” How great is it, to focus on these positive stories, glimmers of hope and the resilient human spirit?
Living life “on hold” is no way to live—it’s like holding your breath for a really long time.
What I really want to do in 2022 is exhale. When will it be safe to let out our collective breath, and turn the page on the pandemic? Will that day ever come?
I’m tired of focusing on the dangers associated with inhaling a potentially deadly virus. Aside from the obvious health threat, it’s inciting fights over vaccines and masks, in political circles, within cities and towns, on school boards, among families and neighbors—as our very lives hang in the balance. Cancel culture kicks in when leaders or businesses come down on one side or the other.
As we careen toward the New Year, 2022, there’s one more complication. A catch.
Part of our society is facing the music, attuned to reality, truths and facts. And another segment of society seems to be living in an alternate reality, choosing to believe conspiracies and lies. Differences of opinion are normal and natural, but the division we’re experiencing now feels more and more hateful. We have forgotten how to respect one another. We have forgotten how to listen to one another. We have forgotten how to love one another.
That’s the creepy aspect of this year’s December déjà vu. December—and its holiday seasons—is a time when we’re especially supposed to be focused on peace on earth, joy, and love for our neighbors. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Personally, I’m still trying to erase the memories of hate-filled signs on neighborhood lawns. Maybe you are too. Peace, love and joy can be challenging amid a politicized pandemic.
How ironic (or appropriate) that we’re approaching 2022, because these challenges, at times, feel like a catch-22. An impossible situation, like its namesake novel. It’s also ironic that Joseph Heller chose the number 22 for his novel’s title because the repeating digits have an uncanny similarity to the phrase, “déjà vu.”
Here’s another ironic twist: As we enter January 2022, it will be the 22nd month of our pandemic era. You just can’t make this stuff up. The truth is always stranger than fiction. Oh, wait—different segments of our population currently have different ideas of what is truth and what is fiction. Yikes.
How can we shake ourselves free of this nightmarish déjà vu?
Don’t worry—as a realist who’s also an eternal optimist—I’m going to end on a somewhat positive, hopeful tone. Just as the characters in the novel Catch-22 try to maintain their sanity within a war, I feel as though we too need to dig deep and do the same. We are waging war against a pandemic, but we are also engaged in wars for the truth and, some say, for our very democracy.
How can we maintain our sanity? Dare to dream into 2022 and beyond?
During this pandemic era of journalism, there are several common themes—pieces of advice—I’ve heard from sources, as I’ve interviewed all kinds of people, from all walks of life, during the past nearly two years:
- We need to listen more and talk less.
- Have open, rather than closed, minds.
- Adhere to our weary medical experts’ advice.
- Seek facts and truth.
Déjà vu is French for “already seen.” We have already seen enough of the alternatives.
I, for one, will strive to live by these seemingly simple, yet vital, “catch phrases” in 2022. I want out of the catch-22. That’s the truth.