Not Panicked

      4 Comments on Not Panicked

Just a random observation, but I’ve noticed that I am experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance, where I am kinda observing myself not being in a state of panic about the pandemic, while aware that it’s a panic situation.

The numbers are horrible, both nationally and locally, although Connecticut’s hospitalization and fatality numbers aren’t quite as bad as they were in April. And I’m more-or-less minimizing exposure—I am going to work, unlike in April, but my workplace is currently nearly empty, and we’re not letting people just wander through like they used to in the Beforetimes. I’m not imagining that every cough might be the End.

It feels, I think, like the kind of mental state where a person starts taking thoughtless risks.

I went in to a grocery store the other day for a small number of things that we kinda wanted that day, rather than waiting until the next big shopping trip. Not a huge thing, and I was in and out in five minutes without having to spend any significant time close to anyone, but it’s something I don’t think I would have done in April, when I was panicking. And while I’m not making any travel plans for the next four months, I’m doing my work as if I’m going to be here the whole semester.

I don’t know that we should be behaving exactly as we were behaving in April—I mean, for one thing, we know a lot more about how this disease spreads and how it doesn’t, and for another we some of the stuff we did in April didn’t actually make much sense—but I feel like we should be a lot closer to that kind of behavior than to October or June or sometime when the numbers weren’t horrific and increasing. And yet, here we are, most of us unvaccinated and unlikely to be vaccinated for another month or three, and for some reason I’m not panicking.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

4 thoughts on “Not Panicked

  1. Chris Cobb

    Well, panic is a short-term survival response, not a long-term one, and we can’t sustain panic for months at a time. In making the shopping trip, you were not taking a thoughtless risk; you were taking a risk that you knew how to calculate. Facing danger and taking appropriate precautions when doing so is a relatively ordinary part of human life. I wouldn’t rate the risk of making a five-minute grocery stop, while masked and being careful to keep a suitable distance from other people in the store, as being notably higher than the risk of going for a thirty-minute drive on a busy highway. The person who takes appropriate precautions will wear a seat belt and drive defensively, but they don’t panic and choose not to make the trip because it’s just too dangerous, although the danger is undoubtedly real. This comparison is undoubtedly of only limited validity, but insofar as it illustrates the difference between facing dangers we at least partly understand and facing dangers that we don’t, it may work.

    1. Vardibidian Post author

      I’m not saying that I ought to have been panicking for the last nine months, more that it seems objectively like it’s panic time again and I don’t seem to be panicking. The chance that any particular person I might interact with is a disease vector is something like ten times what it was in October or July, and I’m maybe 10% more stressed. And analytically, maybe one good cultural panic would get us through to vaccineland.


  2. irilyth

    We’re still following the same rules we were following in April, although possibly more strict, in that we’ve completely given up on going into grocery stores. It doesn’t feel like panic, though: We came up with some rules (or processes, or systems, or whatever you want to call them), and some criteria for changing them, and those criteria haven’t been met, so we’re still following them. It’s not like the thought of going to Trader Joe’s in person fills me with dread (it fills me with longing and sorrow, really), it’s just not a thing we’re doing now.

  3. Michael

    For me, the panic is mostly about the longer term, not the immediate, even though I’m deeply concerned about the immediate situation and angry about how unnecessary the current level of suffering and death was and is. But as with irilyth, we have our rules and we follow them, and we can generally think calmly about how to keep our risk level below our tolerance for our personal situation while accepting that some hospital days and overnights are inevitable.

    But when I think about my child missing an entire second summer in 2021, losing so much of the rapidly diminishing remaining quality time with older family members, suffering through yet more isolation and inactivity for what started as weeks and now will be at least 18 months—even if our rules turn out to have been sufficient for our family, contemplating the minimum guaranteed amount of loss does engender panic.

    We’ve been talking about how strange re-entry will feel, trying to prepare ourselves for the fact that there will be adjustment problems as we relearn and renegotiate how to be in the world once we are again able to be in the world. I panic a little about that, though I also hope that enough people will be going through versions of that over the coming year that we can try to offer each other some grace when our times come.


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