Navigating the new rules of social interaction

It’s been more than a year since I’ve been on a plane. Nearly a year since I’ve been in an office. No clear timeline for when that might change.

Last year was a year of constant adjustment and regular disappointment. Trips cancelled. Concerts “postponed”. Restaurants closed. I fell into the trap of thinking that reality cares about our president or even about our calendar which has led to some new disappointments. 

The reality of 2021 is setting in: not too much is going to change from 2020.With that knowledge comes some power. Having had Covid to start the year comes with some added freedom or at least lower anxiety. Especially with reports like this.  I am using this knowledge and freedom to try to make 2021 different than 2020, for us at least.

So what does that look like?  We’ve already been out to eat, although we did that a bit in 2020. I’m going to the gym for small group work outs.  We went to a concert – the first since late 2019. We’ve got plans for dinner groups and trips in the skoolie. I’ve signed up for a few major IDPA matches and have a few hikes in the works (something that I also was able to do in 2020, but am trying to be more intentional this year about where I go and am adding pack rafting to the tool kit).

These changes will definitely improve my mental health.  I am best when I have a few things to look forward to and plan for.  2020 was hard that way, since nearly everything I was looking forward to got cancelled or “postponed”.  There was a silver lining in that though, it did give me nothing else to focus on except the present. I will try to keep that with me moving into 2021.

But I am also worried about the potential consequences of how I choose to navigate my social interactions in 2021.  I am not worried about the things I will do essentially on my own or with my family.  I am thinking about how to negotiate larger group interactions. 

On one hand, I am all about disclosure – the people I might be with should know what else I am doing, where else I have been, who else I have been hanging out with and that I have had and recovered from Covid and then should be able to make their own decisions. 

On the other hand, I know some significant portion of my social circle will react to that disclosure in a either / both of the following ways. 

(1) They will overreact and choose to not do something that they otherwise might.  Honestly, I can accept this one since I know it is just my perception of an overreaction.  I may have it all wrong and they are entitled to what bits of reality they want to let in and which they choose to block out.  None of us has a monopoly on the truth and none of us can see the whole truth at any one time.

(2) They will extrapolate what I am doing / how I am behaving in the midst of a pandemic to make assumptions about what I believe about everything from vaccines to climate change to gun control.  They will suspect me of having been in DC on the 6th of Jan (for the record I was flat on my back with Covid).  This seems a direct consequence of both polarization (there are only two places to stand on any issue) and of the abbreviated content / lack of context and speed of most “conversations” today (I will take one thing I know about you and quickly put you in one of the two buckets I have and from there assume I know you fully).

The second reaction is the one that bothers me and has me struggling with what, how and who to disclose.  To be clear this is not the claim that I am “unknowable” while at the same time demanding to be known.  Quite the opposite – I think I am like everyone else: somewhat knowable, yet full of (hopefully interesting) contradictions IF you take the time.  One part of my worry about this reaction is that I know I do this too.  It’s just such an easy trap to fall into.

To get over the bother and on with an amazing 2021 I will start with trying to be the change I want to see.  That means noticing when I am making broad assumptions about who someone is based on a singular belief or observation.  When I notice, I will try to be more curious to actually learn about them.  I am also going to accept when people don’t want to take the time to do that with me and not worry about what assumptions they might be making.

Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2021!



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