Go Easy on Each Other

A general observation: we’re all under a lot of stress at the moment. We’re facing situations we’ve never even thought of handling, let alone already dealt with before. And as such, everyone is on a much shorter fuse than they normally are. I don’t just mean your family or your friends, but everyone you meet in the course of your day. Your kids’ teachers. Your professors. Your students. Your librarians. Your shopkeeper. Your dentist. Your church leaders. Your postal worker. Literally everyone you see is dealing with the same crap-o-la that’s making your own life so unpredictable.

So go easy on them.

Last night there was a local school board meeting live streamed. A Facebook page I run admin for turned into a little hotspot of activity as parents began to comment on and critique things that were happening at the meeting. And then they began to comment on and critique things that were happening in the Facebook thread. And then people in the meeting joined in the Facebook thread, and on and on it went. I sat there at 10pm, reading through all the comments, wondering what in the world I should do to stop it all. As I considered my options, I came to the conclusion that anything I did was going to be met with criticism, so in the end, I did nothing. I didn’t see anyone crossing the line into outright abuse, so I let it all be in the hope that it would calm down again.

And this was among a generally congenial group of people who typically were just sharing memes about the importance of teaching children. Yay schools! That sort of thing. But suddenly we’re all trying to figure out what in the world our schools are going to be like for our kids for the next however long, and it’s got tempers running really short.

I get the desire to have some clarity. To find some part of your life–any part of your life–where you can stop wondering “what if” and “what will happen when” and instead just know. Some of things things seem like they should be relatively simple decisions to make, but I guarantee you that they’re just as thorny as the decisions you’re finding yourself having to make in your own job and life. One of my friends called this period “the storm before the calm” right now, and I think that’s probably a good way to put it. We’re getting through a lot of tricky “how do we” debates right now. Once we iron that all out, then hopefully our routines at least can become a bit more regular and, well, routine.

Around Maine, most of the closures I’ve been reading about have said “Closed until the end of March.” I think we need to recognize this might be more like “Closed until the end of April,” and maybe even longer than that. There’s a significant chance we’re still dealing with this in fall, although I know you don’t want to hear that right now. I think it’s better to face things full on and recognize the time spent figuring out problems now will help us far beyond a week or two. I hope I’m wrong. I hope we all quarantined in time, and that after a bit of this, we can begin to identify who’s actually sick and who isn’t, and that life can get back to normal-ish, for values of “normal” that include “if you’re remotely sick, you’re tossed back into quarantine.” But I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know how all of this will work.

What I do know is that we’re all having a hard time, and the more slack we can cut everyone we meet and interact with, the better. In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, “Be excellent to each other.”

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