This weekend I met a friend for lunch at a restaurant outside of my neighborhood. The traffic was heavy, and I was trying to make a left-hand turn. My view was obstructed, and I saw a car coming but it seemed far away. Apparently, it just seemed that way because as I made the turn, the vehicle sped toward me and we narrowly avoided a crash.
I was shaken and after I had time to think about it, I realized that I was having difficulty determining the distance and speed calculation in order to make left hands turns-even in my own neighborhood. I thought about this, and I realized that I had lost the ability to make, what was before the lockdown, autopilot decisions. Now, as we are resuming our normal activities, we are discovering that we may have lost some memory of what in the recent past was reflexive.
All of the client students I am seeing tell me that getting back to socializing in person has been difficult for them. They feel as though they have lost the ability to talk to their friends in face-to-face situations.
Once, together, they report that even making small talk is awkward. The distance and detachment of Zoom and FaceTime are replaced by a sudden intimacy that many of them have not experienced in over a year. Of course it feels weird!
This is not surprising as our brains are accustomed to processing information a certain way, and the brain really likes habits and consistency. Once we are in a different environment, the brain has to make adjustments for that new setting. The consistency that our brains thrive on is why it’s so difficult to break habits and make new and lasting changes.
This is why that during the pandemic, many struggled with the “new normal.” Now, after 1& 1/2 years of existing in a different lifestyle, our brains are being asked to change again. We have been quiet and isolated, and now we are thrown into traffic chaos, noise, and confusion.
Out of curiosity, I posted this question on a couple of social media sites:
What things in your life that used to be on autopilot now feel foreign or awkward?
The responses were thoughtful and varied. I felt validated, knowing that I was not the only person who had post pandemic driving challenges!
Many of the responses centered around driving, navigating, and re-familiarizing with the stress and pressures of driving.
Forgetting what were once familiar thoughts and behaviors was typical for many people. Member ID numbers, PIN numbers, and even street and business locations were commonly forgotten. Leaving personal items in hotel rooms and knowing what to pack was another challenge for someone who traveled frequently post pandemic.
During the pandemic, our personal space was larger, and now we are highly uncomfortable in crowds and waiting in lines with many people. That’s not at all surprising being that we were inundated with warnings to avoid crowds for months.
Most respondents also feel that there is a general feeling of anger and narcissism among others, especially in crowds and on the roads. In Houston, traffic jams and ongoing construction certainly contribute to the rage we see on the freeways.
On the lighter side, a Twitter respondent said he has forgotten how to choose produce at the grocery STORE!
Yes, it’s going to take a period of readjustment and patience. We are going to have to allow ourselves to re-learn and give ourselves grace as we move to post-pandemic life. Who knows? We may be facing more challenges as we go forward. Let’s meet them with a perspective of opportunity and acceptance. And take it easy on those freeways!