I got my first dose of the Covid vaccine yesterday. My doctor’s office “reached-out” (a phone robot, of course) with the particulars. The where/when of the drive-thru clinic. So I went. To an event that looked and felt like Area 51: tents, masks, Security, checkpoints. I was tracked through the process by a super-young, efficient RN that didn’t mind my questions. I had more than a few. He knew a lot; offered up what felt like Truth. A little later, as I pulled into my driveway a neighbor was walking by my house. “Did you get your shot yet?” Creepy timing, and the question I’m used by now. But in that exact moment I realized: there’s been a tsunami of questions about my life lately. Concern. Checking-in. I wondered: Do I look, sound and act like I need a handler? When did we start obsessing about others’ personal business , and why do we feel the need to over-share our lives?
What sort of weird herd-immunity thing is happening? It’s not just about “the shot”. I get it: fewer people getting sick means we’re moving past the Pandemic. A good thing. But is there a bigger trend here? Monitoring one another. Checking to see whassup, relative to everyone else’s doings and thinkings. There are definitely more questions these days. More troubling, there also seems to be a list of acceptable answers. What “fits” into a collective mindset and what clearly does not. I don’t think I’m being paranoid here. And I’m certainly no celebrity or any kind of Influencer. So why is this happening?
Back in the day (my 20’s) I was bombarded with questions and advice about my life. I was young. It was expected. Family and my “elders” felt entitled to protect me from screwing up my life. (Good news: I did that anyway. That’s what life’s about.) But as I grew older, thankfully, everyone seemed to take a beat. “Why bother telling her anything? She’s just going to do what she wants to, anyway.” Thank you. I enjoyed being independent, making mistakes and learning from them, for decades. Which is why I’m so interested in what’s going right now. It feels like a Reversal of Trust in one another. Trust that we know what the hell we’re doing, and are supposed to be doing with our lives.
The focus on my personal business often feels judge-y. Why did you need another college degree? How can you continue to live alone, at your age? Why haven’t you got vaccinated yet? Why haven’t you signed the (neighborhood concerns) petition yet? And my favorite: How can you even think about ‘travel’ right now? I flash back to when I was an elementary school administrator. Whenever the kinder kids went anywhere on campus they traveled in straight little lines, led by a teacher in front, with a teacher at the end of the line. Made sense. Safety. But the focus and scrutiny’s not about ‘safety’ now; it’s about sameness. And that ‘sameness’ seems linked to a need for order, predictability, control. Has the general Chaos of Life lately finally exhausted the majority of us…so that anyone who steps out of line has to be brought back into the herd?
I heard a very synchronistic quote the other day: “Keep embracing instability until it feels stable”. Which sent my mind back to another quote from the 1996 film Kama Sutra. In the movie, the heroine of the story (Princess Tara) makes a ba-zillion very bad choices. Over time, Tara loses her title, her best friend, her lover, and her family in the unforgiving culture of 16th century India. She’s an outcast and alone, but has learned an important truth about living:
“Knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go; to be as supple as the wind, taking everything that comes with great courage. Life is right, in any case. My heart is as open as the sky.”
Now, more than ever, our personal business is up for review and debate. Social media is largely responsible for that; along with our need to over-share every detail of our experience. But I also think that feeling so “stuck” for a year has caused people to grow bored with their own lives, needing to head-butt my own. Which reminds me of my beloved granny and her “stories” (soap-operas). A kind of compulsive curiosity and intrusiveness that might be here for awhile.
As I move through my days, I find the courage to push- back from people and things that need to monitor or control (“bless their hearts”, as they say in the southern U.S.) what I do, think, and say. But I don’t push back with anger or frustration. It’s compassion that allows me to tolerate what feels like intrusiveness. It’s self-love that keeps me on my own path, making the decisions that seem right for me.
My “Kama Sutra” reference: