Heart to heart conversations

Every now and then SNL has a pre-filmed sketch that perfectly hits the zeitgeist. This past weekend is no exception:

I felt this one, hard. No, it doesn’t match the surface details of Christmas planning with Mr. Mezz and our extended family at all: we’re all in agreement about the proper, safe, course of action, so our Christmas conversations have already taken place without any of the comic guilt-tripping demonstrated here by Heidi Garner, Punkie Johnson, and Kate McKinnon.

So, we’re lucky in not needing this recent advice column about how to have the “Christmas conversation” in real life.

And yet. The distance between the Christmas I hoped for and the Christmas Mr. Mezz and I are creating together—it’s still painful, some moments.

Still, I have moved well beyond the denial I was feeling a few weeks ago. No more halfway-wishing to do something that would be “individually rational but collectively disastrous.”*

And on those nanoseconds when I feel myself—not wavering, exactly—maybe just sad and regretful about the way things have to be, I remind myself of a couple recent articles I saw in the Globe and the NYTimes.

The first of these was a survey of 700 epidemiologists about what their daily behaviors are and when they imagine life returning to “normal.”

On the eve of the COVID winter, the epidemiologists are living with stringent precautions and new workarounds in place, far stricter than those of many ordinary Americans. [. . .] Of 23 activities of daily life that the survey asked about, there were only three that the majority of respondents had done in the last month: gathering outdoors with friends; bringing in mail without precautions; and running errands, like going to the grocery store or pharmacy.

Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller, and Quoctrung Bui

Those activities that fall closest to what a Christmas trip to see family would be are all closer to the 15% willingness mark. And if only 15% of scientists with this area of expertise think this stuff is do-able, that is a clear enough data point to snap me out of any wishful or magical thinking I might slip into, now and again.

A close-up of a snow globe containing a decorated Christmas tree. In the background is an out of focus landscape of snow and trees.

But even more powerful than this survey and its data is an article I read Sunday in the Globe, profiling three infectious disease specialists in the Boston area, and revealing just how fucking demoralized they are.** (My potty-mouth, not theirs.)

I’m just astounded by the dysfunction, the willingness to just stay the course as hundreds of thousands of people die, and the unwillingness to innovate in literally any way. [. . .] I’ve realized that when we need to rise up as a country, we have truly no moral capacity to do it. It’s just the most mind-bending, complete “Twilight Zone” experience that makes you ask why the hell we even bother.

Michael Mina, as quoted by Hanna Krueger

It’s the classic example of how we as humans are so much more likely to respond to stories than data, how we make emotional decisions a helluvalot more often than we make rational ones. The data from the survey helps snap me out of my wishful thinking, but the real power is in the way my heart just instinctively reaches out to these scientists. These individuals who have been trying to share their knowledge and expertise within a culture that just doesn’t have the sense of communal responsibility to turn this COVID thing around, these folxs who are exhausted and depleted and still trying, dammit.

Two men climbing an ice-covered rock wall.

The data helps program me out of magical thinking, but it’s the ineffable heart-connection I feel to these people I’ve never even met that strengthens my resolve to do the right thing.


* I know I am profligate about linking to previous blog-posts here on JALC. Still, if there is one link you follow from this post, let it be to this Atlantic article.

** If there is a second link you follow from this post, let it be to this Boston Globe profile.


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One thought on “Heart to heart conversations

  1. Pingback: White Too Long by Robert P. Jones – Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

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