Teachings From the Pandemic


                                                            by Neal Lemery

            This last year and a half has been chock full of lessons and experiences, forcing us to adapt, often reluctantly, to changes in how we live, be with family, work, celebrate social life and participate in the experiences we are used to having. 

            I’m often reluctant to accept change, let alone welcome it with the sense that our lives will be better.  I like my routines, but the Pandemic has pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

            Now that the vaccines are here, and many of our cherished patterns and activities are returning to our lives, in altered forms, we are still not “back to normal”.  We now are adapting to new routines.

            “The New Normal” can be liberating.  Those activities and obligations we often didn’t enjoy much can be substituted with new approaches to living our lives.  Virtual meetings and classes can often be more convenient and efficient than in-person gatherings. In some ways, participating in government is simplified, by clicking on a link and interacting with legislators and other government agencies. 

Now, I realize it’s possible to talk with health care providers and other professionals without the need to travel. The experience may not be ideal, but most of our interactions are productive, and certainly time efficient.

 Conversations with family and friends are a more welcoming experience.  The last few months have allowed us to travel and again be physically present with others, teaching me that a big part of my social life is physical connection.  

            We have been learning that much of our society’s work can be handled remotely, that where we live has enormous value to our wellbeing and sense of purpose.  We look at the value of personal services and professional interactions really are essential, and that every job is important.  

            Each day is a new opportunity.  The ancient Greeks recognized that: 

            “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”   —- Heraclitus  

            An old song teaches that we can persevere and change is coming:


“Oh, there been times that I thought
I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able, to carry on

“It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will.”

                                    “A Change is Gonna Come”. Sam Cooke

            Throughout the ages, change comes.  We grow and adapt, because we should. And if we don’t, we stagnate, we rust, and decay.  Life is like that, pushing us forward, into the new.  

            I’m often grateful for the changes and the resulting need for me to stretch and learn.  The old, tried and true ways can become stale, and I weaken if I am not challenged. There’s enough “unexpected” that happens in life that ensures that life doesn’t get old and boring. 

            We have opportunities now that didn’t exist before. Let’s discard what hasn’t worked and embrace what now does work, for the good of all of us.


Pronoun Paradox

My young friend invited me to lunch, to meet his family: mom, brother, and sister.

Well, sister had been his brother, but was now transgendering, now his sister. “His” old name was now another name, choosing to go by “P___”.

They shared many family stories and anecdotes, and talked about their lives and the future. They brought me into the family circle, and we laughed and had our serious moments, too.

Mom laughed a lot at this family gathering, joining the two brothers and P_____ telling endearing family stories, many of them involving P____. Throughout the telling, P___ was “he” and “him”, and then “her” and “she”; sometimes “son” and “brother” and sometimes “daughter” and “sister”. P____ added her own parts of the stories, laughing at the jokes and showing her serious self in the serious moments. Whoever was the storyteller easily switched from P____’s old name to her new name and back again.

Along the way, those brain cells of mine apparently in charge of gender labels and pronouns tried to keep track of the stories about P____, and the jumble of him, her, he and she, brother, son, sister, or daughter. My thoughts yearned for some order, some thread of consistency, so I didn’t have to keep going back from the male to the female pronouns, all referring to P____, sometimes called by her previous name, even in the same sentence. Of course, when P____ told her part of the stories, it was the soothing and familiar “I” and “me”. My culturally shaped brain didn’t have to sort through the jumble of all those particular little pronouns and names, new and old.

And, did all that pronoun paradox really matter? This person next to me was funny and charming, being the youngest kid in the family, a teenager with a witty sense of humor and a pleasant, contagious laugh. Just P____, without all the pronouns, me just enjoying this witty and happy person sitting next to me, in all their loving, amusing self, a new friend becoming a part of my expanding world.

–Neal Lemery 2/19/2016