Having lived through difficult personal, business, and national times and having tried complex cases for close to forty years, I am all too familiar with stress. I must admit that the unyielding constant stress I have felt since March of this year far surpasses anything I have ever before experienced. I feel the imprint of the pandemic and its effects every day, everywhere I go, everything I do. It is an ever present weight – sometimes more, sometimes less – but always there.
It seems as though practically all aspects of my daily life now have an added modicum of stress. Take family for example. Ours is a close knit family that makes a point of spending time together; distance and personal schedules notwithstanding. For three months the pandemic made it impossible to see two out of our three children and their families. More recently, we have enjoyed socially distance visits with our son and family in New Jersey, whom we had not seen for 6 months and with our daughter whom we had not seen for 3 months after she and several of her children drove 14 hours from St Louis (after first testing negative for Covid-19) to our home for a week long visit. While I cherish each of these opportunities there is something about a masked, “hug-less” visit with your children and grandchildren that leaves you with an empty feeling. And then there is that lingering question – When will the pandemic allow for another visit?
Interestingly, maintaining my health while, of course, a concern, is no longer a regular contributor to my stress level. I have acclimated fairly well to my daily Covid-19 routine which greatly limits my presence at infection risky locations. My daily routine is relatively low risk – car, synagogue, car, office, car, home. No beaches for me! I have not eaten in a restaurant nor boarded a plane. I do my shopping on line except for the in and out at the cleaners, gas station and supermarket. Our family vacation to Utah is cancelled and will not be replaced this summer. I am fairly satisfied with this health strategy and am no longer anxious as I was when I first emerged from the safety of my home.
The lack of meaningful social interaction with my friends is a definitely a stress contributor. The pandemic has all but ended any regular meaningful interaction with friends. There are no social events, dinners, weddings, communal events. No evenings out. As I have noted in an earlier post the pandemic has resulted in a high degree of “out of site – out of mind” with more casual friends. While social media and zoom enable a certain amount of connection, they are no replacement for genuine personal interaction among friends. Even my daily attendance at the synagogue is stressful. I find it depressing to worship in an empty sanctuary with 10-15 masked parishioners seated 8 feet a part praying in a truncated service to shorten the time we are gathered and reduce risk of infection.
The greatest source of stress, however, is the economic impact of the pandemic in general and in particular on our law firm. So far we have been fortunate. Our litigation business has been strong and with cost cutting and the PPP we have managed fairly well under the circumstances. But what will the future look like? The economic uncertainties associated with and caused by the pandemic rest heavily on my shoulders all the time. There is no escape.
Since the beginning of April, pandemic stress has caused me, literally, to have an ever present physical pain in my neck. I guess I will just need to get used to it. This pandemic is going to be around longer than any of us wish.