How's Your Pandemic FOMO?

The epic film Love Actually tells us that Christmas is an enchanted time for magical moments and taking stock of our lives. In between making dreams come true, we’re meant to face facts about our chance at finding true love, or something? Are we single or coupled? Happy or sad? Successful or a failure?

My timeline shows lots of people sticking it to the pandemic by seeking out love and romance, traveling, and having curiously large parties. I can’t be alone in asking, is summer in the pandemic era just warm weather Christmas?

Yes, I’ve been watching gimmicky Christmas in July crafting videos. Yes, I already know which ornaments, wreaths, and garlands to make. The Christmas 2021 vision is strong, but there's something else happening too.

What feels real?

2020 was a time outside of time. The days, months, and milestones passed in a makeshift fashion, or went unobserved. The first pandemic year left what economists call pent-up demand, a vaguely sexual term for when people aren’t able to spend time and money in a way consistent with their expectations.

Not so fast!

It's tempting to place  COVID pandemic responses on a progressive linear continuum, with distinct phases. From this perspective, it’s okay to be afraid until help comes. Then things get better if we accept the help, or the problem is solved.

Lots of feelings are happening, all at once

FOGO, or fear of going out, was socially acceptable when we didn't know the facts about preventing or treating COVID. The emergence of variants of concern has brought FOGO back to the forefront. FOGO is to be expected for our community as some of us can’t be vaccinated or benefit as much as typical people. And we’re already carrying more than our share of health concerns.

FOMO, or fear of missing out, is the painful feeling that life is moving on without us during the pandemic, in an irrevocable process. This may be intensified by social media use.

YOLO, or “you only live once”, is the feeling that we shouldn't miss out on anything we want because the chance might never come again.

Don’t let feelings call the shots

The FOMO and YOLO impulses push us toward toxic all-or-nothing thinking, but there's another way. We can meet the moment with good judgment and creativity.

We know how to prevent the transmission of COVID and most other infections. We can choose safer social settings, gather using technology, or delay gratification a little while longer.

Feelings aren’t facts!

When I feel like I've spent “enough time” on COVID restrictions it helps me to push pause. Has something changed? Has the danger passed? Sadly, not yet.

What have I learned?

It's important to observe the people you interact with. What have they been doing? Then you’ll know how to proceed. In 2020, I received invitations to meet with friends. I declined, because they'd been eating in lots of restaurants and taking unnecessary trips. Each time, they turned up with COVID. Sometimes, we just have to wait a little longer.

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