“This pandemic is really working for you,” my mom said, half-jokingly. She nor I never could have imagined that over the course of only weeks, society would rearrange itself into a more Briana-friendly place. The “awkward” social necessities characteristic of my interactions with others have now become the norm.
For years, I have received critical looks upon entering a public space wearing a mask. When I would ask people not to stand close to me, to refrain from touching me because of my immunocompromised state, people would look at me strangely. Trying to explain to others that I have been isolated in my home because of environmental health triggers has been met with skepticism. Suddenly, social distancing and quarantining have become the rule, not the exception.
The ability of society to reorganize with warp speed is something to behold. The countless years during which I attempted to legitimize my health needs and requisite social arrangements have felt fruitless. I’ve lost friends and watched sprouting relationships fade into the background because others could not understand my life. The cultural repercussions of the pandemic are providing us with a unique opportunity not only to legitimize the various needs of those with chronic health conditions and disabilities, but also to increase awareness about the flexibility of humanity.
So often, having a disability has required certain adaptations and accommodations. The ableist mindset that is intrinsic within the foundation of society has broadcasted to me that this is a major inconvenience, that I must conform or go without. I believe the current social restructuring and confusion just might be the pathway toward a more respectful social structure. If we can so abruptly change our personal behaviors, habits, and awareness level of others during a pandemic, why can’t we maintain this level of sensitivity always?
While many are scrambling to return to the familiarity they once depended upon, I am encouraging all of us to embrace the chaos. The forced recognition of humanity’s vulnerability can be a monumental tool for establishing a deeper level of connection. When we can once again congregate with those we love, the ability to do so will become sacred, I believe. The face-to-face interactions we are all pining for will bloom into the experiences for which we are most grateful. These lessons are some of the many that living a chronically isolated life can provide.
Perhaps a glance into this kind of lifestyle for those who are healthy will facilitate an unprecedented kind of empathy. Expressing feelings of loneliness is becoming more socially acceptable. I hope the collective vulnerability to not only recognize shared loneliness, but also talk about it freely will emulsify humanity.
In the meantime, I am taking a paradoxical kind of comfort in knowing that when it comes to loneliness and isolation, I am far less alone than I was three months ago. When I gaze out the window from my couch, I smile inwardly thinking of a globe of people feeling the same kind of longing to be with one another.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.
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