Benjamin Franklin once said “if you want something done, ask a busy person,” to which comedian Lucille Ball later added “the more things you do, the more things you can do.” The point, of course, is that people who stay busy are more energetic, more organized and more motivated by nature.
We observed the opposite over two years of monotony and incubation during the pandemic, which resulted in a jump in laziness and less desire for people to get out of their comfort zones. For the first several months of the pandemic, activities were limited, responsibilities at work lessened, and lives constricted. As energy levels declined, anxiety meters rose. In other words, the less you do, the less you do.
But now, as the pandemic winds down and falls off the front page, the world has largely returned to normalcy. Although booster shots and masks still remain, COVID-19 no longer presents the fright and worry as in the past. Recently, President Joe Biden put a stamp on that when he announced that “the pandemic is over.” While he may be right, the pandemic symptoms remain.
Anxiousness over getting sick has been replaced with a palpable fear of getting back to pre-pandemic life — going to group events, going back to the office each day, getting out of our box. Maintaining a status quo is easy. Change? Not so much. The pandemic imposed upon all of us a new status quo of doing, questioning and living less. Taking the easy way out was, well, easier. Couples who were unhappy but forced to stay together due to the lockdown are now free to get up and out, separate and start a new life. But will they? Should they? Can they? And what about the rest of us? What will we do with our freedom?
Technology has adapted to the new world but also serves as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, many of us can work from anyplace and at any time. We can see our family members whenever we want. FaceTime, Zoom, Teams — there are an endless supply of platforms to be with people without really being with them. Why get dressed, pay for child care or miss work, drive to your lawyer or therapist’s office and pay for parking when you can just talk to them with a click or keystroke? No need to meet up with friends or spend the money going out to dinner. Lets cook at home or call for delivery. We’ll see you for a “virtual happy hour.”
As professionals, virtual meetings just don’t tell the whole story. In person and real face-to-face interaction builds trust and connection much more efficiently than having a virtual session or meeting. On a computer, you can’t see everything, you lose out on certain cues that are easily picked up when in person. If someone has self esteem issues or if a potential divorce client has sustained physical abuse, those may be difficult to identify on a computer screen.
The two of us are not immune. We like to wear exercise clothes, while suits and dresses remain in the closets, collecting dust. But we recognize that it is time to get moving, get up and, yes, get out of that pandemic created box so many of us are living in.
We have to make an effort to create structure and routine, and to get out of the house: Get up early, take a class at the gym, or meet a friend for coffee or a drink. Putting on real pants is a great check in to see if they still fit! It’s important to create boundaries between work and home life, and to be social. We are pack animals and even the biggest introverts need to be around people sometimes. Maybe it’s through hiking or theater or pickleball. Stretching yourself will help to increase your self-esteem and feeling of productivity.
And finally, if you are unhappy, get help. Talk to friends, a therapist, and, yes, if the situation calls for it, a lawyer.
Julie and David Bulitt, a therapist and divorce lawyer respectively, are also couples coaches, speakers and the authors of the book, “The Five Core Conversations for Couples.” They can be reached at www.thebulitts.com.