It’s March again. Especially for those of us who live in the Northeast, March often brings with it the promise of better days: the sun shines longer each day, buds are slowly peeking out on the trees, and the mercury begins to slowly and more consistently creep up, taunting us with promises of spring after the seemingly eternal winter.
Except, it’s March again. March.
March: the month the world shut down a year ago. If you’re even remotely active on social media, it’s likely you’ve been privy to the various memes circulating about how naïve we were a year ago this week, how we couldn’t have imagined what was coming, how “feral” we’ve become since a year ago. Personally, I’ve spent the past week vacillating between feelings of optimism and pangs of angst I can feel deep in my gut when I think about what we didn’t know yet was to come a year ago. I recently resumed a show I’d began watching maybe a month into the shutdown, and, just hearing the theme music, I felt a sense of dread.
So here it is: the anniversary reaction.
The Anniversary Reaction
The anniversary reaction sounds pretty innocuous, on the surface. For many of us, anniversaries are celebrations: of milestones we’ve achieved, connections we’ve made, or challenges we’ve overcome. But there are times when we can find ourselves approaching the anniversary of an event and feeling anxious, unsettled, angry, on edge, confused, and sad. It’s as though our brains can sense by the angle of the sun, “This time last year I was made to feel scared. So this is now the time of year I’ll feel scared, even when there’s no apparent external threat.” And we may have no idea why we’re feeling this way, because our brain doesn’t remind us to connect the dots and doesn’t listen when we remind it we’re actually safe. Interestingly, often the feelings that come with an anniversary reaction disappear as quickly as they came on, once the days and weeks surrounding the date of the event pass.
This week, as we approach the one-year anniversary (Friday the 13th—how fitting) of the official declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, I imagine many of us are feeling more anxious or on edge than we have in recent weeks and months. It’s been a long winter—one of the longest I can remember—and the pandemic-based restrictions certainly did not help the days go by any faster. And yet March is here again. There is promise of spring. The sun is hitting at a different angle. And we’re still in this pandemic. We are exhausted. We are tapped out. And now we’re being reminded constantly, by virtue of the calendar, that we’ve been at this for a YEAR. But there is reason to hope.
The Road Ahead
Indeed, the days are getting longer and warmer, which brings with it its own optimism. We can get outside more readily. Vaccination production and distribution is ramping up. There is promise that we are approaching the end of this tunnel.
Let’s keep this in mind as we navigate the unexpected emotions we may experience over the next week/month/season. We will get through this. Just because the calendar (and our tricky brains) may say so, we’re not where we were a year ago. And maybe in coming years, March will be the month we get to remind ourselves how far we’ve come in our resilience. Let’s plan for it.
In the meantime, hang in there.
(How are doing with all of this? Let us know in the comments below!)