My theatre life is still in semi-hibernation at the moment. But I suddenly feel like I’ve been drafted into a production of Jekyll & Hyde.
If you’re not familiar with the 1990 musical, it’s another take on the famous Robert Louis Stevenson story about a well-meaning scientist who unleashes his own dark side with an experiment that works far too well. Several of the songs reflect the same divide: that the people and the world around us can have two different natures, and you can’t always be sure which one you’re seeing.
Now, I haven’t started transforming at night into a brutish ogre of a man who’s deadly with a walking stick … well, not unless there are some really strange Pfizer side effects that I haven’t heard about yet. But as we all start to poke around the edges of this thing called “post-pandemic,” I’m noticing the same sort of split.
My household is immunized. Missy and I are starting to resume our lunch outings again. (Outside, of course.) Heather is emerging from the depths of Chez Rochat to get eyeglasses and do other long-postponed errands. Signs of change are popping up everywhere, from careful and joyful get-togethers to the re-opening of the local movie theater.
There’s an uncertainty. Not just about the fragility of this beginning-of-normal … by now, I think we all know that we’re at a tipping point where a bit of action or inaction can make all the difference in how this pandemic is resolved. But it goes beyond that.
We’re getting caught up in our own double vision.
We’ve spent more than a year training to handle a paradox. Like any disaster, we’ve had to look to each other for help and support. But with a pandemic, we are the disaster … and so we’ve also had to look at each other as possible dangers, potential plague vectors that could become deadly with a moment’s carelessness.
From that, an odd dance evolved: the world of being “together apart,” being a neighbor while keeping our distance. The steps have changed as we’ve learned more but the basic figure has remained the same.
But now things are changing. A transition has begun. And we still have our well-honed reflexes, perfect for a 2020 world, that may suddenly be out of step.
We’re entering a world with more faces again – or at least, more places where those faces aren’t sitting in a square, looking for the Unmute button. And for many of us, the reflexes are still telling us “Careful! Danger! What are we doing here?”
The heck of it is, we can’t even say yet that we’re wrong. It looks like Henry Jekyll out there – but are we seeing the right face? Even if we are, could it still shift to Edward Hyde without warning?
We’re re-learning. And it’s not going to be comfortable.
The good news is, we’ve been there before.
In 2013, a September flood hit that split Longmont in two. In 2014, the first significant spring rainfalls began to hit … and I know many of us immediately tensed, looking to the filling creeks, mesmerized by the gushing gutters.
We had to get through those next rainfalls to really see rain again. Just rain. To re-learn that while floods can happen and we need to be prepared, not every storm will be a flood. To be ready for the dangerous and the normal.
I think we can get there again.
It’s OK to be uncertain right now. It’s OK to be cautious. And it will reach a point where it’s OK to exhale. It’ll take time and some careful practice, but we will get there. Not forgetting the lessons we’ve gained, but able to judge when and where they’re needed.
After all, you’ve got to watch out for your own Hyde.