Ray is the Publisher Emeritus for Appen Media and the Herald newspapers.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow.

It feels like things have changed. I am not sure when I realized it. It was just something that occurred to me over the past couple days. All my life, I have been a slow learner. If I had more sense, I would simply observe what the friends around me have figured out and then know that I will be in the same place — in the same space — at some point soon.

It is sort of like when you realize, despite how young you feel inside, that yes, you actually are old now and in the second half or last third of life. Boy, that is sort of hard to write. “Why?” I wonder.

This pandemic has changed things or has been a catalyst for change. It has been something that has progressively “set in” for most of us. Around early March, we all knew or suspected that we were entering uncharted territory. Then, things just seemed to evolve from day to day — similar to the upheaval we now see in the streets sparked by the death of George Floyd. We gradually came to understand that each day would probably not bring closure. We then discovered that we were personally involved. We realized that “this” was not just an isolated “event.” It was, in fact, a process. We found ourselves inside a whirling tornado — just like in the Wizard of Oz — and there wasn’t a lot we could do to control where we landed or when the chaos would stop.

This realization has not been very comforting.

Most of us tend to go through life assuming that bad things sometimes happen to people, but those people are usually “other” people, not me. Then something happens eventually to us — like this pandemic — or to someone close to us, and a light bulb goes off, and we are forced to admit that we don’t have a “get out of jail free” card, that we are not exempt, that our lives are really no different than anyone else’s in things that matter.

It is the “personal” part of this pandemic that, I think, has finally registered with me and probably to many of you. Our status quo has been disrupted — not someone else’s.

Most of us have short memories. We frequently behave like an alcoholic who successfully goes through the agony of withdrawal, only to, a short time later, relapse into the same behavior that caused the pain. We seem to be hardwired to need order, consistency and predictability, and this leads us to quickly forget or ignore anything that disrupts or interferes with this need.

I wonder if we will retain or remember anything related to what we personally are going through right now with this pandemic and ,after it passes, if we will change any of our behavior, our attitudes, or our values. Or, will we simply default back to our comfortable pre-pandemic status quo. My instinct tells me, unfortunately, that we will quickly move on and go back to how we were before. I hope not.

We seem to hate change, even when not changing causes pain, too.

“Change” was the core message that Obama championed and that helped him be elected to two terms. “Change” too, was ultimately the horse that Trump rode into the White House as well and which may yet carry him into a second term. So, it puzzles me why this is, when we know that “change” is not something that comforts us or gives us a sense of security or well-being. Why is “change” such a driving force today in our lives when it is not something any of us are comfortable with or generally something that we, by default, seek?

Anyone? Love to find out why.

We all deal with stress and uncertainty differently — in our own way. I find myself taking inventory of the things that I think are important to me, things I count on to bring some order and focus back into my life. At the end of the day, that means my family — my wife, my children and grandchildren, my relatives, my friends. I find myself thinking about things I can control, simple things like speaking to people, reaching out to neighbors, choosing not to judge, having a positive attitude, caring for animals and how I can personally change my habits and actions to give our environment a break — tiny things I can do to help save the planet. I find myself focusing on positive things I can control and I am trying to take steps now that might help me remember how I feel right now — this minute — during this pandemic so that I will not forget it and so I will do a better job post-pandemic in doing my share to make everyone’s life a little bit better.

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. That is not something I want to do or see. I want to be better than that. I want us all to be better than that.

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