I am pretty certain that I live on a different planet from most of you gathered on this site. I’m a psychologist who has been working in one aspect of the mental health field or another for about forty years. I know that there are plenty of mental health professionals out there who are skilled marketers and business-people. I am not one of them. I have worked in hospitals, in academic medical centers, in clinics, and in private practice. My practice is comfortable despite the absence of a highly developed public, promotional presence. It works for me.
I am also a contrarian. I might go so far as to call myself a curmudgeon. I am, for example, the Facebook friend you love to hate. I point out that your posts are not backed up by Snopes (a fact-checking website based in the USA) or confirmed by a publication on any other reputable site.
I’m the one who chastises you publicly for posting that a highly qualified friend told you that drinking lots of water will flush COVID-19 out of your system and will tell you that you should check your sources, right in front of all your social media buddies. I make my incredulity known when someone who seems otherwise intelligent posts one of the long-running scams about free airline tickets or the hoax presented in pseudo-legal terms about refusing permission to use personal photos. Maybe you are one of those people and I’m annoying you already. But what may be most contrarian and curmudgeonly about me is that relentless optimism, and the belief that all straw can be turned to gold is to me like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I’m not as horrible and pessimistic as I might seem from this description. I’m actually quite creative, warm, friendly, and empathic. But rather than being someone whose focus is on how the pandemic will create new opportunities if we have enough vision, my own experience has been a quieter and more internal process about personal adjustment and personal change. Not all of that is happy. There are ways I have adapted and even thrived, but there are significant losses as well. There is grief for the things that will never return in the way once known and loved. That is a reality of life under any circumstances, as we age and the world moves on. Our current situation has sped up and intensified our awareness—or my awareness, at least—of that process. The ability to adjust to circumstances outside our control is necessary to survival and to experience happiness. That idea encompasses part of what I am trying to help my therapy clients to achieve, and it applies to me as well. But the mourning part of our current situation cannot be denied and it needs its time.
I’m glad that there are big thinkers out there, who can be the ones to foresee what saplings might push through the remains of this forest fire we are now living through. It is also good, I think, that there are people like me to remind others that there is more than one side to the story, and that a failure of relentless optimism is not a fault but an unavoidable part of the human experience.