Dr. Yona Lunsky
This weekend, I remembered to spring forward and adjust my clock by turning it ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time. So, while I am waking up feeling a little more tired in the morning, I am enjoying the extra daylight in the evenings. This weekend also marked the third anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us, it feels like a lifetime ago, but it continues to affect our lives today. I find anniversaries of difficult times hard. I can’t un-know the pandemic and all the things that have happened because of it. However, even painful anniversaries provide an opportunity for reflection and focusing on what we can do to move forward.
The phrase “spring forward” is an interesting one. It suggests progress and momentum, and the word spring usually makes me feel energized. But, this spring, I still feel stuck. There is a photo of me with my sister, taken exactly three years ago, where we are holding a big stick between us to help us with social distancing as we walk outside. It seemed like a good idea at the time; we were up for the challenge for a few days, even a few weeks if it meant staying safe. Our smiles in that photo are pretty telling as I look at it now. We were scared but optimistic, springing forward with no idea of what was ahead of us.
As the pandemic has dragged on, we have had to adapt. At H-CARDD, we shifted how we worked and what we studied, we made space for emerging priorities and we connected with many new people across the country. We reached over a thousand people with disabilities, family caregivers, and service providers through our virtual programming, and we heard repeatedly how helpful it was for people to see that other people were experiencing the same things as them, whether it was the confusion, frustration, isolation, or fear and anxiety. It did not make everything better, but I think it offered people a small dose of hope, to keep going. In addition, it allowed for some creative problem-solving – whether it was a program for people with disabilities or for people caring for them, there were so many great ideas that were exchanged.
When I feel the weight of the past three years, I know others do as well. There is a certain strength in that - a little invisible support network, a sort of energy force of collective compassion. Spring holds the promise of growth and new beginnings. So as I spring forward this week, I do so gently, aware of what is behind me, and knowing that there is still so much work to do to improve the health and well-being of people with developmental disabilities and the people who love and who support them. I try to remember that I am part of a big caring community and we are all moving forward together. For those who find it challenging to move forward, we are not in a hurry. Together, let us offer out a hand and move at a pace that works for everyone.