The Unbearable Unattainableness of Normalcy


I hate Zoom services. It is very difficult for me to join them. Only part of it is the halachic implications. A year of social distancing and self-imposed lockdown has rendered me somewhat more lax than I have been in the past, particularly about electronics use.

For me, COVID really hasn’t really touched my life all that much. I haven’t gone skiing yet this year, aside from some cross country jaunts around our property. That’s as much about snowfall amounts as it is concerns over the virus, truth be told.

I started working remotely when we moved to Maine in 2016. Most of my human contact during a week takes place on Zoom, WebEx, IP telephony, and now, Microsoft Teams. Synagogue was respite from these things, and now, it, too, has joined the realm where my relationships, professional and personal, are limited to laggy Internet connections.

We’ve all heard the, “you’re on mute!” jokes. I didn’t mind when my professional lifestyle didn’t touch tips with my personal, but here we are.

I’m also approaching a year of not being in the military. This was my other deep and lasting conduit to communion with other humans.

I take Nezzie for hikes, but after our first serious snowfall, that kind of stopped. She doesn’t have kiddie snowshoes.

So I hear the liturgy in Zoom—and our rabbi does a phenomenal job—but it’s the belch of other people during kaddish, or incidental noise from this or that person who doesn’t know how to mute. I just can’t daven with kavanah, or feeling, and so I prefer to do it alone.

The vaccines are coming. We’re all seeing, hopefully, the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m thinking about getting back to in-person services, beefing up our member recruitment strategies, trying to be a more programmatically progressive congregation—but in the meantime, this Jew is tired. This Jew is Zoomed out.

It’s a case study in our saturation points. I thought, “I’ve weathered long deployments where we joked about the movie ‘Groundhog Day’.” This is, emotionally and mentally, very much like that, minus the hazards of military service. I’m surprised by my own lack of resilience.

No, I’m not ready to throw caution to the wind and pretend like things are normal. I have members of my household who need us to maintain our discipline. And studies about the aftermath of COVID reveal it’s not something we want to invite even if we “live through it.”

But here I am, wishing the world went beyond the wall of trees surrounding our house. I can only imagine what people in apartments or cities feel. What would this be like without these online connections?

Must…persevere. Must…endure.

Brian

Writer, President of Bangor's Congregation Beth Israel, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Maine with three ladies and a dog.

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About Brian

Brian Kresge

Brian Kresge

Writer, President of Bangor's Congregation Beth Israel, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Maine with three ladies and a dog.

About Leah

Leah Kresge

Leah Kresge

Director of Education for Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor, Maine, special educator and former school board member, mother to Amelia and Nezzie.

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