These are tough times for control freaks


I can no longer watch a film in a normal way. Whether I'm watching a soppy Love Actually scene or Aragorn slaughtering an Uruk-Hai before the gates of Mordor, it makes no difference, a thought never fails to pop into my mind: “Keep your goddamn distance!”

On the one hand, I am pleasantly surprised by my own ability – and that of others – to adapt to corona. My norms governing how we should interact with one another have stretched by 1m50. And so my feeling towards others who do not observe the ‘new normal’ is one of frustration – even though such behavior may well be out of step with our instincts.

On the other hand, my ability to adapt has an Achilles heel. I am an idealist and as such I try to control things. Just call me a control freak. But a pandemic is no happy time for idealists, perfectionists and control freaks. To knock corona on the head, we must observe these new norms - all of us. So when someone breaks a rule, ‘loss of control’ stress is triggered in me - probably the same kind of frustration that soccer moms and dads experience when standing pitch side at a youth match.

But if you aren't careful, you'll find too much to get wound up about. People who don't keep their distance (“Do I have to get a tape measure?!”), a minister taking too long to get vaccinations organized (“Is there anything that man can do?!”), someone not coughing in their elbow (“We have been doing this for nine months already, how difficult can it be?!”), a large group of people on the street (“You do know what one household is?!”), a face mask being worn under a guy's nose (“Do you pull your pants up to just under your scrotum?!”), you name it.

I've been feeling tense for weeks now - and it's not an easy feeling to shift. The only solution is probably to accept the situation, but it is easier to think, 'If I just look at that person really judgmentally, something may well change.'

Climate change used to be my pet peeve and it is the crisis that comes closest to our present situation: the world is heading for disaster and we can only do something about it if everyone pitches in. Similarly, the control I can exercise in that situation, too, is minimal; I did a PhD on energy savings in the home, but still the temperature keeps on rising.

In fact, I have even less control over corona than I do over the climate. That ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ being mentioned on TV, for me that means doing something patently good for the world. And so I have resorted to my old predilection for being a control freak: since Wednesday I've got solar panels on my roof. This way at least I can generate some positive energy.

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