Aftermath

By April Boyington Wall

PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...

During Covid 19, I learned that the term aftermath was apparently originally an agricultural one, referring to an after-growth crop—grass grown after another crop had been harvested.


There is hope in knowing that grass can be grown directly after a harvest and that it is often done. The thought is a slim thread being dangled before me as we head into the second year and worst outbreak of the virus. This original meaning of the word is a total reversal on the more recent concept of aftermath, which has always (to me) connoted something negative. Something worse than the original event, which invariably was catastrophic.


So there is hope. A meadow of verdant green grass arising after the harvest. There is more to come. According to the old definition, it’s not bad. It’s something good, beautiful, innocuous.


What will happen as the aftermath to this pandemic? Many of us have been intent on noticing and savoring the good here. The new ways of getting through life. The inventiveness we have shown in being creative, developing work-arounds for being unable to connect in person with each other. Yet as we do so, there is a lot of whistling past the graveyard, not wanting to think too much about the other side of this situation. The deaths, the losses, the healthcare issues that have languished and progressed without timely medical attention. The mental health issues that are reported regularly although in relatively vague terms.


Some concerns are recognized, but no answers provided. The strain on women who have borne most of the burdens of decreased or eliminated income, working from home on endless Zoom meetings, doing constant child care and home schooling. There is a significant increase in child abuse, especially when kids are not in school—a fact troubling a friend who is a pediatric ER doctor. This has not been widely reported but she faces it daily.


So what is the aftermath of all this? Can it be good? Or even innocuous?


On a personal level, I am wondering about the future for me. The aftermath. My relationships have changed and it is uncomfortable yet also probably good. I now have the best excuse in the world to let go of social niceties that kept me locked in activities that no longer sparked joy. I have Marie Kondo’s life and increasingly am retrieving more and more space. But what to do with it? And how can I avoid slipping into old habits when we are free to abandon our pandemic restraints?


I had hoped that all this free time would be an opportunity for reflection and intentionality. The reflection has been there, as I increasingly gain strength in de-cluttering my life. But the intentionality? The clarity? Not evident. Not yet.


I hope the aftermath will bring a chance to metaphorically run in the meadows that I crave.


Yet I need to be realistic. Nothing lasts forever, so even the aftermath itself, good or bad, will end.


Initially trained as a social worker and therapist, April Boyington Wall moved into business consulting early in her career and eventually taught and mentored graduate students in management. She has worked as an executive coach and has designed and led training programs in communications in organizations across Canada and the United States, as well as authoring articles for academic journals and professional publications, reports, case studies, role-play materials, employee manuals, and instructor guides. Qualified as a trainer for Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) she has been regularly doing expressive writing alone and with others for years.