It’s probably a circumstance that a practitioner of Freudian psychology would quickly identify as a trait of a super-healthy ego, but I would argue – a trait of my hard-headedness – that ANYONE’s ears would perk up hearing their name. The radio was tuned in, but my attention wasn’t UNTIL I heard Teresa, or so I thought I heard. Instantly my attention focused on the discussion to see who made the news who shares my name. But it wasn’t a who. It was a phenomenon. (I know, Freud, I know. That sounds quite egotistical, but I am well aware that word could never be used to describe little ol’ me).
The word I heard was hysteresis. Say Teresa with a ‘hiss’ in front of it and ‘sis’ in place of the ‘uh’ sound made by the ‘a’ at the end, and you have it! It is a physics word. (My grade school introduction to physics didn’t include it on the vocabulary list. My teacher was stuck on levers – period). The radio host was not talking about physics at all. His program was about the economy!
It’s tough to listen when your mind chases rabbits. I had to find a definition. Found one, but that didn’t help. I had to find a definition of the definition. Here is my version. Hysteresis refers to the catching up that is needed when an occurrence causes a change in direction. Imagine a troublemaker deciding to switch the direction of a conveyor belt in a chocolate factory, bypassing stop. There would be a slowing down as gears got the message, then a pileup of chocolates, with spillage along with lots of noise, as gears came to a halt before going the other way.
I think hysteresis aptly describes more aspects of our pandemic period than just the economy. Change might be good, but we don’t like it, especially without warning. Sometimes we have to be convinced. Back in March when we shifted gears in every aspect of daily life, there was lots of noise as gears came to a halt before changing direction. And changes were global, not just local or national. Problems galore have piled up. When we decide to change directions again – and in many instances it won’t simply be back to the former directions but in completely different ones, I am preparing for a gradual return to an altered norm.