We’re living in a global soup of fear around Covid: fear of getting sick, fear of losing loved ones, fear of losing freedom, fear of adverse vaccine events.

During the Level 4 New Zealand lockdown, I hopped on a call with a close friend. We started chatting and I opened up the vaccine conversation, assuming he fell into my camp in relation to it. He didn’t. I was shocked.

We began to exchange the research we have both done to come to our opposing points of view over the past year. The conversation got heated and, for me, triggering. I thought to myself, is this the end of this friendship? Surely not.

This is a man I love and admire. He’s intelligent – intellectually and emotionally. He is also an excellent researcher with a gift for synthesizing complex material and speaking articulately.

At one point in our conversation, I offered to send him a video link to a scientific authority whose opinion and research I respect. “Susannah, please!” he said emphatically, “I’ve made my decision.”

In the 12 years of our friendship, I’ve never seen him set a boundary like that. I backed off. I scrambled. Then I offered, “Well, perhaps we can just agree to disagree and not talk about the subject anymore?”

“Are you kidding me?” he replied, “Why would we do that?” He had a good point. We’ve always talked openly about pretty much any subject.

Then, something amazing happened. Somehow, we began to relax into our friendship. I was able to tell him what I admire in him and to genuinely honour his choice. He in turn validated mine and told me it made sense to him.

Our conversation lasted nearly an hour and ended with our looking forward to catching up in person once Lockdown ends.

I got off the phone feeling uplifted, inspired and peaceful – more determined than ever to drop any story of “us and them” and to respect everyone’s right to make their best choice.

The future is uncertain and guessing how things will unfold doesn’t bring clarity or peace. However, I’m clear that the right way forward for me is to choose unity and connection over division. It’s the choice that dissolves fear and fuels love.

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