My Covid cocoon had become a comfortable, familiar place. While chafing at my restrictions, I also learned to embrace my quieter existence.
I felt safe in my bubble, secure in the control I had acquired over my life. My time was my own to indulge in hours of writing, confident that my plans would not be interrupted. The outside world was held at bay, unable to intrude. While some writers felt crushed by the pandemic, my retirement status allowed me the freedom to forge onward working on my book.
The outdoors was my playground. My running shoes, bike, trail shoes, skis and snowshoes my constant – and virus-free – companions. The opportunities to share those activities with friends, to see others outside, let in a little normalcy that helped balance the isolation.
Family became my only source of close personal contact. The decision to extend our circle to our children and grandchildren was not without its risks, but held overwhelming benefits. Those visits fed my heart and nurtured my need for social interaction.
In the course a year I had adapted to my revised lifestyle. Then suddenly everything changed. Again.
Getting the vaccine was only a baby step. Although I was protected, it was still early in the process, and many people around me – including Rich – were still awaiting vaccination. Those early days didn’t feel much different. Still social distancing, wearing masks and seeing others only outdoors.
Our first fully-vaccinated outing was returning to church. Spread out in every other pew, masked, with small numbers in our little church it felt safe. No coffee fellowship downstairs afterwards, but it was enough to see our friends and fellow church members and worship together in person.
Having friends over for dinner has long been a favorite social activity. We decided we would be comfortable with having one fully vaccinated couple over for dinner at a time. The first evening, sitting down to wine and appetizers at the kitchen island followed by gathering around the dinner table felt like a gift. So did the hugs we felt we could now afford.
The day the governor lifted all the major restrictions came as a shock. I was used to the slow pace of recovery, the gradual loosening of constraints. The idea of flipping a switch and returning full speed felt like too much too soon. In fact, it put a damper on our willingness to venture forth into normalcy. If we were still unwilling to eat in socially distanced restaurant space, we certainly weren’t about to sit in the close proximity of full capacity.
And yet, we developed chinks in our armor. Trying to work out the logistics of a road trip to Seattle to visit our son Erik and his wife Katie in their new home, the specter of air travel began dancing in my head. Justifying arguments followed. “We’re going to have to start sometime.” I pleaded my case, leaving Rich to ponder the idea. “I’ll only go if I can sit up front, have extra leg room and priority boarding,” Rich said. We bought tickets. And flew.
I feel like everything is a test. In the absence of government mandates, I am left to define my own rules. Is it okay to go into the grocery store without a mask? I haven’t yet. Should I get a massage? I did and it worked wonders on both my mind and body. Might I return to the pool at the Y? Maybe, but I have enough summer alternatives for now.
Behaviors I once took for granted now cause me to hesitate. My favorite table in the coffee shop has returned, and beckons each time I stop in for take-out latte. After months of self-protection, it’s hard to know when to relax and where to hold the line.
I’m inclined to cling to some of the life simplifying aspects of the Covid era. My makeup sits untouched in its pouch in the bathroom drawer. Who needs makeup behind a mask? now becomes Who needs makeup? Why would I run to Target to stock up on household supplies when they will deliver to my door for free? I appreciate the time saving travel-free option of attending meetings on Zoom, and wonder how many of those need to resume in person.
There is no returning to normal. Not the old normal, anyway. The new is bound to be a hybrid, hopefully mixing the best of our Covid innovations with good old in-person, face-to-face life. Re-emerging step by step. As best I can.
thanks for expressing so beautifully what many of us are thinking and experiencing, molly.
I don’t know how I missed this blog, which you posted on June 30, but it’s been hectic for me. This is so good because it’s so captures how I feel about so many things surrounding the pandemic and where my line of safety is drawn. This is a beautiful essay.
Oh Molly. You’ve done such a good job of capturing the emerging world. We’ve continued to maintain our seclusion, save in our building where everyone has been inoculated and remain 100% covid free Masks always. Everything is so uncertain now with the covid variant gaining hold and the unvaccinated everywhere. We have, however, stopped wearing our masks when walking in the park. Bill has a hard time breathing with a mask while wearing his oxygen which is 100% of the time. We have a large tank and long hoses trailing throughout the apartment. Glad you were able to fly safely. It is sad that just as we are about to resume life, danger of shut down remerges.
Hugs to both of you. Fondly, Beryl
I don’t think we will ever see “normal” as in what it was like before. I retired in 2015 and was excited at all the things we were going to do, so I am sad that we’ve been almost housebound for so long. But I, like you, got comfortable in my at home routine and am hesitant to move forward too quickly. I have eaten in 2 restaurants since March of 2020. Both were after trips to northeren Michigan. Both were little place. The 2nd one was this past Saturday. That one may have been a risk. We shall see.
Those decisions are so hard! We have been super careful, but sometimes you just have to live a little and try to do it carefully.