Personal After Effects of the Pandemic a Year Later
Living alone and being complimented on my positivity this last year of early COVID self-quarantine, there are new challenges now despite having been vaccinated.
With highly compromised lungs, home delivery of groceries, and rare “seniors only” early trips to one large dept store for house essentials quickly became the norm.
Increasing reliance on telephone visits and internet groups for personal contact, along with grabbing a mask before stepping out of the house for a short walk down the driveway to the mailbox became the rule.
Daily news of the spreading pandemic, along with exploding hospitalizations and business closures gave more reason for isolation.
Incessant media coverage of vitriolic and divisive accusations of candidates of one political party against the other leading up to the presidential election and aftermath changed an occasional check of the daily news into a new, almost addictive obsession.
Maskers vs non-maskers could soon be identified as supporting one political party vs the other. Tensions among friends intensified as political differences surfaced and it became more difficult to maintain relationships while “agreeing to disagree” on opposing views. As it became increasingly more difficult to navigate “safe” topics, long standing trusted associations became strained and in some instances stopped altogether.
Inability to visit a hospitalized best friend or be present as the final stages of illness eventually took its toll left one bereft of the comforting traditional rituals of grief.
Days and weeks melted together as once filled monthly social and appointment calendars remained blank. Daily menus rose in importance as new recipes were tried and a larger portion of each day was spent in the kitchen.
Netflix, computer games and escape in more fiction became the favorite “pandemic sitters” night after night.
New hobbies, longer more frequent walks and time spent in the yard made one believe this time would pass and we would all come out unscathed.
Last week proved an unwlecomed surprise with unanticipated reactions. Entering a person’s home and office for the first time after a year of not having others into mine or being in anyone elses, left me standing in the foyer in a state of uncertainty and almost wonder.
When I’d made two recent trips to the clinic for the Moderna vaccines, patients had been met at the door for temperature scans and questions before being re-directed away from the main clinic to a restricted area.
Four weeks later, returning for a mammogram, there was no one at the door to take temps, the area was wide open and a glance at the large lab waiting area found every chair taken. Seeing all masked but so many sitting elbow-to-elbow made me freeze and want to flee. I don’t scare easily but this made me very uncomfortable. Who had been vaccinated? Who might have undiagnosed Covid? Was that sporadic cough or sneeze allergy spawned or contagious?
Afterwards, returning home shaken, I was quick to say that I wasn’t yet ready to resume restaurant dining when a friend called to suggest that our group celebrate our vaccinations with a lunch out together. I’m just not ready.
In my state, masks are no longer required; all businesses fully re-open tomorrow; reports of new and increasing numbers of virus mutations are limelighting the news as I sit here wondering if I’ve developed agoraphobia to some degree.
After weeks of delighting in thoughts of what might be my first “back into the world at large” ventures, instead of visits exploring each aisle of long deferred pleasures, I think it will be far wiser for me to take very small steps into those yearned for places I’d been so anticipating for so long. I need to become braver and more confident emerging from the chrysalis so tightly woven over this past year.
Will I continue to take long advised personal public health precautions of masking and distancing for some time going forward? For me, the answer is an easy: "Yes".
Am I alone in this new challenge of becoming more comfortable in this changed world of more freedoms? Are others experiencing surprising reactions as new first steps toward more normalcy are being taken?