Is It Life Yet?
Last week after over fourteen months of semi-confinement at times, total confinement at others California and New York, the two states I ricochet between, lifted all their COVID guidelines.
Gone are masks – unless mandated by certain establishments. You can saddle up to a bar and be within an inch of a stranger’s face. You can kiss that stranger and if you’ve been vaccinated you don’t have to worry about ending up on a ventilator.
You can climb back on the Soul Cycle and not worry about getting sick. As long as you’re one of the 70 percent who’ve had at least one shot.
Always ahead of the pack, California and New York are the most inoculated and both chomping at the bit to get back to normal.
But what is normal? People talk about the new normal. How do we define a new normal until more time has passed? If you’’re like me you’re suspended somewhere between who you were before, during and now.
Allowing some elasticity for individual character traits, the basic rule is it takes 21 days to break a bad habit or start a good new one and then another 90 days to make it a part of your daily life. There are others who say it takes up to 254 days to really roll yourself into a totally new pattern of behavior.
But be it ninety days, or two hundred and fifty- four, it’s been 440 days since COVID parachuted into our lives and changed the way we do most everything.
So, whatever new patterns we’ve formed, they are likely not going to be as easy to break as we think they are.
There is no just switching the lights on and it’s 2019 and we do things just the way we used to.
But, do we remember “used to”?
Did we learn we don’t love “used to” so much? Are some of us higher on the agoraphobe spectrum than we might have thought? Is exercising with others that much fun or do you get more work done if you don’t have to go somewhere and then come home and shower and get dressed? And speaking of getting dressed, what was with those zippers and buttons and belts? Elastic lives on! And movie theatres if last weekend’s numbers are any indication people are digging their Netflix.
There is a part of most people who want life as they knew it, but truth is, a) they may not remember it that well. B) there will be no life as we knew it.
You just don’t go through fifteen months in a fight or flight mode, where any chance encounter could lead to death without it changing the way you think for a very long time. And in some cases that’s not so bad.
It’s horrible when you look at the deaths. Beyond. It’s hideous as it could have been avoided. If you’ve been under a rock and question it, read Michael Lewis’ new book The Premonition.
But blame and, delusional Despots, man-made or bat juice generated aside it happened. And we will forever be the before and after generations.
My grandmother, who was a young girl during the Spanish Flu never got over it. Every time someone sneezed within twenty feet of me, she took out her Wash and Dries, ( you had to be there) and wipe my face and hands.
If someone sneezed near us in a movie theatre, we would move seats. Grandma uttering, rotten filthy, selfish people with colds. They can give someone pneumonia and kill them.
For grandma every surface, sneeze or cough held the possibility of annihilation. Again, you had to be there. And she was. And she was a tad hysterical, but when you’ve been through a pandemic your brain gets rewired.
You’ve had one and half two hundred- and fifty-day terms to shed some habits, make some new ones and chances are your life does not resemble what it did before, nor will it again.
I know people who are not running back into life full force. And I know people who are wealthy enough that they never stopped living their best lives throughout the pandemic.
But four hundred plus days without eating in a restaurant, I have to say, having been to few now, I don’t feel the need to go out as often. Will I again? I have no idea.
I don’t know that I like cities as much as I thought. I’m surprisingly happier being inside a lot of the day, not having to deal with people and their expectations and worrying about if I’m living up to everyone’s standards?
I’ve had a year and almost a half to only be concerned with keeping myself and my family alive, with a lot of time devoted to taking care of dead family member’s former lives; That changes you.
Not competing for everything from tables in restaurants to public attention, to being the most popular one in the room, to getting a job or covering why you don’t have one is a huge stress reducer.
Even if I didn’t feel that way, which I may feel or it may be self-protection, coming out of this, no one has been cancelled as aggressively as privileged white women over sixty.
Coming out into the world, I don’t have a clue as to where I even fit.
I find that the most distressing.
The pandemic sped up a lot of inevitabilities, and that is one of them.
I’ve been saying since the beginning, The Boomers are going to take the biggest fall for this one and we have in deaths, and we have in our lives.
I’m not being a pessimist there, I’m not being my grandmother, I don’t see death lurking in every corner, just a reshuffling of the deck.
But who knows if that is even a bad thing? Good and bad – their meanings have changed in the time we’ve been in.
I went to my first party… like a proper party the other night. The kind I used to go.
I must have looked like a mole coming out of its hole as I stood and blinked at the assembled group, the waiters passing drinks and canapes, the bold-faced guests in their fancy clothes.
The person I was standing with looked at me and said, “you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I said I think I have, it’s the ghost of life past.
And tumbling through my brain. Do I fit in? Do I even want to?
Why did I find all of this so compelling for so long? Why did I harness my-self -worth to if I was invited or not, if someone spoke to me or not? What’s it all about Alfie?
The jury is out on many things. I tried to plan a trip to Europe for October. Travel will remain an issue for some time. After a friend told me I was nuts and most of Europe was still not inoculated, I went on the CDC website. Three countries I was booking rooms in were all still HIGH LEVEL COVID.
By October it will likely go down. But will the desire to roam the world remain?
Will people return to offices?
Will families decide small town living is the life for them?
I can honestly say, I don’t have a clue at this moment as to how I want to go forward. Not a clue. I get clues and then I read something, or experience something and it erases them.
I’m back at square one. I still don’t know where I want to live. I have NEVER not known where I want to live.
I don’t know what I want to do. I have NEVER not known what I want to do.
But I have allowed myself (on certain days) to roll into the land of the unknown. Unashamed. Unnerved. Unlike my old self.
I think that is one of the things that has been sewn into the lining of my being during this pandemic, the ability to just be. I didn’t know so much for so long. I learned to live with it.
I existed (perfectly contentedly) on very few high-octane fumes. I didn’t work. I didn’t feel compelled to achieve. I worked on my mom’s estate for seven months. That was like fulltime a job.
Like many, I seldom knew what day it was. I lived in sweatpants and thought about all sorts of things that were out of my control, until from sheer emotional exhaustion I just gave in to being.
I don’t think I am alone in this.
Though I haven’t spoken about it to many.
One thing I learned in this period was how few friends, real friends I have. I think I suspected going in, but the pandemic really held a flashlight into corners I tried to avoid with all the noise and activity of my pre-pandemic life.
I am OK with all of this. I am just happy my family made it through without getting sick. I am happy my parents didn’t suffer for very long and got out before things got really bad. My mother could have never dealt with almost a year and a half of confinement.
We are creatures of habit, and most people rebel against any kind of big change. But there are some things in life that just change you and not only your world, but the entire world, there are not many, nuclear war, I guess global warming, World Wars and Global Pandemics.
They change you in ways you don’t even know. I run into people and most look a lot older, you can include me on that list, and many, most look a bit shell shocked. People are not just diving into the pool of life with abandon, they are dipping in one toe at a time. They are blinking and squinting, trying to get this new world into focus. They are remembering what it’s like to be amongst others and hold onto some of the lessons learned in captivity.