Make no mistake: we are still in the throes of a pandemic. People are still dying every single day. But as more of us are wisely becoming vaccinated, society is beginning to open back up. Watching this process is making me think a lot about the rhythm of my life.
When the pandemic first started and we were all in some version of lockdown or another, I felt trapped in my home. That genuinely surprised me, because I’m an introvert, and something of a homebody. But one thing is choosing to be isolated, another is having no choice whatsoever. I thought my life moved at a slow pace up to that point, but coming to a screeching halt made me realize just how wrong I was.
As things progressed and safety precautions became a habit, I began to get used to the rhythm of this crisis. I actually settled into the slower pace, and often enjoyed it. I began to relax at home a lot more than was my habit previously.
Wearing a mask became my standard operating procedure. I got used to not seeing the lower half of people’s faces, and therefore being unable to gauge their moods. I got used to no handshakes and no hugs. I got used to standing farther back when talking to people than I had pre-COVID. I did miss seeing friends and having human contact, so there were definitely good days and bad days, but I coped better than I anticipated. A lot of that is because I don’t live alone, and had to continue to go to work. Your results may have varied.
Now, like I said, things are starting to ramp up again, and I’m not going to lie: the change feels rather abrupt. One day I was wearing masks, and the next day I was not. It kind of feels like that dream where you’re caught naked in a public place. Vulnerable. Slightly dangerous. Definitely uncomfortable. Especially since the very people who should continue to wear masks are the antivaxxers that never would in the first place.
Things are still moving slower than they did in my pre-pandemic life, but it’s kind of like being deathly ill, and then getting back in a car for the first time in weeks. Twenty mph feels like sixty for a while there. I’m socializing more. I’ve gone to the movies. I’d forgotten how much I missed those old routines.
I don’t think life will ever be 100 percent the way it used to be. I doubt my sense of personal space will ever shrink down to what it once was, for example. And maybe that’s a good thing. We needed this wake-up call to evaluate public health and the pace of our lives. It’s good to take stock every now and then.
I’m also seeing people lose their tempers more and more. I think we got used to being a little bit mentally unhealthy during the worst of it. But now the expectation is that we should all instantly snap out of it, and when that doesn’t happen, it’s leading to frustration, anxiety, and anger.
If you’re feeling any of this, and it’s mild, consider exercising, taking a break from news and social media, prioritizing sleep, and/or slowly increasing social interaction again. But if you are still really struggling (which is nothing to be ashamed of), if you feel like your mental mercury is lower than it should be, if your appetite or sleep isn’t what it used to be, if you’re experiencing survivor’s guilt, if you’re losing interest in the world, or, worst case scenario, you’re thinking of suicide or violence, then you may want to talk to your doctor about therapy or medications.
We’ve all been through trauma at one level or another during this pandemic. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to others. We can get through this. I promise.
Update: This post was written weeks before I posted it on my blog, and since then, due to the highly contagious Delta variant, I’m back to wearing masks. We’re definitely still in the woods, folks. Please remain vigilant.
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