Many of us in the over sixty five demographic have been slowly transitioning back into a pre-pandemic way of life. Our children and grandchildren old enough to receive the vaccine have endured the injections not just to make themselves safer but to be certain that they will not somehow endanger us. We have been able to meet with them post vaccine without masks. We’ve embraced in long bear hugs that have been sorely missing for over a year. We’ve spent hours visiting and talking and realizing how much we had taken such moments for granted in the past.
Very cautiously we have gone back to stores, watching for places that still require those dreaded masks and appreciating companies that are continue to be firmly dedicated to expanded cleanliness and social distancing procedures. We smile when we see queues at the Apple store limiting the number of customers allowed inside at any given time and taking temperatures at the head of the line. Somehow we feel personally honored when we see such things. We like the idea of corporate America demonstrating concern for good practices designed not to take away our freedoms but to protect us all.
A couple of weekends ago my husband and I finally ventured inside two different restaurants for the first time since the end of February in 2020. Both of the places were going out of their way to demonstrate continued caution. Tables were much farther apart than they might ordinarily have been. All of the employees wore masks and spoke of having been vaccinated as requirements for working. We felt as safe as if we were in our own kitchen dining alone. Best of all we were with other people who had also been vaccinated and we experiences a sense of joy that was indescribable. I suppose I babbled far too much on those evenings but nobody seemed to notice or even care that I could not stop talking.
We’ve once again gone to get haircuts instead of butchering our locks with ill chosen unprofessional snips to keep them in control. I sat in a mostly empty nail salon getting my first pedicure in over a year and a half. We are happily planning to attend pared down versions of graduations for three of our grandsons while also regretting that such a wonderful occasion was denied a fourth who matriculated during the height of Covid-19 deaths in the country back in December.
My doctor guides me in deciding what to do now and what to avoid. He feels certain that the fall will bring us back to a sense of full return to the way things once were. He believes that if people continue to get vaccinations and follow guidelines that will be loosened a bit at a time we will surely get to a place that will feel somewhat normal. He hopes that Christmas will be a glorious celebration with very few restrictions. His optimism keeps me from sliding into a state of worry and despair. I am convinced that the nightmare we have shared will slowly but surely fade into the past but there are things that I learned about living during the long quiet year of mostly being alone that may actually change the way I do things forever.
I can’t imagine ever again taking anything or anyone for granted. I’ve always chosen people over all other rewards but like everyone I sometimes grew weary of my human responsibilities and even found myself lacking in the level of empathy that every person deserves. I did not fully appreciate each person’s contribution to the functioning of our society and family and friendships. I’ve realized how important the people who support us in hundreds of sometimes unseen ways are for keeping us healthy and safe and happy. I hope that I never again lose the enormous sense of gratitude that I feel for cashiers, delivery people, the medical community, the media that kept us informed, the artists who entertained us, the ministers who kept us close to God from the comfort of our living rooms, the workers who kept things running while we hunkered down, the friends who regularly checked to be certain that we were doing well.
Yes, there have been people who have made recovery from the pandemic more difficult but they are vastly outnumbered by good decent souls who have been willing to sacrifice and honor each and every human. I don’t want to forget the compassion and flexibility and resilience that I have witnessed over and over again. Some have callously accused many of us of being afraid and shouted for us to stay home but most have been kind and understanding. When I become anxious or cynical about the future I hope that I remember the good people and the helpers.
I have learned how much I do not need. I have not worn makeup more than a couple of times in the past year. I used to worry and fret over my appearance but somehow that no longer seems to matter as much as the fact that I am still here and still able to contribute to the betterment of the world. The students that I Zoomed for mathematics lessons never appeared to mind that I was wearing comfy clothes rather than stylish outfits or that I had gone full natural with my clean face and long hair lacking in style. I don’t think that I will return to primping and preening every single day but instead will focus my time on worthier tasks.
I learned how to visit with friends and family through the magnificence of technology. My nephews in Chicago came into my living room as surely as if they had driven down to my house. I had evenings with women friends while sipping on my favorite wine. My daughters and I checked on each other every single day via pithy texts in which we were able to laugh and vent and feel as though we we all together again. We even spent one Saturday evening encouraging one daughter who was having a scary time with Covid-19. I realize now that just a short text or a few minutes on Zoom or FaceTime can be as meaningful as an old fashioned in person visit. I hope we never give up the contacts that we so often used to get us through the long isolation brought on by the virus.
I have become more and more content with simply being in my home. I enjoy writing and reading and working in my yard. An evening spent on my patio among the birds and flowers and plants has been as enjoyable as time at an expensive venue. I’ve become more and more appreciative of an uncomplicated lifestyle. I have literally learned how to better distinguish between what I want and what I actually need. I have generally become more and more content even as so many of my routines had to change.
I have tried in the past to follow the counsel of Thoreau to simplify, simplify, simplify. I have often gone off course as I rushed from one moment to the next, driving here, touching down there, feeling exhausted at the end of the day. My forced change of lifestyle during the pandemic has cleared my mind and brought me more joy than I have felt in years. As I venture into a post pandemic future I hope that I temper my actions with a dose of joy and appreciation along with a sense of gratitude for what I already have. In some ways I think that I have healed without ever being sick. My worldview has changed and the road ahead looks delightful.