Two weeks ago I went to see a doctor about my torn rotator cuff. The Smith Tower medical building where he works was wide open and relaxed. We had to wear masks, but generally the anxious feeling that had pervaded the place during the summer and fall of a year ago was gone. Yesterday I went back to see another doctor for an annual checkup and the entire atmosphere had changed.
Everyone was still wearing masks, but in addition we all had to complete a health survey to get an entrance pass to the offices. Everyone was distancing once again and many of the people working there were wearing the double protection of masks as well as face screens. The sense of anxiety was palatable from both the medical personnel and the patients. It was an icky feeling given the joy of freedom from the virus that the vaccines brought last spring. The doctor was once again urging me to be careful and insisting that I avoid certain situations including teaching in person this year as I have planned.
I’ve now had two doctors insist that it is to the benefit of my students, in addition to myself, to have virtual classes. Last year they were more concerned with me given my age. Now they worry that there might be an outbreak in families if any of us accidentally brings the virus into our gatherings. I am saddened that we have come to this point once again.
On the way home from my visit with the doctor I drove past an area where vaccines were being provided. For weeks there have only been a couple of cars in the vast parking lot. Today the line stretched way out into the street. The county is giving everyone who gets a vaccine $100 which may account for the sudden interest, but I really think that there is a kind of fear of the virus that has been resurrected in just the last two weeks as cases and deaths rise in our area.
I signed up for a continuing education class in Victorian history at Rice University in June. At that time the sessions were going to be held on campus, and I was looking forward to getting out and about on those days. A couple of days ago I received an email announcing that all of the classes will now be virtual. I was saddened, but I also understood. I know that the courses I took last year were just as good on Zoom as they would have been in person, and since our professor is older like I am, I would not want him or anyone else to get sick even with a less serious case of Covid.
I worried about how the parents of my students would react when I told them that I was reverting to virtual learning again. I was concerned that they would be upset. Instead they appeared to be relieved that I had made the decision to be cautious. They expressed anxieties of their own that they did not have a year ago when children were not being affected by the virus.
My doctor asked me if I had been anxious or depressed of late. I admitted that I was indeed feeling more out of sorts than ever because it feels as though someone has burst the balloon of freedom that had felt so great. When I received my last vaccine in February I literally cried tears of joy. I felt that I had just experienced a miracle and that by this time we would all be feeling free to enjoy a semblance of normalcy. I had assumed that more people would believe in the vaccine like I do, and race to get the free shot that would change their lives. I have been confused and disappointed that so many have decided that they will not get the vaccine either because of anxieties or religious beliefs or political ideology. I would never shame anyone for doing what seems right for him/her but some of their reasons for shunning this wonderful miracle have been difficult to understand.
So here we are moving backward instead of forward in our progress in taming this virus. Now I am hearing that we may never reach the level of vaccination needed to stop Covid in its tracks, and so we may have to adjust to a new way of living and an acceptance of sickness and death as just part of our new way of life. So yes, I do feel a bit anxious and depressed when I think of such things, but I am still determined to enjoy each day. I’ve known all of my life that being flexible is the key happiness. I know how to shift gears in a flash.
Still, I worry about young people who are chomping at the bit to return to the way things once were. They are having to adjust to enjoying the important milestones of their lives in different ways. Some are even dealing with the untimely deaths of parents and friends due to Covid. Somehow it all seems the most unfair to them and I often pray that some of those sitting on the fence with the vaccine might do it for the youth of our world if for no other reason.
I still believe that we are going to ultimately get through all of the difficulties that are plaguing us. Things are bad, but people before us have gone through worse and still managed to move forward. We are going to survive but we will no doubt have to sacrifice. It would be nice if we can also be kind to one another along the way. That may require us to ignore some really bad behaviors, and try to just understand that not everyone deals with challenges well.
For now I’ll busy myself with teaching my Zoom classes and taking the course from Rice that should be fabulous whether or not we are face to face. The fall will bring cooler weather which will mean that I will be able to work in my yard again. I’ll decorate my home and visit with vaccinated family members and friends in small groups with masks in place. I’ll do whatever I have to do, including taking one of those booster when it becomes my turn. Maybe by the spring things will be looking way better, especially if everyone, including our lawmakers, quits grinching and fighting, and starts thinking of one another rather than only about themselves. I think there are enough of us who want to do this that it will happen, and then things really will get better.