Last week on the same day my second Pfizer vaccine dose had officially taken hold, making me fully vaccinated, the governor of Washington state announced that we could throw our masks off and party like it was 1999. The CDC said so. However, if any businesses want to preserve the customer masking ritual, they can.
Realizing we were eventually going to get back to some kind of normal was one thing, but I hadn’t expected the abrupt pivot. I mean a mere two weeks ago, due to our Covid-infection rates still bordering critical, the governor was threatening to throw us back to square two.
Now, we’re restriction free, except for public transportation?
I need a minute.
As one of the Super Cautious, I built a whole new world for myself in the past fifteen months and I don’t know how to jump back into society with both feet.
It was tricky learning to occupy a 900-foot space most of the time and mask up everywhere I went, yet protected environments kept me healthy. It was emotionally devastating to bear witness to a Covid-death count of over half a million people, even knowing that the best way to play my part was to shelter in place. It was a hard year and then some.
I missed some people. I missed some things. But I didn’t miss everybody or everything.
I felt safer at home. Safer with a mask outside of it. Safer with a slower, mindful pace that didn’t pound me to buy, engage or run around scrabbling after forced desires.
So, of course, these whiplash announcements made me anxious and suspicious.
Was anybody else buying this marketing pitch?
I was anxious enough to take a two-hour, 7-mile walkabout since it was a lovely day. Just to get away from the news and hype and think my own thoughts about how to rebuild re-entry muscles. Physical exertion is my antidote to anxiety. I knew if I strolled long enough, my mind would settle down or I’d pass out. Either way, the end result would be calming.
Thoughts I had the first mile:
I survived the pandemic. I survived my first and second Pfizer shots with zero side effects. With antibodies from the first shot, I didn’t run out to the mall or a bar. I didn’t go to the movie theatre or Dave & Busters. I didn’t schedule a seafood Mimosa brunch at my favorite waterfront restaurant. I didn’t even book a massage, one of the things I’ve missed like crazy. I picked up takeout and went back home to Netflix and chill.
We have to get back to life now? Really? The pandemic is still happening. What about the variants? What about the unvaccinated? What about breakthrough cases? Did the CDC just give up? Where is Dr. Fauci?
I wore my mask during the trek downtown. It was the same clean, paved path down which I usually marvel at the houses with character or the prize gardens, but seeing it at this time, I found fascination in how many people were maskless. I passed two big, populated parks. At one, an ice cream truck drew a barefaced crowd. I saw groups headed for taverns and coffee shops. I saw a packed bouncy house in someone’s yard. I saw people all up on each other.
So many were buying the call to return to normal. Now.
Mostly because I was sweaty and it was starting to get icky, I removed my mask as I turned back home. I was alone, with plenty of room to take up the whole sidewalk. I passed others coming from the opposite direction, and while it was nice to see and return a mouth-smile versus an eye-smile, I was still awkward with proximity. At any moment, I felt ready to turn my walk into a run.
Maybe I’m exaggerating about the depths of my year-long hermitage and recent social anxiety. I’ve been in the streets, the parks, on long drives. I’ve been to Trader Joes, Target and Lowes on the regular. I haven’t physically been that close to people much though, so I can count on one hand my COVID-time interactions with friends and family. It was all outside and the air smelled like hand sanitizer and caution.
I just know that I went so far into my safe haven of excessive personal space and isolation that I can’t be expected to come out of it with crazy abandon or slip back into my free-spirit skin with complete ease.
I just know that I’ve forgotten how to go to the gym, the farmer’s market, museums and Costco.
If it takes thirty days to create a new good habit, how long does it take to break one that may have saved my life?
It will take some months for me to stretch back into being a social butterfly.
To celebrate my 2nd vaccine shot, I stopped to get a pedicure. When I walked into the salon and saw masks beneath noses, I hurried out and bought a pedicure kit at Target.
Recently, I had lunch with a friend and we dined inside a restaurant for the first time since the pandemic began. It was surreal and weird. Between gooey smiles at each other and happy chatter, visceral fear hung in the atmosphere. There was a fireplace that I think relaxed both of us until I dropped my phone on the floor and we both drew out hand sanitizer with a quickness that startled the waiter.
We’re still on edge. Looking for droplets.
Also, inching out of my pandemic comfort zone, I took my cat to the vet for her wellness exam and shots. Still had to wait in the car to be called, wear a face mask and only one client could be in the office at a time. It was weird, but also nice to see who was still there to take care of us.
Grocery delivery and mobile banking were nice upgrades for me and have been so convenient that I won’t go back to incessant in-person errands.
I guess I’m not going back. Period. I’m moving forward with baby steps.
I’ll try Trader Joes tomorrow because I can’t hire Instacart to shop there for me. Allegedly, the fully vaccinated can chuck masks in the store. I took a picture of my vaccination card, so I guess I just flash that at the door and I’m in. Or is it going to be honor system and whoever convincingly says they are vaccinated gets waved in without proof. I’m not good with the honor system. Especially not after over a year of seeing fellow Americans display so little honor around public safety. In any case, I’ll still need six feet of distance and if anyone looks sick or sneezes on me or my organic blackberries, I’m out.
How are you navigating the return to normal?