ISOLATION PART IX—THE FINAL INSTALLMENT (I HOPE!): GETTING BACK TO LIFE
I’m really hoping that this will be the final installment in my “Isolation” series that I’ve been publishing during the pandemic. I know that we’re far from out of the Covid woods yet, but now that I’m fully vaccinated, I realize that I really should make the effort to start going out again.
And contrary to how most people view my bon vivette self, I’m truly apprehensive about that eventuality. I’m planning on finally going out this week, for the first time in well over a year, to events other than shopping for food!
I’m about to discuss that situation, because I know I’m not alone in my concern and anxiety, but first I have to tell you something a bit nutty. As I was writing this, the words felt somewhat familiar. So I went back over my work files, and discovered that I had begun similar articles…exactly a year ago! I foolishly thought the world would be back to normal soon, way back then! Perhaps that was what we all had to tell ourselves to get through this year +. So, after I discuss the mental and emotional aspects of going out again, I’m going to share parts of those three very unfinished works.
I’m actually a tad shocked that I’m somewhat depressed and scared about returning to real life. Staying in the house for all this time really didn’t bother me at all; I’m in the unique position of loving everything in my house, Mr. X, TV shows, and crossword puzzles, and I have enough writing and cleaning to last at least one more year! (Who am I kidding? It would take a decade to fully organize all my clutter!) And I very rarely do regular person activities anyway. (Not because I’m a snob or anything like that; I just have so many business events to go to that when I’m not at one, I’d rather just stay home and chill with Mr. X than go out to a restaurant or movie or the like.)
Surprisingly, when I heard a doctor character utter the same feelings on a hospital drama recently, I was a bit comforted by her sentiments—I had really thought that I was the only one who feels this way! I breathed a big sigh of relief, literally. I felt like I’d been holding my breath for a few months now. So in case you feel alone too, please know that you are not—we’re all in this together. (Perhaps these articles will show you, as they did me, that so many others are also suffering from “re-entry fear or anxiety”: neurorehab.bancroft.org/family_resources/coping-with-covid-re-entry-anxiety, www.advisory.com/en/daily-briefing/2021/03/30/reentry-anxiety, and www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9433057/Coming-cave-As-life-creeps-feel-dread.html.)
But it’s not just the fear of going out again for me; it’s that I don’t really remember how to do it! I’ve actually forgotten a bit how to put make-up on and even get dressed in real clothing, (as opposed to pandemic supermarket attire.) I’m not exaggerating—I haven’t worn any shoes but one pair of old sneakers all year, and those only when we go to the store once a month!
It also took a while for me to remember how to find directions on the internet. And I had to search my house for hours to find my purses and business cards, the latter of which I never discovered, so I finally had to break down and just order more! All that has added to my nervousness about getting back to real life.
On a separate but related topic, here’s one thing that’s been puzzling me all year: why does everyone care so much about going out to eat??? I’ve been a restaurant critic, (first on TV, then online, and then in publications,) for decades now, so I’ve never had to cook before this year, but I still don’t get the desperation to eat in one during a pandemic. Can someone please explain that to me? And where does everyone even have the money to dine out? I thought that few people have been making money all year.
And everyone seems so worried about the economics of restaurant owners and workers, but what about the ones for sooo many other businesses??? How about shoe stores? Or clothing boutiques? Or any small businesses? I never hear anyone talk about how all those people are hurting for money. And what about dental personnel? No one I know has risked going to a dentist this year except for emergencies. It’s too scary to be that close to other humans, especially when you can’t be wearing a mask!
Now here are some of those aforementioned thoughts I had throughout the year, which I mentioned made-up the beginnings of previous columns I had worked on:
~ Last August, at the point that I considered to be “Five Months of Non-Real Life,” I wrote, “I’m a little angry at myself…I’ve just been existing, without getting much accomplished. I should be working on my cluttered house. I never have the time to do it in real life, so I should have had it all done by now in this bizarro world!” And just guess if I ever got it done in the next eight months of isolation! You would be correct if you surmised that I did not.
~ On the column I had tentatively titled, “Getting Dressed These Days,” which I started at the beginning of this year, after ten months of staying at home, I thought about how fun it used to be to get dressed! When I was going through my closets for donations, I happened upon many treasures I had forgotten about, and wondered when I would ever get to trot them out again.
I noticed that just putting on a new tee and hoodie put some pep in my step, which I know will seem odd soon, when I start wearing real outfits again.
In the meantime, I also took note that the plethora of pictures of celebs all over the media for the entire duration of the lockdown, with big names rocking everything from bikinis to gowns, gave us the wrong idea that all is well and safe. Even I, who knows better, started to get drawn-in by their deceptions.
~ Exactly one year ago, I began this “final tally,” thinking that the pandemic would be over any day, and my article would be all ready for the “Final Installment” in my Isolation Series. I counted the small number of days or times I did things that were usual before, including leaving the house, washing my hair, shaving my legs, giving myself manis and pedis, having my hair colored, getting dressed, even days I brushed my hair, (which, let me tell you, was far from a lot!)
But on the “doing it more” side of the balance sheet, I cooked, exercised, and called friends about a thousand times more than I ever had in my entire life! Cooking was out of necessity, and the latter two activities were because I finally had a bit of time for them.
I also noted that, of course, none of these counted categories compare even one iota to the only tally that matters—the worldwide death toll. And that one is a travesty. I only hope that we all do our parts now—getting vaccinated, still wearing masks, staying a bit apart, and washing our hands well—to help the world get back to pre-pandemic conditions. And that we never forget just how fragile life is.
One final thought, for going forward. I rarely look at horoscopes, but one recently caught my eye because it featured uplifting quotes for each zodiac sign. I’m a very proud Capricorn, so this was mine: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you.” The full quote is: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” That’s what I’ve always done, especially during this tragic period in our lives, and I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life.
I hope all of you are safe and happy enough, with hope for the future, both immediate and distant. And if you, too, are fearful of returning to real life soon, please know that you are far from alone in that apprehension. Strength in numbers, people, strength in numbers. (And remember to take three deep breaths every now and then throughout the day; it really helps! And just leave anyplace where you’re uncomfortable.)