I’ve been sitting with my thoughts about this subject of not being ready, for three days. I’ve been hesitating to write, because this is such a loaded subject.
What am I not ready for?
To get out in the world.
Let me give you all some background.
I love people. I love to be loud. I am usually the one in the room who will dance when there isn’t even music playing.
I lived in India where crowds were as normal as the lack of them in Alaska. I don’t remember ever being worried about the throes of people coming towards me or being stepped on. The feeling I had was one of thriving. I felt alive and lit up by being around others.
As a kid, I remember being confident to speak up and creating conversations about philosophy and metaphysics with anyone willing to listen. Being nervous about subjects to talk about wasn’t in my makeup. Same thing went for crowds of people. Never feared public speaking or being in a dinner party with people I didn’t know.
Main Actor-COVID-19, Supporting Actors-8,000,000 people, Stage-Earth, Running Time-ongoing.
This unknown actor was scary. And we didn’t have a script. It was like improv but the opposite of funny.
We found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic. The movies became real life.
Every hour we were given new instructions by the CDC and we had to unlearn what we just learned. It felt like a shit show and I was a part of this show.
But since humans are so good at dealing with difficult situations, I coped.
Like many others, I used my best predictive markers to assess the situation and told my family, friends and patients to get ready for a long haul.
I told my brother to cancel our tickets to Japan for the Olympics-he didn’t believe me when I told him they’d be cancelled-until he did. I got my friends married. Stocked up on sanitizer, masks, gloves and started the process of isolation from my own family who lived upstairs.
I cancelled all in-person book clubs and moved onto zoom. School went online. I helped my son arrange a graduation party for his class on zoom (one of the first zoom game nights-now I can do that in my sleep). Had a zoom birthday party. Didn’t let anyone sit in the car after I had been in the COVID clinic for 72 hours. Wiped down groceries. Disrobed at the front door and walked straight to the shower when returning home.
Stopped all walking outside since we live in the city and people were still not wearing masks. Even if they were, it didn’t feel safe. Protecting my Mom and not knowing what the spread was like for a few months yet to come, it felt too risky.
I was working in the COVID clinic and kept getting positive cases. The numbers were rising rapidly. I debated if I should have my son live upstairs with my brother/mother…but he wanted to stay in his own home, with me. At one point, I even wondered if I should stay in a hotel.
For the first month I wore masks in the home.
Until one day, I felt like I didn’t have to. I could be really good about hygiene and educate my son. So, we created our own bubble of two.
Then two months later, I decided I could see my Mom and the family, with masks/face shield.
We had the most awkward experience sitting on the porch with our masks and face shields on.
It was bizarre. We were all 6 feet apart, as if we would explode at any time. Not being able to hug my little niece and nephew was torture. How weird is all of this?? Overnight the ones I used to hug and kiss were kept at an arm’s length.
And then our bubble included the fam and we were a bubble of 7. For the next 6 months.
My son didn’t see a friend all summer.
I kept going to the clinic, but the roads were pretty empty and the clinic was all business. No extra time for socializing. Get in, get suited up, change scrubs, tentatively get into the car, drive home and then the process of disrobing began.
This was my life all of 2020.
In Jan we decided to expand the bubble to include my sister after she and her family quarantined for 2 weeks. Now we were a bubble of 11.
That felt like a lot to me.
And I lived in India before.
Let me fast forward to Saturday, three days ago.
It was an absolutely gorgeous Spring day. Perfect breeze and sunshine. I was coming back from my Saturday clinic around 2pm and as I drove into the city’s famous park (Boston Commons and Public Gardens), I saw crowds of humans, EVERYWHERE.
I mean everywhere.
I don’t think there was a patch of grass that didn’t have a picnic blanket that wasn’t 6 ft apart from another. People were walking about. Smiling, happy, in the sun.
And I was suddenly anxious, scared, in the car.
An unfamiliar feeling started creeping in. Fear. Panic. Anxiety. Worry. Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Doubt.
I was asking myself if I missed a memo somewhere that the world had opened up. Weren’t we still in a pandemic? Don’t we still have to maintain distance? Aren’t crowds still potentially dangerous? Do I know anything anymore?
As I was driving home I realized I wasn’t ready at all to join the world. I can’t do that. I can’t get out onto a picnic blanket and bask under the sun. I can’t walk joyfully with others and stroll down the mall.
That’s the complex part of this story. The simplistic answer is that I’m scared, but it’s more than that.
I have created a safe haven for myself at home. My bubble, as I described above, is small and containable. I know what I have around me and who is going to be there. It’s predictable. If I allow myself to accept that I have to give that up and enter the world, I lose all of that. And I don’t want to.
Also, I don’t have those same social skills I described above that I was born with. It feels like I have lost all of them. That is very new territory for me and makes me feel incredibly vulnerable.
People have become 2D images in black squares and faces on social media. I can’t imagine interacting with large 3D humans in any large number. Sure, I’ve met a few in the past few months, but they haven’t been in crowds. It was measured. I knew what I was walking into.
Safety. The recognition that these crowds could bring in more COVID. And then the self doubt-will it, though? The result feeling being one of inadequacy. I don’t have answers that I should have. I might have been right the first time, but now I don’t know what to expect. So it feels safer to stay home and let things be.
Extroversion vs Introversion. I don’t know who I am anymore. I thought I was an extrovert my whole life…and I still am, online. But I don’t want to be on the streets like all those others I saw on Saturday. I want to be a hermit in my home.
I don’t know if I would be as comfortable going into a dinner party now, sitting on a bus in Delhi or walking through a crowded street and talk to random strangers now. So how the hell can I even consider dating again????!!!
The interesting thing is I am a cusp. Born on the 21st of June, I am the end of Gemini and the beginning of Cancer. Gemini’s are chatterboxes and love to play. Cancer’s are homebodies and love to stay in. Could it be that I’m switching between one and the other?
It’s been such a healing year for me online and I’ve been able to tap into deep parts of my soul with the quiet in my life. I gave myself space and really have taken advantage of that. And I really don’t want that to change. I’ve become used to this. When I feel like this, I wonder how I could have enjoyed being busy, having a full calendar and travel all over the place.
I used to really love that part of my life. I worry that I have lost the ability to invite that back in. I don’t think I would be happy not engaging again. Imagining my hermitage for the next 10 years would leave me single, without personal intimacy and friendships that would probably become stunted. So, that can’t be what I really and truly want. But honestly, today, I feel like what I want is all mushy in my brain.
One year is a long time and it’s more than enough to make new habits. Some of those, not so good, like eating a shitload of chocolate and not exercising, but some are amazing, like having time in between my patients to say hi to my son, to get up and make myself tea, taking a nap in the middle of the day, reading and doing my practices for VITA without a full calendar…the list is long.
I am challenged like many others, to become someone new…or to reclaim who I was…or to just continue growing into who I am right now and not fight it. To let it be. To allow. That is what I’m doing. Allowing myself to feel all the feels and express it with all of you. I am sure I am not alone in this journey of experiencing the pre-post-and intra-COVID facets of ourselves. I hope that we can soothe each other along the ride…