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What Comes Next?

Should Husband and I accept an invitation for Friday night take-out pizza at our friends’ house? We were all vaccinated with our second shot two weeks ago.  My mind rambles. Will we hug?  Will we wear masks when we aren’t eating?  Will we sit across the room from each other?

            Uncertainty and hesitation loom. I’m conditioned to staying home and not being in closed spaces with anyone, except Daughter’s family who’ve been in our covid bubble, since March 2020.  Husband and I have set Zoom or FaceTime dates to visit with friends and we’ve talked while looking at a computer screen so crossing boundaries back to in-person visits makes me a bit nervous. But isn’t this type of gathering what we’ve missed most for a year? 

            After reading an article in the New York Times and written by a primary care doctor who is a mental health advocate, I’m a bit consoled.  Lucy McBride wrote, “Month after month, we have been yearning to be done with enforced distancing, social isolation and life in a more virtual reality. Now that the moment has arrived — as millions of Americans have been vaccinated and millions more will soon roll up their sleeves for it — the prospect is oddly disconcerting. Upon reentry, many of us will face something new: FONO, or a Fear Of Normal.”

            I’ve become comfortable in elastic waist pants and loose t-shirts, and I’ve been what I call ‘leisurely busy.’ I am happy reading a book, making a pot of soup, and kneading a loaf of bread.  I’m content with my fingers on a keyboard to write and to play online scrabble with friends. 

            During the coldest, dreariest days of winter I thought how fortunate that Husband and I are retired so we don’t have to go to work and we haven’t had to seek medical care.  The pandemic gave us permission to stay up late to watch television series. Six seasons of Longmire, twelve seasons of Heartland, three of Anne with an E, and forty episodes of The Crown. We’ve kept a jigsaw puzzle spread on a table and I often sat down in the middle of the day to find just a few pieces and then realized I’ve sat there until mid-afternoon.  I’ve watched more television and put together more puzzles in a year than in five years previously.  And I enjoyed it all.

            During this year at home, some people have completed big projects – like my friend who stitched ten quilts.  My only project was to organize my parents’ photographs that have been pushed aside since they’ve been mine for twenty-five years.  Someday I’ll write the stories that go with a few of these photos, but not now.

             As life returns to somewhat normal, it won’t be the same as pre-pandemic. There’s been too much turmoil, too many heartaches, too many loved ones lost.  Dr. McBride wrote, “It’s understandable to experience emotional whiplash, even as trauma recedes.”             

I need to ease into what comes next.

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What carried you thru 2020?

One day during the first week of March, 2020, I stood beside my friend at her kitchen sink while we talked.  A tornado had struck Putnam County and many people were grieving the loss of loved ones and homes.  The spread and seriousness of the corona virus had become real.  My friend added her family news of the past two days.  Her dentist had discovered that she needed major dental work.  A close family member was scheduled for a diagnostic medical procedure the next day, and her husband, and others in management positions at his workplace, had been told to work long hours on assembly lines until a strike was settled with employees who normally did those jobs.

            With exasperation, my friend said, “Okay, 2020! What else you got?”  My friend and I hugged and assured each other that somehow all would work out.  Somehow.

            During the past ten months, I have often thought back to that day.  Our physical health, our endurance, our emotions, our faith, even our sense of humor have all been tested.  Last week, I read a question: what carried you through 2020?  My quick one-word answer was HOPE.

            Hope is defined as believing that something good may happen and feelings of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.  What gave me hope?  Quiet morning devotion time, including listing blessings.  Meeting with Sunday School class members using Zoom.  Knowing that health care workers gave their best to care for patients. Reports of vaccines to prevent COVID. FaceTime visits with Grands who live far away.  Playing card and board games with Grands who live across town. Text messages to and from friends and family. Jokes – anything that made me laugh.  

            When my normal routines of life, i.e., grocery shopping and club meetings and face-to-face visits with friends, came to a halt I began walking for exercise more often and it occurred to me that the big picture life remains the same.  Daily sunrises and sunsets. Changing seasons.  White blossoms burst open on dogwood tree branches in the spring, leaves in the summer, red berries in the fall, and now the branches are bare.  Mother Nature gives hope.

            There was hope and celebration when my young cousin and his wife welcomed their baby daughter into their family.  When friends married.  When a few family members came together.  When the COVID vaccinations began last week. 

            Some take-aways of 2020 give hope.  A young woman who lost her mother to COVID learned that she’s much stronger than she thought she was or could ever be.  Nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and all health care workers are heroes.  Teachers gained more respect as they taught using unprecedented methods.  I’ve become more patient, waiting for deliveries, waiting for quarantines to pass, waiting for vaccines to be available, just waiting.             As 2021 opens its first week, I ask, “Okay, 2021.  What have you got?”  Whatever comes, even amid chaos and pain, there is hope.