I heard today, again, that this will be remembered as the Summer of Healing. Good grief. Why do we keep having to remembering things? Can we get through an event here or there without having to put a notch on the timeline to refer back to? Although – I guess since we just short of picking out a ribbon color for The Summer of Healing remembrance concert, why not ask the question? How will you remember this summer? Or, more specifically, how will you remember returning to normal this summer? And by normal, I mean, how will you you return to post-pandemic life? Three cheers for whomever was able to synch the return of pre-pandemic life with the unofficial start of summer. We are finally able to see the light at the end of the quarantine tunnel and that light is lit by the butts of fireflies flashing to the trumpeting sounds of cicadas.
How will you return to normal? If your response is something like I’ll just throw all these masks in the trash and carry on! then you may want to brace yourself. Or at least open your mind to the idea that it might not quite as simple as breathing down the neck belonging to the person in front of you at the market. Has anything about the past 15 months been easy? Why would re-entry to regular distancing be any different?
This time, though, the struggle will not be because of rules and suggestions and shortages and limitations. This time, it will be the lack of all that. Wait now, what?! No, really. Have you not heard how difficult it is to process what the shite is happening during a crisis while still in the actual crisis? Or the challenge of convincing our brains that they really are free of all things crisis and, if you don’t mind, brain, maybe we can skip the whole processing bit? We have been on a global Quaran-Team for fifteen months – plugging along with a low-level of anxiety that we mostly don’t even notice anymore. That can’t be good, right?
But is it just being human? If your house is burning down, you don’t take a moment to really embrace your feelings while the embers of your life float away in the ashes. The processing comes later – in the quiet moments when a surprise lump forms in your throat as your trying to decide between Honey-crisp or Granny Smith apples. The sadness comes as you are driving and lose five minutes because you went back in mental time. Memories pop in, uninvited, just as you think you are going to fall asleep after hours of not being able to do so.
Even with the new signs appearing around town, Fully Vaccinated? No Mask Required!, there is a leeriness to allow ourselves to exhale. What if I squirt out a fatal droplet!? We continue to reach for our masks. On or off? We walk cautiously into stores and restaurants waiting to be tackled by the germ police. We note patrons who remain masked, wondering if it is because they are paranoid or not vaccinated or if they just don’t believe anything anymore. What if they’re right and we’re wrong?
How will we know when we are back to normal?
Will it be as easy as noting that we went a whole week without wondering how to make another week at home seem ordinary? Will it be when we don’t follow a cough or a sneeze or the feeling of too warm with raised hackles? This week’s been so confusing, my first without a mask. My allergies are firing up. With ninety degree temperatures, I’m constantly warm. I know all of that – the sneezing and sweats explained very logically. Yet still, I’m tempted to Google Covid Symptoms as I’ve done at least weekly for over a year now. Will normalcy come in the form of an Oprah moment as I realize that no symptoms were researched in this house for thirteen days? I have a half-vaccinated teen. We are in the home stretch – yet he is still masked and that mask serves as a reminder of where his head is. His anxiety has been on red alert all year. Will normal be achieved when he can attend a meal without fidgeting for his shield from start to finish?
I certainly don’t mean to discount our youth in the next few sentences…but, hello, if I read/watch one more news article headlined with The Affect of the Pandemic on Children, I might smack somebody in the antibodies. Yes. Children. I have two of those. I know. We won’t know the affects on them for years. Guess who else has been affected? Hi, it’s me. And, I’m assuming, many other adult people. Where are the news articles about us? Where are the predictions for the our re-integration chances? What can we expect from ourselves when we hear those horrifying words oh hey, your appointment is in person.
As we emerge, so does more anxiety. The cocoon is cracking and, while I want to leave, I also want to stay. I feel anxious to do basic errands around town solo – so used to the group effort to take those opportunities together. Pack mentality – we all get to leave?! More arms to quickly grab toilet paper, milk, and chicken? Yes! In and out quick, with a splitting of duties. We lead such an untethered life for so long – schools and businesses generous with flexible schedules as we were encouraged, globally, to do whatever we had to just to make things work. I’m now getting inklings that that my husband will hit the road again before year’s end. And while the fourteen thousand days in a row that we’ve spent together over the last year have been, um, a lot… I’m already feeling uneasy for that first morning when he wakes up early to catch a flight.
It’s a feeling of discontent in a place in which I know that feeling doesn’t belong. We have discovered how to thrive (sort of) in strange circumstances. What will be my legacy when I no longer have to make an upside down world seem super chill and casual? Will I still be the no big deal, we’ll come up with a plan Mom? Maybe that’s part of the what I’ll need to process – that Moms have been among the unsung heroes of the last year and that our station will be closing. Realizing that it was our moment to shine – as we brought back the familiarity of our own childhoods when there was no running, running, running to endless activities. We grew up within. The four walls of our homes tucked us in each night with no calendar telling us when we had to leave again. It was that low-key approach that we used to guide our families through a time that was exactly the opposite of what they were used to. What will become of me now? What will I do when I don’t have to do sanity checks and offer creative breaks from the monotony?
I feel stupid, really. Why am I not jumping with glee? Why has the emergence of society brought another tailspin? I suppose because I know it represents incoming pressure to pivot once again. I don’t want to pivot. I just figured the last pivot out. I’ve gotten used to our current place. But then, a thought will surface and I’ll realize that this current place isn’t right, either.
I was watching a story over the weekend about American POWs being transported to work camps and how they would pass that awful time sharing a harmonica that someone had snuck onto their crowded railcar. They didn’t know where they were being taken. They were cold and hungry. They were scared. And what was the loudest thought in my head while listening to their story? Oh my god, but the germs!! Sharing a harmonica?? Honestly, what the hell is wrong with me? Is this part of the processing?
I want to be so understanding of people. My favorite centering word is grace. Show it, be it, offer it. Yet, I look around at the relaxed rules of social distancing and mask free populations and I feel so judge-y. Why? There are reasons for concern, of course. Upticks in violence on airplanes, reports of patrons screaming at each other in restaurants, and, really…we still have folks announcing with belligerence that they will not be getting the vaccine. Have at it, right? Still, concerning. Has it been so long that we’ve been in public that we don’t know how to behave? Why would I want to be immersed back into that? Do we need to change the wording on all of those floor dots to the most basic of rules? Share. Be kind. Accept.
We’ve lost so much and yet we don’t even know what it all was yet. I was more emotional with this year’s gradation pictures than I was when my child’s own graduation was cancelled last year. It’s not that I don’t want to see the pictures – I want to see all of them! – proms, birthday parties, signing days, vacations, graduations. It’s just that each one sparks a smile while also lighting a loss. And that feeling of loss is followed by a twang of guilt. I look through the posts so happy to see real life again – and then I shy away from responding because I feel bad for thinking of my own altered version of the story. Will I know things are normal when I stop feeling unsure of how to respond to the joy of others’ moments?
There is also a grief for end of the positives. Minimal traffic. Space to swing my arms in the aisles of any store. Online shopping sales. Time with these weirdos that I live with. The sense of worldwide unity. I love being on a team – it’s one of my favorite things. I love a common cause and a common goal and the satisfaction of shared achievement. I loved being able to talk to literally anyone in the entire world and hear back oh, I know, same here and know that they really did mean it. Same here. I will miss that as we head into this Summer of Healing. Sure, by Fall, I’ll likely have forgotten all of this – a blip on radar’s past. It will all be filed neatly into the can’t wait to tell our grandkids stories. I suppose, in pandemic time, Fall is not really that far away.
Is that when I’ll start to feel normal?