This weekend, we receive our second shots. So in two weeks we will be vaccinated with peak immunity to COVID and able to carefully socialize. I realized that I need a step-by-step re-entry plan.
I could make jokes about forgetting how to accessorize or unsure how to apply makeup or dress myself outside of athleisurewear. I’ve become a master at rolling out of bed and applying lip gloss, and looking camera ready for Zoom calls in under five minutes. Keeping a baseball cap near my computer has been essential.
Soon I will be attending meetings in person with someone in front of me without the distance of a computer screen. No furtive glances at email notifications sliding across the top corner of my screen or a text message. I will actually have to engage with live humans. We have a standing rule of no devices at the dinner table so our teenagers can sit and not say anything to us for 20 minutes (this isn’t totally true, two of the three actually speak to us). Still, family dinners aren’t the same as work engagements. And a 16-year-old will not tell you if you have something stuck between your teeth.
Nearly a year ago, one of my friends indicated that when the pandemic ended (at the time, it was supposed to be only a few months), she would greet everyone she saw like Belle running through her village in Beauty & The Beast with a bluebird on her shoulder. Even she has become increasingly withdrawn after a year of this.
I know I’ve receded from the outside world as much as it’s possible when I work nonstop all day from a laptop with news notifications floating across my eyes. We’ve been cooking and baking more (normal for us since we are foodies). We bought bird feeders and planted trees to attract more birds to our yard. We now have an abundance of houseplants and an indoor herb garden. We’ve created an oasis in and around our suburban home, and the last year has been wonderful for us in many ways, for which we are grateful. The year hasn’t been as kind to others. We are acutely aware of this.
While many friends either feigned invincibility, experienced pandemic fatigue, or simply ignored the reality of the risks (and subsequently got COVID –– I am still unsure how to address these people), we remained safely sheltered in place. We haven’t entertained, which we love to do. We even bought outdoor heaters with hopes of engaging with friends on our patio.
Honestly, I am primarily concerned about a lapse in social skills. I know that we need to have tough conversations about emotional health and wellbeing. Everyone has been impacted in various ways by the pandemic. My hope is that by asking someone if they are ok, that we get an honest answer. I used to think that asking my grandmother, “How are you?” was the worst three words I could ever say to her because she would launch into a dissertation on her health conditions. (The best answer she ever gave was, “I’m a very sick woman.” Which was an accurate — and funny — high-level assessment). Now when I ask someone, “How are you?” I freaking mean it — don’t lie to me. We need one another to get through this. Now that we know we can’t get COVID from surfaces, hopefully, hand holding is permissible to help lift someone up. Just keep the hand sanitizer and lotion nearby.
This reminds me of when my children were little and I recall feeling socially awkward around adults after being with a baby nonstop for months. Thank GOD our children are older — I cannot imagine going through this pandemic with younger kids, I would have lost my mind! I knew then that I needed to get out more and this feels eerily similar, except there wasn’t a looming threat of a virus.
Walking outdoors with friends may help dust off the in-person social skills before I have to sit and engage face to face. I’ll have to slowly engage to build up my tolerance. Besides, friends will forgive your missteps (pun intended) and I miss hugging people.