More and more of us are getting vaccinated by the day and as that is happening, a great divide is forming. There are those of us who are ready to go out to dinner, get together with friends, go shopping, get on airplanes. Then there are those of us for whom the thought of doing these things is still out of the question, as my mother would say. I can’t imagine being in an airport, much less in a tube in the sky, trapped there with people who might be breathing out heaven knows what.
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
But I think it’s more than that. Something has happened to us over these months of isolation. As a New Yorker for the first half of my life, it always felt normal to me to be among throngs of people. Traveling to big cities, I felt at home on the streets. This happened in places as disparate as Tokyo and Budapest. I am used to being jostled and, despite being short (or maybe because of it), was always good at making my way to the front of crowds.
But now, standing in line at the market with people not respecting social distancing freaks me out. A good friend says, “Are you ready to come over? Can we hug?” This is someone with whom I have been through good times and bad for more than two decades. I have held her when she struggled, and she has held me when I cried. But no. I’m not ready to come over and lie on her couch. I am not ready to hug. I long for touch and it no longer feels like a safe thing to do.
I am not alone in my ambivalence about how to behave going forward. Another friend confesses that she’s embarrassed to admit how much she’s liked these months in which she could stay home with her husband and her dogs and guiltlessly work on art projects. I confessed in return that I have been grateful that I didn’t feel compelled to accept social invitations just because I knew I should. I really haven’t been wanting to socialize. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been lonely. It’s complicated. I feel a surge of energy when I get into my car to do an errand or two, aware that it helps my mental state to be out of the house for a while. It feels good to chat with a checkout person at Trader Joe’s or the pharmacy. I am also relieved when I get back home and know I don’t have to go out again for some days.
I don’t want to go back to the kind of busy-ness that filled so much of the Before times. It all seemed so important and necessary but, it turns out, not so much. I am aware of needing to honor the process of feeling into and discovering what shape the After time will take.
And then there was the report that a new study shows that both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines “could be far less effective against the variant first found in South Africa.”
We each need to do what’s right for ourselves. And that can change every day.