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.

Arkansas governor signs near-total abortion ban into law—Los Angeles Times

House passes labor overhaul, pitting unions against the filibuster—Politico

Trump aide who stormed the Capitol broke an ‘oath to protect America,’ judge says—Reuters

March 9, 2021

It’s complicated
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.


  1. Ruth, I’m grateful for your addressing this issue. It definitely is complicated, and I, too, wrestle with these issues of closeness vs. distance. Truth be told, it’s evolved into a self reflection upon emotional, as well as physical spacing. My personal goal is to be patient, and see what presents itself anew each day.
    Thank you, Ruth, for this wonderful forum. It can’t be overstated how much it means.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruth, you expressed exactly how I feel also. I don’t yet have my 2nd inoculation, but even after I do, I know I will not feel like rushing out there again. Thank you for being willing to share your thoughts and feelings. You are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for reaching out through the gift of your insight and giving words and form to what I feel also. I live alone, but work three days a week and I look forward to being with our co-workers. And this time has also been as a year long monastic sabbatical to follow so much of what may be true verses manipulation. I look forward to being without a mask in the sunshine with friends. Your posts are a touchstone and thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It does seem, Ruth, that you have spoken what many of us have been feeling regarding coming out of the isolation from this pandemic time. Thank you for sharing your complex feelings so that we can think through our own!

    Liked by 1 person

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