Last spring, I wrote about how the pandemic had constricted and diminished our lives and well-being so that my life’s orchestra now felt like a trio. Things are now starting to expand and open up, and that is both exciting and anxiety-provoking for me. We are living in a complicated time in which we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; however, we really don’t know when we will get there or what it will look like. We are at various vaccine statuses, with some people able to be with friends and family again and others still not protected. Different states are opening up in a variety of ways. Things feel complicated and uncertain in new ways.
A year ago, when I envisioned returning to “normal life”, whatever that means anymore, I was only filled with excitement. I imagined jumping right back into my “old life” enthusiastically. However, after living in masks, socially distant, and in fear for so long, I am changed and possibly a different person. I actually feel uneasy and uncertain also about what it will be like to re-engage with the missing parts of my life.
Some things fill me with unabashed excitement and enthusiasm. My husband and I have tickets to a drive-in concert next month. I am so happy to have something positive to look forward to! Having things to anticipate with joy has been really missing in my life, and I love seeing live music so much! It feeds my spirit and soul, and I’ve felt parched without it. I think I may be so happy that I will cry when Greensky Bluegrass starts to play!
But then, consider hugs. I have barely touched or been touched by a person outside of my husband and hairdresser in a year. I sorely miss hugging my friends and family; however, hugs now seem almost as intimate as sex! Although I’m somewhat joking, I feel like there will need to be a conversation and full consent before I start hugging my friends. And this seems crazy to me, that hugging would feel anxiety-provoking, but it is. The idea of touching friends casually or being near people without masks makes me nervous. I don’t like the person I’ve become, but this year has changed me. I think it will take time and exposure to adjust to the next stage of “new normal”.
So, if you are feeling mixed emotions while imagining things to come, realize that this is normal. Be kind to yourself and determine step-by-step what you need. It is perfectly acceptable for you to do things differently than others or to take your steps at a slower pace than your peers. Be gentle with yourself. Check-in on how you are feeling and what you need. Honor your boundaries and communicate in a clear healthy way what you need- and if you are not ready for certain actions yet.
This past year has really demonstrated that we are all in this together. We need to act together to take care of each other and to be able to move forward. We have all been changed and impacted by this past year in ways we probably cannot even see yet. It is very important that we honor each other and support everyone as we move forward in our own, individual ways.