A few months back, I had this idea that I would chronicle one person’s attempt to navigate life in a historical pandemic. I guess the novelty wore off somewhere around May.
I’m tired of it. Everyone is tired of it.
COVID-19 is still very much here. It’s like an obnoxious and uninvited guest that showed up for the party. His loud and off-colour comments make everyone uncomfortable. He double-dips his chips, puts his slobbery fingers all over the silverware, and makes such a mess in the bathroom, nobody wants to use it. He makes people want to sneak off to other rooms to avoid him. If he manages to corner anyone, they stand as far away as they can to avoid his horrific breath.
You spend the first part of the evening hoping. Maybe, he’ll leave soon and the party can continue on just like I planned. I’ll just make the best of it. Everything will be back to normal in no time.
I remember having that thought back in March when this all started. I figured that by September, this difficult chapter would be over and life would be returning to normal. I know a lot of people felt the same way.
But that’s not how this is working at all. It’s not going to be a few months. It could be years.
Knowing that the end is nowhere in sight, I have been venturing out for occasional runs for supplies, masked up and hands drying out with sanitizer use. For the most part, I have been staying home. Lots of walks, YouTube and Zoom exercise, home-cooked meals, outdoor movies with family, porch visits, and writing in huge quantities. The patio at Pinecroft (where the above picture was taken) has been a lovely treat from time to time. The tables are spread far apart under the trees and the servers are in face shields. Going out for lunch was once a treat that I took for granted. There is much in ordinary life that I will never take for granted again.
A vaccine could start righting this listing ship, but that doesn’t happen overnight. And so, the challenge now is to make a new normal around the virus so that life can somehow go on. Because it has to.
It’s a strange and surreal life, though. In all the small ways and all the big ones:
A life where I can smile at a stranger, and then realize she can’t see my smile because there is a mask over it.
A life where I spend three minutes at the grocery store struggling to open a plastic produce bag (when I forgot my reusable ones) because I can’t lick my finger.
A life when I go to the beach at sunset for a walk and go back home because it’s absolutely stuffed with people.
A life where my parents have often been reduced to voices on the other end of the phone.
A life where I am sad for every restaurant trying to stay open because cold weather is coming and their makeshift patios will have to close, and there are a lot of people who aren’t willing to go inside to eat.
A life where many are still too leery to book a massage or a pedicure.
A life where I have missed several crucial checks important for my health.
A life where a government is willing to open schools without the appropriate safety protocols–about which they have been ironically preaching on a daily basis since March.
A life where university students begin their next chapters in front of a computer instead of in a lecture hall, or isolating in a dorm room instead of meeting people and having new experiences.
A life where a family member lies in her last days of life in a hospice and most of her relatives can’t come to hold her hand or say good-bye.
The uninvited guest is still here. We are at the ends of our collective ropes, but it doesn’t change the reality. We don’t get to call the game. It will continue on its own terms until it is played out, whether we like it or not. The uninvited guest will not leave until he wants to. And so, we will have to live around his unwanted presence, putting on our hot masks and following him around with our bottles of spray bleach and sanitizers.
We will get there. If we do it together, it will be sooner rather than later.
If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!