Do you feel it? A bit of anxiety about what the next chapter in the Corona Saga holds in store for you? I’m ready to step forward, sometimes tiptoeing and sometimes stomping across an imagined line in the sand threshold. Thresholds, those liminal spaces between what is and what will be, can be intimidating.
I sense change and awakenings all around me. But can I say goodbye to all that’s been the way of life for the past eighteen months? When sheltering in place began, I leapt into it, mainly because of necessity and fear. A high school friend was one of the first casualties, a man with resources to provide any and every medical treatment needed to survive. When I read that his doctors planned to try proning in the hope of helping his lungs better function, I needed no other evidence to know the virus was a serious one.
That same month, March, I missed my grandson’s baptism. Rephrase: I missed the up-close-and-personal event, but because of Zoom technology, I was able to look, listen and even interact with everyone present, including people in other states. Soon thereafter, I attended conferences and meetings virtually. A close group of friends who’d met once a month for years was hesitant about meeting in person. Being senior citizens, we opted to skip lunch and keep the meeting—virtually. Church was different, too. No meetings except at-home ones and then gradually, doors were opened, and masked people were ushered to their seats in ensure social distancing. Now people sing using hymnals instead of electronic devices. Sunday I sat in a chapel and felt a different vibe around me. What’s that noise? I wondered and realized it was the sound of people greeting each other and chatting a bit.
When I look back over the past eighteen months, I realize how different life became in a relatively short period of time. Many restaurants went out of business, some because of lack of sufficient staff, other because of so few customers, and still others because of unknown (to me) reasons. We tried Chili’s pickup option, and although the process worked well, it felt weird to walk in a side door and huddle there in near darkness with other masked and distanced diners, especially when glancing at a quiet, empty space that in earlier days would have been filled with sounds of laugher and conversation. One of my brothers had a hip replacement—and no visitors. His sweet wife, a retired nurse, left clothes and toiletries with a security guard. Schools and their routines were upended, leaving many children behind in the process.
By the time May, 2021 arrived, people began feeling safer. Until the Delta Variant arrived, that is. Still, knowing that the vaccine offered a certain layer of protection, we began venturing out beyond our comfort zone. In July, we went to three days of a weeklong national barrel racing competition with thousands of others, and truthfully, I felt as safe there as I did on the afternoon we got away for a few hours in quiet, sleepy Plains, GA. Was I getting careless…or just more at ease? We even stayed in a motel and ate out in restaurants, crowded ones.
Now it’s mid-November, and the holiday season is upon us. We’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for seventeen at our home, ages ranging from six to ninety-seven. Despite vaccinations, I’m still a little worried, anxiously excited or excitedly anxious. At some point, we have to take tentative steps toward the future, yet I find myself more timid about walking forward than I was in early summer. I’m peeking out from behind a door, trying to figure out how to navigate the threshold.
In a recent Life Kit podcast, Suleika Jaouad, writer and motivational speaker, provided a novel way of approaching reentry into society. No stranger to isolation, Jaouad spoke of her complete isolation while suffering from leukemia. Once cured, she was released with no one to tell her which meds to take or when to take them, what foods she could or could not eat, when she was to rest or sleep. She was on her own and floundering. She decided to do go on a yearlong road trip as a way to move forward while keeping what lingers.
Jaouad knows existing in the in-between state where many live isn’t easy and advises people to ask what they want to carry forward from the experience—not just COVID but any kind of loss, trauma, or upheaval. People can’t just automatically dust themselves off and say, “Wow, that wasn’t fun. Sure glad it’s over.” They need time and space to imagine what life will look like going forward.
Right now I’m in a liminal space, right at the threshold of what’s next, feeling antsy and anxious and more than a little unsettled. Jaouad feels we’ll forever be marked by Covid-19, just as we’re forever marked by other unsettling life events. How will we handle it?
Knowing that you can’t go back, only forward, how will you manage a successful reentry into life after COVID?