Last month we talked about Pre-pandemic times. We talked about how we were getting back there, how we might be there soon. And then we stopped. It was like getting to the top of the waterslide ride — ker-chuk, ker-chuk, ker-chuk. We could feel the anticipation and excitement of getting to the top of the slide, then over the hump, of finally shooting down to the joyful splash of the plunge pool.
But we didn’t get over the hump. We halted at the top, right before the good part. Instead of going into Pre-pandemic times we are in Re-pandemic times. Some things have changed. Kids are going back to college. A lot of adults are returning to their offices. People have relaxed their mask-wearing outside.The general level of fear has decreased. But I can feel the pandemic energy ramping up. Conversations are back to, “Wait, can we meet inside?” “Do you have a mask?” “Do you think school will start in the fall?”
During the first round of the pandemic, I was intermittently okay. I found a sense of equanimity and opportunity. I was one of those annoying people who thrived in the isolation. I sewed masks, started healthy new habits like diving into the cold lake every day and walking five miles each morning. I found work as a contact tracer and wrote every morning. I relished the time at home with my family and told myself that I didn’t really miss my old life — not at all.
But now we are back. We are in a Re-Pandemic and I don’t feel the same way. I was ready to reenter Pre-pandemic life. In these last few months, I have gotten used to riding in the car with whomever I want, having dinner with friends inside, and letting my teenage daughter wander around the city with her friends without the fear that she will contract and spread a deadly virus.
This Re-Pandemic period weighs heavy on my heart. I cannot find the joy, the Pollyanna attitude that came to me so easily a year ago. I used it all up and feel empty inside. The thought of reentering pandemic life makes my chest tighten and my arms go numb.
While we were all getting vaccinated, when numbers were going down and things were moving right along and we were ker-chuking up the waterslide, it was exciting, thrilling, completely joyful. Being here now, in this Re-Pandemic time, the sense of disappointment is too much for me to manage. I think about the horrible stories I’ve heard like the gambling addict parent who takes all the kids’ presents from under the tree, leaving the sad children with nothing on Christmas morning. Or the long-awaited mother-son reunion that is aborted because the mother cannot get a visa. The sadness, the defeat, the grief is overwhelming.
I know myself and I can feel what is happening. In response to this sorrow and disappointment, I am preemptively closing in on myself, shutting down so that reentering pandemic life will not be quite as difficult. But, in doing this I am prolonging the torture of waiting at the top of the waterslide. I am adding harsh cold winds and sleet instead of experiencing what is actually here now.