I was at the gym right before the pandemic hit, knowing but not understanding how my friends, family and activities would disappear from my life. I started going on cold, snowy walks every day. I had to force myself to get dressed in the morning, but didn’t always succeed. I was still writing, but my only excitement was a weekly trip to Walmart, Pharmasave or the grocery store. That first Friday at the Co-op felt a bit dystopian. I’d never seen so many people shopping at once. The lines went to the back of the store, and while resisting the lure of the toilet paper isle, I still spent $275 on groceries for one. There was a general feeling of helplessness and fear about the future.
While researchers scrambled to find vaccines, the rest of us searched for our friends online. Zooming replaced hot vacations. We watched television like it was a new Olympic sport and we were all going for gold. But nothing could sooth the pain of isolation or replace the joy of coffee with friends, dinners out, parties and hugs. You can’t understand the power of hugs until they’re gone. I thought I’d make the best use of time by practicing the piano and writing all day. Nope. For the first time in my life, I experienced real depression. When the second anniversary of my husband’s death came around on March 28th, I was mad at him all day for not being there. But mostly, like everyone else in the world, I was sad. When the summer of 2020 arrived, I sat on my deck and had a drink with my neighbors who sat on their side of the fence. We were giddy with the relief of seeing someone else.
Two years later, I’m a seasoned survivor. Like Tom Hanks in the movie, ‘Cast Away’ when he learns to make fire and catch fish, except he starts out pudgy and ends up lean. (I went the other way.) I didn’t have a volleyball named Wilson, just a stuffie called Mrs. Bunny, who got a lot of cuddling. I got used to long days alone when I wasn’t snowshoeing and skiing. I read a lot of books, and as time went by, I felt less like this:
And more like this:
We are all much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. And the takeaway from the pandemic has been huge. I am more grateful than ever for for small things, like the way the clerks at the stores–the only folks I saw for weeks on end–started to feel like friends. People are friendlier in general (if you’re not online) and whatever stand you’ve taken on vaccinations, we all understand what it means to miss other people. When I traveled this past Christmas, I was taken aback by how patient people were with the chaos at the airport. We’ve all learned to be grateful for what we had in the past, and what we’ll have again when this is all over. Barring any crazy variants, life as we knew it will return. I think that might call for a party. Or at least a celebratory drink over the fence.