I am one of those people who has been extremely cautious during the pandemic. My husband and I stayed home, we didn’t eat out, we didn’t visit with friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. Heck, I wasn’t even willing to pick up food from a restaurant for several months. To some extent, I may have been too cautious. I know that , if I were to contract COVID, odds are that I would be fine. However, anxiety doesn’t work that way. Anxiety whispers in the darkness, telling you that if you contract COVID, you will die. And, since there is no way to know for sure who will have a severe case, I chose to err on the side of caution.
Early in the pandemic, I was fine. I’m an introvert so staying home is my norm, my happy place. (Yay, retirement!) However, I learned the hard way that my willingness to stay home wears off after eleven months. When February 2021 rolled around, I was DONE. I was over staying home and yet at the rate my home state was going, it looked like it would be late summer or early fall before we would be able to get vaccinations. I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with continuing to isolate that much longer. Fortunately, we were able to get on a waiting list with our local pharmacy for when they had vaccines that had to be used due to cancellations, missed appointment, etc. My husband and I got our first vaccines on March 1st and the 2nd one on March 29th. It was such a relief to finally be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I told my husband that once we were considered fully vaccinated I would work on re-entering the world but that he would have to be patient with me; I wasn’t sure how my anxieties were going to react.
Our first trip to a restaurant took place during our camping trip to the beach in mid-April. I could feel my anxiety building as we approached the restaurant but, we were able to get an outside table so it was all good. That successful meal seemed to open a door for me. Over the next couple of weeks we did some traveling to visit with family which included eating at restaurants, stopping at convenience stores and rest areas, even staying at a hotel. Much to my surprise, I was fine with it all.
However, I have now discovered the thing that is too much for me. Just a few days ago, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask. This one is going to take me some time to adjust to. It seems that my mask has become my safety blanket. Now, obviously, if a business asks people to wear masks, I will, but I experimented with going mask-less today. My husband and I went to breakfast at Waffle House and I was fine. We then went to church and I was fine; of course, while the temperature is still comfortable I’m enjoying the outdoor portion of the service. On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items and I didn’t wear my mask. (I always have a mask in my purse though.) That was too much for me. I’ve been to that same store several times while wearing a mask and was fine. However, today, when I tried to go mask-less, I found myself holding my breath. So, now that I know where my boundaries are, I know where I need to be gentle with myself. (As I type, I can still feel the ball of anxiety in my middle and we have been home for hours.) There’s no need to rush into a mask-less life so, I’ll just be over here easing into my new normal.
How are you doing now that we are over a year into this pandemic?