Staying Alive vs. Living

Apparently a lot of people, including me, are suffering from a kind of “re-entry anxiety.” Even though vaccinated, the doubt about who else or is not vaccinated has people continuing to wear masks after the CDC says they don’t have to, in most (but not all) settings.

For the first few weeks of this freedom, I still wore a mask any time I went inside a building that wasn’t my own house. I wore a mask at drive through windows of fast-food restaurants, because the people working there still had to, and I thought it was only fair.

I wore a mask to my first eye exam in years, and I was very nervous when the ophthalmologist, who was also wearing a mask, asked me if I was vaccinated, and to take my mask off. I asked if I had to, and he said no, but the exam might take longer because I’d fog up the lenses he was switching (“better, or worse? 1 or 2?”) I resolved to breathe downward and keep my mask on.

After a few weeks of what we’ve been told is unnecessary masking, I began to think, dammit, at some point I’m just going to have to trust the science and take the mask off. What’s the point of making it through a pandemic to vaccination if I’m just going to continue living in fear and isolation?

This accursed pandemic came along just as Angelic Daughter and I were close to regaining some kind of balance and normalcy, carrying our grief within us but moving forward with our lives. Staying in has made us wary, lonelier, and more than a little jumpy. But as we got through the first meet-ups, the first hugs with family and friends who don’t live with us, things started to ease a bit.

I’m still nervous about variants, and now in some places the recommendation is to put the masks back on because of them. I’m also waiting to hear from the next rounds of research about whether we’ll need booster shots. But I just can’t waste any more time being paranoid and freaked out. There really isn’t any point to just staying alive, if you aren’t going to actually live.

As the calendar moves along, days come that are harder than others. Father’s Day has been tough for us these past 5 years, with all the unavoidable, perky ads about stereotypical things to buy Dad (grills!) bombarding us every time we turn on the car radio. This year, we chose a simple activity to remember Mike – we went to Dairy Queen and had a small treat each. We used to take family bike rides there, with Mike riding Angelic Daughter on a tandem, and me pumping along on my own bike. It wasn’t a short ride, but it was a beautiful one, along a bike path that led through a forest preserve, and then through a residential neighborhood to the DQ at the end of the block. Then we stopped by the cemetery where Mike’s ashes are buried, and despite prolonged dry weather, the flowers I planted there on Memorial Day weekend were OK. I watered them anyway, and was happy when what I gave them was augmented by a much needed gully washer of a stormy downpour that night.

As for Independence Day, our tradition has been to have a picnic at Mike’s grave site on the 4th, and we did that again this year, but on the 3rd, because the 4th was predicted to be very hot (it was) and we wanted to save a trip in case we wanted to go out near there to watch fireworks (we didn’t).

I’ve been spending every fair weekend doing yard work until I can barely stand. It makes me very sweaty and quite happy. But it is a solitary pursuit. For my next act, I have to find things to do that might actually put me in the company of people unrelated to me, with shared interests, who might become new friends. I’ve never had a lot of friends, and I’ve always been happy in my own company, but the lack of social interaction during work-from-home has affected me.

My wonderful employer is likely to let me work from home indefinitely, which is great (saves so much gas money, and gets me out in the yard as soon as I log off). But I don’t want to be just the solitary “widow with the garden.” I love to sing. I love to make people laugh. When I can figure out a way to do that again that feels safe, maybe I can get out there and make some new friends.

Wish me luck!

Until then I remain,

your less-frequently masked, still a little jumpy but feeling more confident,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

A Very Good Friday

I got my second Pfizer COVID-19 shot today. I hadn’t gotten an appointment for Angelic Daughter yet because, like an idiot, I didn’t start looking as soon as she was eligible. I was waiting to hear from our health care system about when they’d vaccinate us.

So I began checking our local pharmacy’s parent website hourly. Nothing. “No appointments available within 25 miles of your location for the next 5 days” it kept saying. Five days never ticked down 4 or 3 days.

So my elation at receiving my second shot was dampened by my concern about Angelic Daughter still waiting. I kept trying.

A notification on my phone distracted me, and I missed the turn of the hour, when appointments are supposed to refresh. At 8 minutes after 9 a.m., I tried again, expecting the red “no appointments available” banner–but I got the green “appointments available!” Hallelujah!

I tried to stay calm as I worked through the eligibility screening. I entered our zip code, and closed my eyes while I took a deep breath. When I opened them, I was looking at a screen filled with appointments for a day very soon next week.

Eureka!

Took the first available time slot that day, and received confirmation.

Then about a half an hour later, I got the email from our health system telling me Angelic Daughter was now eligible for an appointment. I checked, but they had none available. All advice is to take the first appointment you can get. OK, Annie. Tell your OCD brain to stop freaking out about the type of vaccine she’s getting. I will not let worry ruin this.

I was already worried about getting my second dose on Good Friday, because possible side effects could last several days. I love Easter, and have planned a good Easter Sunday dinner.

But even if I start to feel lousy, I’m still cooking a feast and enjoying the day with Angelic Daughter. We’ll attend church on Facebook, and sing my all time favorite hymn (“Christ the Lord is risen today-ay, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-lay-ay-lu-ee-ah!”) and use the Good China.

The pastor of the church where Mike and I were married once preached an Easter sermon where he fantasized about putting up a sign at the door that said, “no one gets in who wasn’t here on Friday.” He was musing about “Christmas and Easter” churchgoers. If they’re only in the pews twice a year, how do you get them to think deeply about the meaning and the magnitude of Good Friday? He didn’t want to let the crowd get away with glossing over the dark, agonizing aspects of the week that leads up to Easter morning. Jesus knew what was coming, and he rode into Jerusalem anyway.

I think about personal experiences of Christ’s presence in my life. Really personal. But I don’t proclaim a “personal relationship with Jesus,” because I struggle with a sense of unworthiness about having any such relationship at all.

And then there’s a day like this. Sunshine, spring flowers, my second shot, and an appointment for Angelic Daughter, who is the model of the person I struggle to be. She is compassionate, empathetic, resilient, cheerful, helpful, and capable of unconditional love for every human she meets. It’s easy for her.

It’s not easy for me, or for a lot of flawed, anxious, OCD types.

The New York Times ran an opinion column today about “The Unsettling Power of Easter.” It’s joyful, but scary.

Scary? Bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs?

Erm, that’s not the Easter we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about Maundy Thursday, when He washed the disciples’ feet, and said, ‘now go do the same for others.’

Right. That’s where I screw up. I have difficulty choosing “to be a source of God’s light and God’s love in this lifetime,” as the benediction that closes our church’s services always says.

For me, it’s more an exertion of discipline that I often forget to impose.

Angelic Daughter doesn’t have to choose to be a source of love. She just IS.

The last paragraph of Professor McCauly’s take on Easter in that NYT piece refers to the “weight of the work.” It’s stunning–paralyzing, even, to think what it will take to begin to heal this battered world once we emerge from the COVID cave.

But I have to believe that a million little kindnesses add up to something. A smile, a “thank you,” or even an apology–like the one I gave after I snapped at the nice lady who asked me to take off my double-mask ensemble to put the hospital’s mask on underneath–can add a little light and love to this world, before we discorporate and become beings of light and love in the next.

Fully vaccinated two weeks from today, I remain,

Your hoping-to-hang-around-a-few-more-decades-and-get-this-love-and-light-thing-right-in-this-world-before-it-gets-easier-in-the-next,

Ridiculouswoman

Just as I was finishing this post, a headline came through that one of two Capitol Police officers hit by a car that drove through a security fence has died. So did the suspect, who, according to the report, was shot when he got out of the car and came at police with a knife. Seems like “the weight of the work” gets weightier by the minute. I have to keep believing in the power of love, because what else can I do?