I must admit that I am not the same person that I was before Covid-19. At that point, I was naive about events in life like a pandemic, where one day everything is just like any other day and the next, life is very different for everyone. Not in my lifetime has an event like this occurred that has affected an entire world population. So, I am certainly not the only person who has felt that innocence slip away, replaced by an awareness that something silent and invisible can creep in and snatch life away without concern for how many family members it might take or whether or not a person has been exceedingly careful up until the point of exposure.
Being in lockdown has offered a few rare experiences. One has been the awareness that many pressing obligations are no longer pressing. They are, in fact, no longer obligations since participating in them is no longer possible. In my particular case, a 20 year, twice-monthly Saturday commitment to feed the homeless vanished overnight along with my weekly involvement in on-site church activities. Plus, students who used to routinely come to my home at least five days a week no longer cross my threshold, nor does our housekeeper of 25 years who used to arrive every Wednesday to do the deep cleaning of our home. Life has been stripped down to essentials: working via FaceTime and Zoom and cooking, cleaning and tending to other necessary everyday activities that occur within the confines of my home or else within the confines of our orange grove in Ojai, where we can drive without stopping or being exposed to others who might be contagious.
My husband and I had to make a decision early on about whether or not we were going to see our children and grandchildren. This decision was essentially made for us since one of our daughters who lives with us tends to the children of another of our daughters who is a family physician. We either had to ask our younger daughter to move out during this time or accept that we might be exposed to the virus through her exposure to our physician daughter. We elected to take the chance and have, so far, been lucky. And we do realize this is luck to a certain extent even if proper protection is used on a regular basis just because exposure can happen so easily.
So, have I changed? Yes. I wake up every day knowing that something could happen that would profoundly change the nature of my existence. I could get sick as could my husband, kids, sons-in-law, grandkids, other close family members or friends. And if any of us should get sick, then there would be no sure way to predict the outcome. That knowledge carries a certain heft to it, which tends to make a person a bit more circumspect. Consequently, I have been more focused on the present and less concerned about the future. I have also been more hesitant to communicate with others and a good deal more comfortable holing up and just going through my day, doing what needs to be done. I have also been a lot less likely to want to expose myself to any unnecessary risks, which means I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March, gone to any store besides the grocery or drug store, and have not had my hair cut by a professional since that time. I also haven’t eaten a single fast food meal since March, had a Starbucks coffee or gone to a movie. I have made homemade ice cream, baked lots of pies and cakes, but haven’t seen almost any of my closest friends and relatives (besides my kids and their families) in nearly a year. Life has gotten simpler and smaller and in some ways a bit easier. On the other hand, I have felt quite far away from several people who are important to me even though we make every effort to communicate. I miss their physical presence very much.
So, yes, I have changed over this past year due to Covid-19 and I wonder if and when I’ll return to my former self. I suspect I will not since I will always know now how fragile life truly is.
I am older and wiser and perhaps a bit more cautious than before. I am also much more aware of how lovely a bright sunny day or a moonlit night is. In addition, I am very grateful for the love that surrounds me, whether in person or via the Internet.
You might say I am more sensitive in ways that are good and a bit more afraid in ways that are not as good. But whatever the case, I am glad to still be alive and healthy. I now know more than ever that in the big picture, this is all that really matters.
We will continue to “hide out,” as my husband says and hope and pray that the vaccine will be distributed to as many people as possible, as fast as possible.
I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that so many people are suffering either through their own illness or the illness and death of their loved ones. I pray that they are wrapped in the loving arms of God so they can experience solace.
And I pray I will also feel that solace should I be faced with such heartbreak.
We are making our collective way through a very tough time.
May God be with us as we go.
And, yes, we are all changed.