Covid 19 has changed me, or at least the Covid lifestyle has changed me, on a deep level.
First let me explain that I am in the high risk population for Covid. I’m over 70, I have only one kidney and I have an auto-immune disease that is currently in remission. Also, my son had a kidney transplant (with my kidney) and is on immuno-suppressants, which puts him in the highest risk group. I want to be able to see him so I have to be even more careful about exposing myself to Covid risks. So I take all the protective measures against the disease very seriously. I don’t obsessively wash my hands anymore, but I’m very careful about where I go and who I have contact with.
As a result, my life has been extremely limited since March of 2020 and I spend most of my time at home. I’ve always been a homebody, so I have to admit that this aspect in itself has not been particularly uncomfortable for me. I’m also retired, as is my husband, so we aren’t as busy during the week as we used to be anyway so we’re not missing out on that much. We see friends on Zoom and two to four at a time outside, so our social life is satisfactory, though not what it used to be.
So I didn’t expect the emotional reaction I’m having to venturing out a bit more, albeit masked, into the world. I’ve scheduled doctor appointments lately to catch up on things I let slide through the worst of the Covid lockdown. I’m used to getting the mail and local food shopping a few times a week but when I face an upcoming doctor appointment, I start getting anxious. I get into the car with trepidation and don’t relax again until I’m back in the car and on the way home.
I’m an anxious person so anxiety is not foreign to me. It’s just that intellectually I know that a trip to the doctor is one of the safest things to do these days. The offices are set up for social distancing, everyone wears masks and everything is cleaned and sanitized constantly throughout the day. Yet I feel uncomfortable leaving the security of my safety zone or bubble.
I’ve recently also found new things to be anxious about. For example, four friends want to take me out to dinner for my upcoming birthday. But I haven’t been to restaurant for over seven months and the thought of it terrifies me. I’m torn between dying to experience a nice meal with friends (though it would be outside at the end of October in New England) and fearing for my life. I keep thinking of myself alone in a hospital bed, struggling to breathe and thinking, “was that meal really worth it?” But then I think of myself eating pizza or Chinese take-out as my birthday treat and wondering, “am I overreacting?”
If we go to my absolute favorite restaurant that I’ve been dreaming about for seven months, will that tip the scales towards going for it? Or should the recent upswing in Coronavirus cases in my state after months with a flattened curve, push me in the other direction? (P.S. We decided to have a few people over for socially distanced pizza and birthday cake, as a safe but fun compromise).
And then there’s the ‘dinner party.’ Tom and I used to entertain a lot. Not huge groups, but six to twelve people was not unusual, especially on the boat in the summer. So when I decided to have four friend over for dinner out on our patio, I didn’t think twice about it. But as the day approached and it was time to start organizing and shopping for food, I became overwhelmed. I hadn’t cooked for anyone but my husband for seven months. I forgot which serving pieces I used to use. I forgot which were my go to entertaining recipes so I had to go through my whole huge personal cookbook to figure out what to make. Did I mention how overwhelmed I felt?
It took me way longer than it should have to set up the bar area, lay out the serving pieces, dishes and silverware (it was buffet style), roast the vegetables and make the pasta dish (we were grilling steak as the main course). Plating the appetizers was easy but the whole process was way more difficult than I remembered. It’s as if my entertaining muscle memories had failed me and I was figuring everything out from scratch.
Looking back, I don’t get what the big deal was for me, but that’s just where I am right now. Anything beyond my limited, mostly homebound everyday life is a big deal. I look forward to the day when my old life feels ‘normal’ again. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that my psyche has been frazzled by Covid.