April 21, 2021
Coming home from Cape May, we settled back into our sheltering at home routine. Emily and the kitties were still with us, I was still doing a lot of online teaching, Michael was deeply into a writing project, and we had figured out the cooking and cleaning routines. In February it snowed, a lot. I took out my cross country skiis for the first time in several years, and used them every day, on many open space trails near home, and in the back yard as Louie bounded joyously through the deepening snow drifts. Skiing was wonderful, but I didn’t ride my bike, or see any of my few friends for socially distant rides or walks all month. The cold and gray and isolation started to take its toll and we all got a bit more edgy and short with each other. The vaccination was becoming available to more and more people, but appointments were hard to come by and some folks spent all hours of the day and night searching for spots.
Michael finally got an appointment for the end of February. We had to drive an hour to Holmdel. He waited in line for several hours while I stayed in the car and peed in the woods, as I had been doing all year on my bike rides. He felt weak and crummy for the first 24 hours but then bounced back and was so relieved and hopeful to be on his way to some protection from this crazy virus. His second Moderna shot was scheduled for the end of March. Meanwhile, I wasn’t even eligible yet, too young and healthy.
By early March, the snows melted and I saw my bike friends again, but more and more of them were getting vaccinated and feeling like they were released from prison. As my older friends were feeling lighter and more joyful, I was feeling worse and worse. There was now a distant light at the end of the tunnel, but the complex and mixed emotions this brought up were hard to manage. I felt left out, impatient, but also wary, tentative, confused and so frustrated. There was also a good amount of “I shouldn’t be feeling this” in there as well. What would life after COVID be like? Would we, or could we go back to the way it was before? Historically, I am really good in a crisis situation: calm, focused, clear and functional. Then I usually have a delayed reaction and fall apart later. This crisis has been going on for about a year, which is a long time to be in emergency mode. I have been extremely functional and positive, holding it all together with seeming grace and ease. But actually, I think I have surrounded myself with an armor of emotional protection that will take a long time to soften and relax. It is helpful to read articles in the news paper that describe everyone having exactly the same response. It is not just me feeling this way. Yet, I have to honor this swirl of turbulent emotions and just let them do their thing and move through.
Michael got his second shot on March 29, and miraculously, I got an appointment for March 31, in Moorestown. Emily had been driving across country helping her friend Noel move to California and we still had the kitties. That day, Michael would drive the Prius and the kitties to Philly, while I drove the Honda to get my shot just across the river. It was so fast and easy to follow the path through an old Lord and Taylor as the young National Guardsmen checked me in and directed the way. I cried as I felt the Pfizer vaccine enter my bloodstream – wow, it has been a long hard time getting here. As I drove towards Philly to pick up Michael, I passed a great looking Root Beer Joint on Rt. 38. I’ll have to remember that place for the next time. We returned the kittles, left the Prius, and didn’t hug Emily as she had just been out in the world, and we weren’t fully protected yet.
Two weeks later, Michael started taking on the grocery store duty. He hadn’t been shopping anywhere in a year and was actually thrilled to be able to pick out what he wanted. I was thrilled to let him do it. I got my second Pfizer a week later and we did indeed celebrate with a root beer float at 11am on April 21. What a difference it makes. I am already feeling my armor begin to soften. Next will be inviting the cleaning lady back, getting a massage, dinner with friends…slowly, slowly moving towards what comes next.