I hope you had a good week, and are getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend, which is always the unofficial beginning of summer in the US, a kind of warm up for the Fourth of July. Although holidays have been celebrated worldwide during the nearly year and a half of the pandemic, nothing has had the same atmosphere or mood during that anxious time. And in most cases, holidays that were too enthusiastically celebrated had disastrous after-effects with lethal spikes in the numbers of new Covid cases, with a high price to pay for holidays. With vaccines available now around the world, and more readily in some countries, it will actually be possible for people to celebrate holidays with far less risk, and in some places none at all, although caution is still advised (masks, social distancing, and common sense, with Covid still part of our daily lives, although rendered less lethal now due to the vaccines.)
I’m reminded of the wise words of a friend several years ago, a psychologist, who said that good change can sometimes be harder to adjust to than bad change, which several times in my life I have found to be true (like the arrival of a new baby, which is such a joyous event, but can certainly alter your daily life dramatically, and be a bumpy adjustment, and for some even lead to postpartum depression). We’re not suffering from post-partum now, but for many, the adjustment to many changes post-Covid can be stressful and anxiety provoking. I read somewhere recently that some people are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the aftermath of Covid, even as things begin to ease up. I notice changes in my life too. My sleep patterns (and I don’t sleep much in the best of times) have been altered, and haven’t settled down yet to what they were pre-Covid, with sleep more elusive, nights shorter, or waking in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. (I just get up and go to work, rather than lying in bed and stewing about why I can’t sleep). I hear that from people a lot, that they’re having trouble sleeping. We’ve all been through some harrowing times, and need to acknowledge that.
For myself, although I was safer in France at times, and felt more secure there when the numbers of daily cases and deaths were terrifyingly high in the US, which kept me where I was, and Paris is certainly not a hardship post even in the midst of Covid—-three long lockdowns, and the rigors and forced solitude of confinement were an unfamiliar stress, and being separated from my family for more than a year was a challenge every day. Birthdays, holidays, and happy events missed, family gatherings cancelled, weddings and other events being cancelled and postponed sank everyone’s spirits for more than a year, and was a common occurrence in everyone’s lives. The restoration of normal life is an enormous comfort, and being reunited with loved ones a special gift, it still feels somewhat tenuous, and we have all been reminded of how radically and how suddenly life can be changed dramatically. The whole world became a dangerous place, and in many cases came to a dead stop for more than a year. And people are still mourning lost loved ones, and financial stresses are affecting people all across the globe. And ‘normal’ feels suddenly unfamiliar and a challenge to achieve. Unable to be vaccinated myself, and with some members of my family not vaccinated yet for a variety of reasons, I have still not been able to hug my children, but just the sight of them with masks and social distancing warms my heart. We’re ‘back’, but none of us are quite home free yet. But we’re getting there, and well on our way.
As with any hard event, even a war, blessings have resulted from it too, family relationships that have become closer, romantic ones that started in the pandemic, people who got to know their children better than ever before, new past times we never had time for before, and helped soothe some of the stresses of the pandemic, a lot of my friends took up gardening and really enjoyed it, or discovered new hobbies, and made new friends. And it seems as though everyone who could got a dog, and are crazy about them now. So we’re left with pluses and minuses. The minuses were heavy, jobs and businesses lost, and lost loved ones, but the pluses are noticeable, worthwhile, and real too.
Even happy events in life are not always 100% smooth. And the return to normalcy doesn’t always happen in a straight line or as fast as we wish. Switching from one country to another always has with it an element of culture shock. At the end of a flight, you’re suddenly in another world, another life, with a whole new set of challenges and rules. I had a lot to catch up on coming back to the States, and I jam packed all the long overdue appointments into my first weeks back, medical appointments and exams, the dentist, accountants, lawyers, government papers I needed for international travel, all of the appointments stressful, and I faced two and three a day, so I didn’t have much time to savor my return, and none of the required appointments were pleasant, but I wanted to get through them quickly. My daily role as parent and employer made demands on me too. And all of it after a year of anxiety and worry, and even business negotiations that dragged on far longer than usual. I think we were all stretched to the maximum of our tolerance for stress for more than a year. I worked hard during the entire pandemic every single day, but nothing was as easy or stress-free as it usually is. And winding down from that kind of stress is a challenge too. I missed important family events for more than a year. We won’t get the time back, and we can’t mourn the time we lost forever, we just have to move forward now with fresh energy, and look ahead to the many things we can enjoy now and will in future, and hang onto the blessings we did have in the past year, and there were many of those too. I am really grateful for the good people who came into my life in the past year, and the relationships that developed and strengthened as a result.
I only take one vacation a year, in the summer with my kids. There was no way we could do it last year, so I haven’t had a vacation in almost two years. And I almost never take a day off from writing. I keep my nose to the grindstone all year long, and my hands on my typewriter keys!!! My writing schedule is grueling, but I love what I do, which makes it possible. And although time off was inevitable for people during the lockdowns, I was able to work then too, even if not as easily as usual, but I still worked. But I’ve been reminded of the benefits, and necessity sometimes, of time off too.
I did something in the past week that I rarely do, I took a day off during the week to drive out of the city with my youngest daughter, to the places she has enjoyed during the pandemic. We drove out to the country, had a wonderful lunch together, and spent a terrific day. I came back to the city at the end of the day, feeling happy, relaxed and renewed. The time together was a special gift. And although the pandemic was isolating in many ways, physically and mentally, I cherish the time to see friends now, or talk to them, and didn’t take much time off to do that before. I think that people who take the time to do that now will make a healthier, happy re-entry back to normal life. We can see more people now, are freer to move around, and do the things we enjoyed before, and hang onto the new past times we’ve discovered in this very unusual year.
I think in the long run, the pandemic will have taught us many positive lessons, and much about ourselves and what matters most to us. But don’t be too surprised if your re-entry is a little bumpy, and you feel different than before. We won’t all suffer from Post-traumatic stress, but the reality is that we have all been through a lot, in one way or another, and it will take some time to hit our stride again, but we are well on our way now. The memory of the hard times will leave their mark, but so will the blessings we derived from it too. Take some time to catch your breath, get back to ‘normal’, and be gentle with yourself.
Have a great week and a wonderful holiday weekend!!!