Nearly 16 months after it began, the pandemic prompted by COVID-19 shows signs of loosening its grip on what we once called normal and allowing us to return to how we once were.
But do we really want to go back? Do we want to retreat to the comfort of what once was and risk losing the possibilities of what can be?
A pandemic is defined as an “event in which a disease spreads across several countries and affects a large number of people.” Finding a cure for that disease is a noble cause. However, to “cure” a disease by forgetting it existed is to plant the seeds of its return. And once it does, it can be deadlier than it once was.
If we look beneath the surface and consider COVID-19 as a symbolic representation — a metaphor — of the challenge we call life, we find the cure for the virus known as living.
Hidden within the challenge of that virus is the whisper of its cure. But are we disciplined enough to quiet our minds and pay attention to the still, silent voice within that is patiently waiting for us to listen to its cry?
The new normal awaits
Once vaccines became widely available, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted the mask mandate for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the world moved one very big step closer to “normal.” And while this brought much joy and celebration, it comes with a huge dose of bittersweetness, one that even a spoonful of sugar won’t counteract.
The normal we are now entering is nothing like the normal we once knew. Hopefully, many of the habits we adopted to keep us and our loved ones safe from COVID-19 will stay with us long after herd immunity has been reached.
Regardless of where in the science vs. conspiracy theory side of the aisle your opinion on the virus and the world’s response to it fall, some things should stick around post-pandemic.
- Curbside pickup: Nothing quite compares to dining inside a restaurant, but there’s a lot to be said for popping your car’s trunk and having someone put your meal order inside. Not having to get dressed for the occasion is like eating dessert before dinner.
- Instacart grocery deliveries: Enough said.
- Sanitizing surfaces, especially when dining outdoors: You don’t realize how much dirt is still on a table at your favorite restaurant until you’ve wiped it down after your waiter “cleans” it.
- Making sure our hands are clean: How many times did you sing Happy Birthday during the past 15 months?
- Working from home: It doesn’t get much better than this.
- Unexpected visitors during Zoom meetings: Cameos of cats, dogs, and humans in pajamas reminded us that important work meetings lose their importance when the Zoom squares on your screen utter a collective “Awwwwwww!”
These things might stay with us post-pandemic, but unless we remain vigilant, others are in danger of fading into the distance, making us forget the gifts living in quarantine brought us.
The gifts of quarantine
Although living in quarantine had its share of challenges, I chose to look at the opposite side of those challenges.
For example, making sure my 93-year-old mom was well taken care of and entertained was a struggle, to say the least. But praying for those who were kept from their parents and families because of the inability to travel or because the places where they were living forbid them face-to-face human contact, kept me thankful and humble.
I may also have temporarily lost the ability to socialize with friends, but I got closer to my immediate pack of family members, the people who will stop whatever they are doing at a moment’s notice to make sure I am well cared for — and for whom I will stop at nothing to do the same.
I learned to appreciate the meaning of home. Coincidentally, or not, I was at Miami International Airport ready to board a flight to Buenos Aires when we went into lockdown. I never left Miami. I could not be more grateful for having made that decision.
Throughout the pandemic, I laughed harder than I had laughed in a long time. I mean, seriously, when nature calls while you’re out enjoying a drive through the empty streets, and the closest thing to a public restroom is a porta-potty left behind by a construction crew, you have no choice but to get creative. I now know of at least a half dozen places in South Florida to do your business outside without the risk of being seen by a security camera.
I learned that bras, shoes, work clothes, and most of the items in my wardrobe are not necessary. Combing my hair is an option that can be left for Zoom calls. And if I can’t get to a comb in time, saying my computer’s camera is “acting up” is an acceptable excuse.
I learned that staying in on a weekend night, alternating between binge-watching and napping through the Netflix series du jour and eating takeout right out of the box, is a luxury I will never be able to live without.
I experienced small-town living in a big city; no people, no chaos, no distracted drivers to run me over during my morning bike ride.
I discovered the beauty of masks – because when all you can see are people’s eyes, you are blessed with a glimpse into their souls.
On the lighter side of the mask mandate, now that I have a facial covering to go with just about every outfit I own (thanks to my life’s traveling companion), I’m finding it difficult giving up this wonderful fashion statement.
I also continued my journey into the road less traveled known as sobriety. (You can’t drink socially if you’re not socializing.) It was a road that began with a 30-day no alcohol challenge nearly 900 days ago, and one on which I have chosen to stay.
While so many people struggled with addictions or chose to drink away the pains of the pandemic with a glass — or six — of their adult grape juice of choice, seltzer with lime was — and continues to be — my go-to beverage.
COVID-19 may fade into the background of history, but like any great teacher, the lessons it taught us, and the gifts it left behind, will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Sharing those gifts with others is the greatest gift of all.
It’s the one time re-gifting is not only an option, but a necessity.