The world is reopening post-pandemic - at least the world in the US and it's got some people (including myself) a little apprehensive. I've been journaling often, trying to uncover what is making me so anxious. I recently heard the song “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers and I cracked up because he is so angry as he sings “Coming out of my cage / And I've been doing just fine” that I felt exactly that way!
When Covid first hit in March 2020 I didn't mind working from home, in fact I kinda relished in it. I missed socializing but I still texted my friends and Facetimed and had virtual coffee or cocktail dates. It was fine. I was fine. I found virtual workouts, I found ways to stay connected and I figured it would all be okay in a few weeks. Then as time went on I wore my masks, I ordered grocery delivery, I became obsessed with washing my hands and Purell. I did all the responsible things including continuing to socially distance.
Mom got sick in May and then we had the hospital / rehab debacle that encompassed June > December and I had no time to miss socializing - I was too busy focusing on making it through each day without falling apart. Sure I felt a pang of jealousy when I saw friends post about dinners or wine tastings - but I kept telling myself I couldn't risk getting sick, not with 2 immune compromised parents and my own fragile lungs (I've had pneumonia 7 times in my life). I was being safe. However, at some point that safety turned into self -isolation but I didn't see it at the time.
In December at mom's wake I saw so many people and it was both amazing and terrifying. I had forgotten how to be myself. I was talking fast and nervous and as much as I was appreciative of the outpouring of love, I was counting down the minutes to going home and putting on my pajamas and hiding under a blanket. Yes, a massive part of that was grief…. but part of it was this crippling fear I've developed from all the time alone.
The first part of 2021 was spent working through my grief and keeping my distance both because of said grief and because of Covid. Accepting that mom is gone and that life I had planned looks so different now - it hasn't been easy. In April Derek and I became eligible for the vaccine and we both joined Team Pfizer. I expected some kind of magical switch to flip once I got 2 weeks past my second shot.
I could see my friends again! I could socialize! This was the dream, right? Mmmm, not so fast.
I've made and canceled 6 or 7 different sets of plans…. And the reason is complicated. Part of me has massive anxiety thinking about reliving the last 14-16 months since I've seen the person. And that anxiety spirals into a panic attack at the thoughts of leaving my house and actually socializing. My chest is tight, I can't breathe and everything begins to just feel incredibly overwhelming.
I don't want to talk about my mom's illness.
Or the false hope we had with her multiple recoveries.
I don't want to talk about how my career took a massive back burner.
I don't want to talk about how I stopped exercising for months and even now getting back to it slowly I'm so far from where I once was.
I didn't use this time at home to finish my weight loss journey that stalled in 2018 when my dad got sick and never quite picked back up.
I didn't get stronger.
I didn't take up a new hobby.
I didn't fall in love or try Bumble video dating.
I didn't do any of those magical pandemic things you read about.
I barely got out of bed some days.
I spent more time crying than I ever have in my life.
I talked about and started to process a lifetime of feelings.
And while my insides are different….. The outside reflects the same old February 2020 Sam just with new scars.
I'm still overweight.
I'm still single.
I'm still a massive work in progress ….
I feel like I have nothing positive to show since I last saw my friends. I don’t have a “pandemic success story” other than merely surviving.
I'm not the sunshiney, bubbly person so many people know and love all the time.
I'm more realistic.
Cynical even? Some days.
I'm not sure where ‘Sunshine Sam’ is, or if she's coming back.
I've lost so much in this last year, I don't want to sugarcoat it with anyone.
Is that bad? Maybe - but it's also true and I'm all for truth.
I shared all this with a career coach I've been working with and she encouraged me to make small plans and build a safety net in 5 steps:
Pick the place.
Choose a friend I have a wide range of things to talk about with
Wear my favorite outfit.
Set my expectations low
DO NOT CANCEL.
It's tomorrow, so fingers crossed I make it happen!