I should have seen it coming.
I suppose I expected a more gradual transition to my pre-pandemic activity level. You may recall that I confessed to being quite comfortable with quarantining. Professional obligations over the last four decades had pushed me out into the world and forced me to learn to interact fairly successfully with other people. But it was always hard. And always immensely exhausting.
It wasn’t until we were all forced to withdraw from society that I realized just how heavenly that mandate was for me. I retreated into my little cocoon, taking walks with the dog and a friend or two, and being quite content with that abnormal state of things. I learned to talk on the phone more, which I had never particularly enjoyed, and I celebrated how infrequently my car left the garage.
But now, I suppose, it’s over. Or at least the majority of people in my neck of the woods have decided the pandemic is behind us. The dictate now is that we must all return to our normal activities, sans masks, or risk being branded as pathetic snowflakes.
I will admit that I have been one of the last to walk into a restaurant without a mask or accept an invitation to a gathering with more than a couple of people. I haven’t traveled since 2019. I haven’t been to an event since early 2020. All my socializing has been outdoors, usually on a hiking trail.
And, quite frankly, I didn’t really want to leave the cozy little womb I had created. So I fretted about what to do. How should I respond to the onslaught of invitations landing in my inbox and on my phone? The rest of the world was moving on, and some—perhaps foolishly—seemed to think they wanted to bring me along.
Thinking I was dipping my toe in the uninviting water, on April 20 I took a deep breath and met a friend for lunch…indoors. On April 22, I got my second Covid booster. And then, somehow, the floodgates opened.
Was it just spring, and people wanting to get out from under our long winter? Was it the cyclical celebrations this season brings? Or perhaps it was the perceived freedom from the threat of the virus that resulted in an eruption of social invitations?
I said yes. I put each one on my calendar. Maybe I really could do this. Maybe I could be in public among large groups of people without worrying about infecting some vulnerable soul near me. I managed a bridal shower. A concert.
And then things started snowballing. I felt besieged by invitations. I couldn’t get sufficient air in-between them. My eating became erratic and sleeping was impossible. Even my daily calming rituals were upended. One evening, after two other events, I was walking Lucy and stumbled into a spontaneous retirement party at a neighbor’s firepit. The humans and canines in attendance were favorites of my dog. We got swallowed up. I couldn’t leave.
Late last night I finally had to put the brakes on. I canceled a date I had made with a friend. I pushed breathing and exercising and quiet chores around the house to the top of my priority list. Clearly I will have to find a way to better manage these emerging social obligations and my friendships.
If you are reading this, I hope you won’t take offense. I hope you won’t feel snubbed if I simply can’t add another activity to my calendar. I realize now I need to do this gradually, on my own terms. I need to get a grip. Avoid spontaneous combustion.
I hope you will be patient with me. For my part, I will continue to fight the urge to disappear to a remote cabin in the woods without leaving a forwarding address.
Coming Up Next: One final installment of the Richard the Terrible saga!