I hope you enjoy this guest post, folks. Written by my friend and long-time blogger D.A. Wolf. A professional writer and editor, D.A. is originally from New England, has lived all over including in Paris, and currently resides on the east coast of the United States. You can check out her blog Daily Plate of Crazy here.
Once upon a time, I used to venture out into the world. To the museum to view the latest exhibition, to the antique market to search for treasure, and to the local mall for seasonal sales. The sights, the sounds, the people-watching – all were sources of relaxation. And I suspect I took them for granted.
For years, once or twice a week I would head to a coffee shop for an hour or two – any coffee shop would do — taking a small notebook, a pen, and my laptop. Because I worked from a home office (and also juggled kids), the change of scenery helped clear the cobwebs, shake loose ideas. And importantly, helped me to feel less isolated. These outings, too, I took for granted.
In more recent years, I used to think nothing of my millennial sons coming to town for a weekend, and frequently they arrived with friends in tow. The injection of noise and energy and laughter was always welcome– what’s not to love? – and likewise, the quiet once they departed. But in the past few years, I see them so little that I count on their brief stays far more than I let on. And the absence of their shining faces and entertaining banter for these past 12 months has been pretty dreadful. While I wouldn’t say that I ever took their visits for granted, I doubt that I fully appreciated them.
There’s more that I used to take for granted, of course. The food in my freezer, the toilet paper in my bathroom, and the conviction that despite gaps between clients, I would eventually find work. Then there’s the woman who delivers my mail, the cashiers at the supermarket, the employees at distant meatpacking plants. There are teachers, teachers aids, custodial workers, bus drivers. Surely we cannot forget them! And yet we do. We have. What else and who else have we long neglected? Let’s see… There’s the importance of science, the functioning of the U.S. mail, the “sanctity” of the U.S. election system. These are all people, principles, and American institutions that I once took for granted.
Hang on to your hat! I’m not quite done yet…
Never did I picture overcrowded ICUs, burnt-out healthcare workers, or EMTs and doctors and nurses being applauded for their heroic services. How is it that so many months later, their sacrifice escalating, we seem to be taking them for granted? How is it that COVID-19 has revealed so many of our personal and systemic fissures and failings?
And last summer, like so many others stuck at home and glued to our screens, I was a captive audience to the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed. I no longer accept my own insufficient awareness of what goes on around me. Nor do I accept my powerlessness to participate in change.
This year of COVID has crushed us, scarred us, humbled us, shaken us, motivated us, enlightened us. It has opened our eyes.
For me, the emergence of a post-COVID world is about reclaiming and celebrating what once seemed so simple. As simple as hugging my boys once they’re finally able to visit, enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend, grabbing a bite at my favorite Cuban eatery, wandering the bustling city streets that I love. And I’m even looking forward to doing my own grocery shopping!
In my post-COVID world I imagine taking in a movie, attending a potluck dinner party, and losing my (ahem) “pandemic poundage.”
Fingers crossed — I can return to my favorite hair salon for a professional cut and color, and never again will I take for granted their magical skills. (I woefully do what I can with the gray and nothing about my hair growing longer, and longer, and longer…)
Happily, in my post-COVID world, I can travel again. And that means… Paris! Oh, the galleries of the Marais, the aromas of the Latin Quarter… I can close my eyes and I’m almost there.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you have no illusions about how quickly “normalcy” will return. Depending on where you live, you may be wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and taking other precautions throughout much of 2021. But with vaccinations beginning, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Nonetheless, I worry.
Once I finally exit my bubble, a necessity to protect myself against COVID, will other aspects of my health have been compromised? When I resume my neighborhood walks, how many mom-and-pop stores and restaurants will be gone? How many will reopen, if ever?
Beyond my little community, what about our healthcare workers who will have been fighting this scourge for more than a year? How will we help them through the exhaustion and trauma they’ve suffered? And how will we address the mental health impacts to the rest of us, not to mention the long-term financial burdens?
Will we finally do something about food and housing insecurity? What about the income inequality that the COVID crisis has exacerbated?
Will we continue to insist that racist statues be dismantled, that racially offensive school names be changed, and more importantly, that U.S. citizens continue to fight against voter suppression and for voting rights? That we don’t back away from 2020’s conversations on race, however uncomfortable at times? That conversations be transformed into actions?
A concern that may seem minor but that gnaws at me… When will my sense of humor return? Thanks to late-night talk shows being broadcast from bathtubs and living rooms, I know that I’m capable of laughter. But my funny bone feels fractured. And I worry that it will be slow to mend.
For me, life after COVID means relying on tried-and-true lessons that I never take for granted: the importance of empathy, finding purpose, nurturing resilience. And of course, love. However trite these notions may sound, they’re all I’ve got to offer, certainly to myself. Besides, I suppose this is the story of my life – of so many of our lives – the journey of our ups and downs, the help we give each other through troubled times, and the human connections that heal us.
How about you? What do you hope life after COVID will mean?