I was doing my best to stay back from the people in front of me as my face covering kept slipping. My efforts to create the six-feet distance seemed silly as others swarmed around me in the busy store. Like a salmon unsure of how to swim upstream, I tentatively wrapped my little fins around me wondering if this big ol’ river was safe. As I followed my husband through the aisles, I looked ahead and watched a man pause.
As he stood still, I did too, waiting to move forward as I kept my space.
This man removed his mask, sneezed, and then put the face covering back on.
I was furious.
“You wear the mask to stop the sneeze!” I thought to myself “Ohhhhh my Gosh!”
I wanted to pull my hair, to yell at him, to shriek what the heck he was missing! I felt my muscles tense and my annoyance rise. I’ve never hated being around people more.
I stood still longer, silently praying thanks for my own face mask and wondering how long it takes for germs to disperse before I walked through his invisible, fearful cloud of possible germs.
I continued forward and was uncomfortable for the next twenty minutes we spent in Home Depot. Get in, get our supplies, get out.
I know I can’t be the only one worried in public places and at the same time, by the looks of things, there are thousands of people not worrying as much as me.
Our neighbors are gathering and stores are busy and friends are posting pictures of time spent on the lake. I’m still sitting, writing from my couch, wondering what dials will have to turn for me to feel safe again out in the world. I miss my mom and want a hug and wonder when my brother will be able to go back to work. This isn’t fun.
We drove back home and washed our hands and wiped down the cans of paint we purchased with off-brand, lemon-scented cleaner because Clorox wipes are still nowhere to be found.
Later in the evening, I turned on an old favorite movie, About Time. The main character Tim has the gift of being able to travel back in time and can re-live any day he chooses. There are consequences of the re-dos but mostly, his gift gives him the ability to live less anxiously, be more present, and delight in the extraordinary ordinary things around him. The things we worry about are easier to face if we know the outcomes don’t cause us pain.
I kept thinking while watching the movie, if I went back to today two weeks from now and stood in that same concrete, box store would I be kinder to the man who sneezed if I knew I wasn’t infected. I would have gone down a different aisle. I would have pulled Dylan closer and slowed my breathing. Or would I have chosen to avoid that store all together?
What would I do differently if I knew now what I’ll know in two weeks? The exercise is exhausting, isn’t it?
Here’s what I know now.
This is it.
We don’t get a do over. I don’t get to go back.
I may have to spend much of my thirty second year in my house, wondering, waiting, worrying.
When they say it is safe again, I’ll wander out and get emotional about sitting in a public park and plan vacations and toast champagne at weddings and still, new anxieties will present themselves. The world will give me something else to be scared of.
Moving through things doesn’t erase fears – the process of arriving on the other side means I’ll place my anxious claws into something else. Worrying and wondering just wastes my time today.
This is it.
How can I live differently here in these pandemic days while I wait?
I asked my friend to pray for me – may I have compassion for the people who aren’t taking this as seriously as I am. Compassion for myself and my family. May I be at peace. May I use my creative energy to invest in the things I love to do, even while home. May I honor the outbursts and fits and tears coming from the stress of this global melt down.
Our world is changed and my little world, here on the big blue couch with the sun streaming in, still offers a chance for peace. I may be missing out, but this won’t be forever.
The sun is up. The garden is being watered. The coffee is hot. Books begging to be read beckon. I’m breathing.
This is my life, here and now.
As Tim says, “We’re all traveling through time together every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”
What a beautiful thing.
I hear you. I also wonder how to proceed. Whether, when, and where to proceed. A friend sent 3 words — “Wait to worry.” If I’m doing what brings comfort, if I’m slow to move out from safety, I will also seek to wisely wait to worry. Go gently, Katie. And, as always, many thanks for your honesty, vulnerability, and continued seeking.