How are you doing, 19 months into the pandemic? Me? Not so good. Despite wanting to believe it so, we are not living a post-pandemic life. Not at all.
I really thought that we would be back to some sort of normal by now, but Los Angeles is about to mandate vaccine proof for indoor spaces. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for it – I think this is a smart move and inevitable to get most of the population vaccinated, but it just feels like another level in this dystopian end-of-the-world bad movie that we are living. Discovering daily that yet another favorite boutique or restaurant didn’t make it is crushing. And weighing every social engagement or activity against the pros and cons of possible COVID exposure is exhausting. It makes me want to stay home and binge re-watch the entire series of 24. Indulging my thirst for high-adrenaline TV is a safe way to get my dopamine hits these days.
Exercise is a priority for my physical and mental wellness (more dopamine), but not inside a gym right now. Instead, I’m content to exercise outside or at home. I’m comfortable in small groups of people but turned down football tickets to see both of my alma maters play each other in a long-standing rivalry. I stay grateful for my good health and practice mindfulness every day. And still this sucks.
My anxiety and overall grief increased one thousand-fold when a friend died from COVID last month. He didn’t smoke or drink and and was in excellent health; it was a stark reminder that COVID gives zeros f*cks. His death was swift – less than a week from sickness to death – but has rocked our friend community. You know those friends that you made in elementary school and even though you moved away, you never lost touch? And this was before social media. He was that friend, always contacting me on my birthday, or whenever I crossed his mind. He was one of the good guys.
My friend was not vaccinated, although he had recently vowed to make that happen. This is yet another pandemic minefield to navigate – how to handle the social question of vaccination or not. I was in conversation with an acquaintance (both of us unmasked outside) who was retelling a story of his partner, in conversation with a business client. When the client found out that the partner was not vaccinated, their demeanor changed and now the business relationship is in question. Apparently, the vaccination status of the partner is an ethical dilemma for the client.
Listening to this story raises the question: do you ask vaccination status before you meet? And if you do, what do you do with that answer, depending on your own value system? Would you stop socializing with a good friend? Do you real body hug of air hug? Do you ask where they’ve been first? Would it affect your business relationships? As if we don’t already have enough social awkwardness re-entering society post pandemic, we have these sticky questions to ask. Or not.
I don’t know the answers and like everyone else in this unprecedented time, I’m just figuring it out as I go along, keeping myself safe, and negotiating each swerve in the curve as it comes. But we’ve still got to live, right? If we honor our own comfort level and make adjustments for our mental health needs, that’s the best that we can do.
P.S. You might also want to read The Edge of Disaster: America’s Mental Health Care Crisis.