Assuming I get over these post-second vaccine shot side effects (and hopefully I will, because I said I would read Torah), I’ll be attending Shabbat services in person this week for the first time since the pandemic. Young Persons’ Programming is officially starting up again. I gave notice at my old job and am about to start a new job. My in-laws, whom I haven’t seen in a year, want to make plans now that they have been vaccinated.
If you’ve read this blog, you’d know I handled the pandemic badly. In spite of jealousy-inducing circumstances, I fell apart. I have absolutely no positive life lessons from the pandemic experience. So you’d think I’d be overjoyed. And I find myself, well, not. Not unhappy, mind you, but also not overwhelmed with joy.
Part of it is that the things that are opening up are opening in limited ways and not in the ways I was looking forward too. This Shabbat will be outdoors (which sounds rather nice actually) but without kiddush (the luncheon after the services). Not that the food is the only reason for attending events, but it was a part of the communal experience, especially for my community in particular. The Young Professional’s event is a poorly timed (meaning the afternoon before erev Shavuot, typically a time for people to prepare for the upcoming holiday) BYO Refreshments to the park, which I suppose was organized to be more young family friendly. The organizer is a friend and I know she means well, but who has time for this? And why would I want to spend more time with parents of young children than necessary? In-Laws want us to visit and spend time all together with the niece and nephews. You know how much I love that shitty consolation prize.
Part of it was that my COVID-risk tolerance was pretty high to begin with, so the re-opening of community events and family plans is not so dramatic for me as it might be for someone else. I’ve been shopping at stores. I went to the gym. I’ve eaten at restaurants indoors maybe 7 or 8 times during the pandemic. I’ve taken public transit. I’ve been to weddings. I went to in-person job interviews. Heck, I even took a plane flight to a job interview. And all of my fellow customers, passengers, and I wore masks without complaint and stayed 6 ft apart to the extent possible. (I’ll admit the 6 ft did not really happen at the airport or plane).
It’s like I couldn’t manage to feel any anxiety at all. I was more than happy to wear a mask and fully comply with all of the laws, regulations, and local establishment policies. I knew rationally that the laws were based entirely on political agendas and bullshit and not at all on public health considerations, and yet I still couldn’t manage to work up any anxiety. I can’t really explain it.
Side note: My fully vaccinated sister who has not been to a restaurant since March 2020 called me freaking out over the various events for my cousin’s upcoming wedding (bridal shower, bachelorette party). I was listening to her freak out and trying to be sympathetic but at one point, I was just like, “Hon, I’ve been on an airplane. I think maybe I’m just the wrong audience because I don’t really identify.”
She probably should have called Husband instead. Following the second vaccine shot, I experienced fever, achiness, awful headaches, nausea and a thankfully short-lived dehydration-vomiting cycle. Husband was quick to suggest that I probably had COVID because I went out on Mother’s Day with my family for plans he did not think were COVID safe before I had my second shot. I almost wrote an entire post about the clusterfuck that was Mother’s Day but I didn’t think anyone wanted to read a day and a half’s worth of cyclical marital arguments any more than I wanted to relive them (Update: I did write about the Mother’s Day clusterfuck of 2021). Suffice it to say, Mother’s Day sucked, and not (only) for the reasons you would expect.
Anyway, I pointed out to Husband that I probably did not have COVID as my blood oxygen % was great and my fever was mild and subsided quickly. After failing to convince me to get a COVID test, Husband decided to get himself a COVID antibody test and then go grocery shopping. Whatever. He came home with a bunch of useless groceries. In fairness, he asked what I wanted, only I had no appetite (see dehydration-vomiting cycle above). Then he called all his various relatives with medical degrees and reported back advice at different points when all I really wanted to do was pretend to do work and nap in between meetings.
It probably is a good thing I never have been and never will become pregnant in this marriage. I can already tell that the support that I would want while pregnant – eg. massaging my feet, reading my mind, buying food and groceries I actually want – is not what I would actually get from my husband. My husband would instead freak out over every symptom, find symptoms of his own and freak out about his own health, tell all his medical professional relatives about the pregnancy before I’d want them to know in order to milk them for marginally-applicable advice because I would not choose a relative to be my doctor, buying food and groceries he wants, and thinking of himself as a hero – everything I would not want. Anyway, I digress.
I think the last reason I am not so excited about the reopening of communal social events is because I still feel defective and broken. I don’t know how the hell I’m going to be able to have a normal small talk conversation at a Young Professionals’ Event. Like how do I make conversations with people who appreciated WFH to spend more time with their families, who operated with normal COVID-risk tolerance levels, whose marriages were normal, who took up normal person hobbies, who managed to keep normal hygiene and have some optimism about the future? I think I’d be fine if there was a distracting activity, like Shabbat services or dancing at my cousin’s wedding, where I don’t actually need to talk to people, but I don’t really trust myself not to say anything damning or convincingly fake listening to a conversation I can’t relate to the way I used to. I’m not sure I know how to be normal now.