21 Mar

At the beginning of the pandemic, an acquaintance shared how she’d had to stay inside for a year when she got scarlet fever as a child. What she remembered, more than the isolation, was the excitement of returning to the world.

Now that the pandemic is ending, I’m experiencing that same excitement. The sky is suddenly more vivid, the air sweeter and fresher, my being bursting with possibilities.I’m not the only one. All around me, people seem to be waking from their stupor, perhaps as mystified as I to still be alive. Shopping at Trader Joe’s recently, I ask the clerk, “Is it just me or does everyone suddenly seem a lot happier?”

He’s noticed it too, the shoppers who frantically emptied shelves of rice and toilet paper a year ago now picking up bundles of daffodils and leisurely examining new brands of beer. “Yeah,” he says. “Maybe because it’s spring.” 

There were times, during the worst of it, when I wondered if I’d end up in a body bag in a refrigerated trailer outside the coroner’s office like so many others. Driven by self-protective impulses I didn’t know I had, I holed up and followed orders with just my dog and cat for company. Only now that it’s over am I aware of the heaviness I’ve been carrying, a low-grade funk where emotions seemed like a luxury. We all adopted survival strategies—what worked for me was staying productive and keeping busy. Telling myself that a year of staying inside was a small price to pay for perhaps another couple decades of life.

And now that a new season is upon us—and the days are once again getting longer, I want to plant my spring garden, meet up with friends, open my front door and run outside. I don’t want to forget the grocery store workers, the medical professionals, and elected officials, the vaccine-makers—all the people who made our survival possible.

A year ago, it felt strange to be locked safely inside our homes while the world outside grew quiet: less traffic and less noise, except for the singing birds reclaiming their territory. And now, it feels strange to no longer be locked up.I’m not sure what’s outside that door or if my life will be different. The sounds of my neighborhood are returning. More traffic, people laughing. And above it, mockingbirds announcing that it’s spring. 

After a year of loss for many, I feel lucky, and a little guilty, to be emerging unscathed. One change is that it feels safe to think of the future again. I’m not just focused on making it through one more day, but groups of days—weeks, months, seasons. Even looking way ahead to wonder how we’ll look back on these times a year from now.

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