As I sit nursing a sore upper left arm, banging headache, and achy body I am filled with thankfulness to have received my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccination. Confident in this reaction being short-lived, I feel optimistic and privileged with the updated news that the world is continuing to open up. I am choosing to believe that once double vaccinated, I will be protected from the greek alphabet variants that are threatening an uptick in the numbers. That are threatening yet another prolonged easing of restrictions. That are threatening to keep our borders closed and our wings clipped.
I’m weary of being in the middle of the pandemic. I’m frustrated with being In the middle of the inconclusive bickering between scientists and politicians. I’m angry and sad to be In the middle of humanity on hold, while death counts climb. I don’t do well living equidistant between contentment and discomfort. I have a long history of drowning unpleasant feelings with alcohol. Or running from it with exercise. Or avoiding a sense of vulnerability or emotionality through maniacal feats of being busy and engaged. The teflon cape of production and purpose kept my outside world intact. I managed to avoid the centre of being.
I am finding now that the patterns and habits that kept me relatively peaceful over the past 15 months are no longer working. My vegetable garden that thrived with my attention last spring is now dried up and the young plants are desperate for water. My vegan cookbooks have a new shelf in the centre of the kitchen, their spines stiff and ingredient lists daunting. My bike in the loft is dusty. And it’s entirely likely that I will begin rewatching all seven seasons of the West Wing. To numb my brain from the what-ifs.
It seems that ordering new dresses on-line no longer provides a momentary endorphin surge. A delivery on the porch may sit for several hours before being retrieved and opened, with a sceptical eye and one hand on the return slip. It’s possible that the Purolator driver no longer recognizes me. I don’t like what I have in my closet. It’s full of “I have nothing to wear.” There are small slivers of stealth social events. I forget how to host, how to dress, what to say.
I am in the middle of the painfully slow and tentative re-opening. My favourite Buddhist teacher (Pema Chodron) advises that being in the middle creates anxiety. I want to avoid the challenge of the middle; flip a switch to slow dancing without masks, to the crush of swaying people in front of a vibrating stage of musicians, to airport lineups and the wonder of the first look at a new land from the sky.
The space between now and then reminds me of the fields of hidden land mines that tragically maim innocent citizens. Also in that expanse is the residual trauma and loss caused by Covid. People’s lives forever altered. Will their anxiety and heartbreak ever come out from the core of the pandemic? I wonder if they will be able to get out of the middle . . . to a place of hope and light. I feel guilty in being relatively unscathed, family and health intact. Is it enough that I didn’t get the virus and tax the medical system? That I waited my turn for the vaccination? That I bought dresses from the sidewalk and coffee whether I wanted it or not? `I search for humility in my entitled world.
As I merge into the transition from lock-down, mask-up, stay apart to touch, mingle, and smile I will access my social energy. I will gulp the surges of air and conversation as people unveil their noses, mouths, lips and teeth. I will practice linking the eyes to the face to create a connection.
I will make a friend with my anxiety as the middle fades to a fresh start.
At least, that is my experience.