The Pandemic – Not Yet Returning To My Prior Life By Alice Herb
Just a few weeks ago I wrote about how strange it was to try to break out after months of isolation and to move on to a more “normal” existence. I, along with many others, am now convinced that this may never happen. My own experience is not singular but for the elderly- and I am one of those- the pandemic will leave some permanent aftereffects. Some are good, some mixed, and some bad.
The most prominent change for me is that I have lost a year of the life I previously enjoyed. There has been the accelerated deterioration of my physical capabilities and agility. In January 2020, although I was already saddled with lower back pain, I was by and large able to do what I wanted to do and did not have to limit my activities to no more than a couple a day. I was never an athlete. I’ve always been clumsy, could never do a cartwheel even when I was 4years old, but I always had amazing stamina and endurance. As other people dropped, I was still moving. I always relied on that stamina when I was over-extended. Now that seems to be gone. I loved walking all over town or when traveling, but now I am able to do no more than a couple of miles before succumbing to severe pain. But then walking is no longer fun anyways because all I see are vacant or boarded up stores, and that is distressing. Will they ever open again? Who knows!
I am a subway rider. Taking the bus instead, during the pandemic, has been a time-consuming activity – one that I find most annoying. I have the patience of a gnat. Bus rides for an hour or more, when the subway would have had me at my destination in 15 to 20 minutes, have been excruciating. Taxis and call cars are not much better. But the downside is that the first time I took the subway last week, I was breathless as I came up the two flights of stairs to the street. That was not so a year ago! Will practice get me back to my former ability? I don’t know.
I am missing live performances at theatres, movie theaters, museums, shopping, meeting people for dinner, for happy and not-so-happy activities. Zoom attendance will never make up for the in-person experience. For me it is a visceral experience when the curtain goes up, a movie theatre darkens or a painting or sculpture is up close. I like it all for real. Paris in pictures was nothing like landing there and engaging all my senses.
I haven’t seen my granddaughter since Christmas, 2019. I haven’t seen my grandson since last August. Yes, I have seen them on What’s App and on Zoom but where are the hugs, kisses, and the feeling of human contact? One is in Canada and the other in Ireland. Under normal circumstances, they either would have come home for holidays or I would have traveled to see them.
Contact with close friends and even acquaintances has resulted in an unexpected distancing. Telephone calls are rare. Emailing and messaging have been poor substitutes. I feel we’ve lost the intimacy of knowing about each other’s daily lives, even if it was just humdrum. Can we ever regain that? At my age, I can’t wait a whole lot longer.
The worst of all of this is that I find myself being hesitant and timid about doing everyday things. Of course, I, too, am anxious and fearful when I embark on a new or seldom done activity. But that usually never stops me. But now I am so careful that I am annoyed at myself. What am I afraid of? The apprehension I find is always worse than the experience itself. I am even uneasy driving to my local Costco, though ready to do so. I definitely have to address these fears if I am to go back to a full life.
There are good outcomes as well. As my elderly neighbor on Fire Island always says, “I woke up this morning.” Having survived, not only alive but well, is a great outcome. Learning to live in lockdown and not losing control, finding new ways to use the internet and computers, being more inventive, resourceful, and becoming more self-sufficient are all good or at least mostly good. And think of all the money saved by not being able to indulge in usual activities. And even making new friends.
In the end, having survived, I think most of us will find our way back to a new comfort level. I know I will because I cannot tolerate depression. It makes me angry, and then I fight to get out of that corner. Besides, it’s fun to explore and find new ways of enjoying life and to also overcome the negative. I will not give up. I will continue to fight for a new Renaissance. If we all join in, think of what was accomplished in the old Renaissance! That should get the juices flowing.
Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
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