I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like I’m in the Bardo. Outside the sun is shining for just a little while, but it doesn’t fool me, I know thunderstorms are just around the corner,. I’m not rushing out of the house.
And that’s how I feel about going out into this post-covid world. It feels safe (I live in one of the states with this country’s highest vaccination rates). On July 4 I was at a picnic hosted by Windhorse Hill Retreat Center in Deerfield. I joyfully recognized folks without their masks, hugged them, felt those hugs like never before pulling my entire body forward,. Friday night the restaurant in which I met friends was humming just like previous Friday nights, noise at the bar, the tables full of laughs and chatter, the waiters tempting you with menus and drinks. And last night, a culminating delicious dinner at old friends’ home, catching up, listening to the Moonlight Sonata played on the piano. Yes, live music!
You must think I’m the social butterfly of the season, but I believe it’s only the third time I’ve gone out socially in almost a year and a half and these all congregated together across one long holiday weekend. I have almost no such plans for the foreseeable future, and that’s the point.
There was a social world with certain rules before covid. During covid we were locked up here, obeying new rules. And now we’re vaccinated, looking forward to September when the kids will start getting vaccinated (a whole new layer of safety added). And still, I’m not jumping to do what I did before. I’m not eager to rush out to movie theaters or restaurants, not hurrying to invite people over, I remain very uncertain. Not from fear, from—uncertainty.
What is this?
Something happened to us, to me. During covid I discovered the joy of solitude and the boredom and sadness of loneliness. I saw my hankering for protein and sweets zoom. A house I love came in on me, feeling a little like prison. I was busy, but sometimes felt lost.
Now I see people, and I still feel lost. Do I really want to go out, I wonder? Do I really want to see them? Wouldn’t I be happier looking at my computer screen and getting work done, or else reading, or taking another walk with Aussie?
“Most people talk of what they know,” a friend said to me the other day. “They leave little room for surprise.” And yes, after the first few minutes when my arms open up for a hug, feeling happy and grateful that they’re in my life, after pleasantries are exchanged, after we catch up (Are you healthy? Is our family healthy?), then what? I catch myself sneaking a look at my watch.
Not this past weekend, which was wonderful, but other times for sure.
What’s going on? Did I feel this way before covid? I used to enjoy social chatter. I appreciate what it does, the relationships it strengthens, the community that is reinforced. But now I sneak a look at my watch. And when the next invitation comes, I stall, I wait, and finally ask myself: Do I really want to do this?
It can be a little dangerous for a single person like myself to be too alone, not to meet the world, to contract and find refuge in the four walls called myself. And yet, covid changed something in me.
Right now, I feel like I’m in a kind of Bardo, not here and not there, not doing the things I did earlier but not clear what I’m supposed to do now. Something’s changed, but what? Do I re-emerge? How?
The world begins to beckon but I still hesitate.
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