Like everyone, my re-entry to the outside world after sheltering in place has been a combination of trepidation and a healthy dose of confusion. As I anxiously drove to participate in socially distanced tennis at Samuell Grand two days after the stay-at-home order lifted, I wondered, “How was May 1 any different than April 30?”
It seemed — and still does — too soon to go from living the life of a recluse to galavanting around the city at restaurants, parks and other favorite haunts. But there I was — at a socially distanced happy hour in a friend’s backyard on May 1 and playing tennis the day after. We had plenty of antiseptic wipes and hand sanitizer within reach, but it was difficult to shake the feeling of angst. As desperate as I am to see friends and play tennis, I’m not eager to be on a ventilator at Presby.
Humans are social creatures, and I am not made for social distancing. I am a hugger, and my hearing is not what it used to be. Sitting 6 feet apart often means having to cup a hand to my ear and say, “Come again?”
As social as I am, for the most part, I have appreciated sheltering in place.
Working from home has lifted the stress of rushing to make dinner. Even though I eat more often because my office is right off the kitchen, cooking meals has resulted in eating healthier.
In fact, our family unit is healthier. The four of us have had to spend an inordinate amount of time together, which hasn’t happened in years. With a 17-year-old who drives and a 14-year-old whose bedroom is her sanctuary, we didn’t see much of either of them prior to the COVID-19 crisis. In their defense, with our busy social lives filled with work events, happy hours and dinners out, they didn’t see much of me and their dad either.
Because of involuntary confinement, we are talking, laughing and engaging in each other’s lives.
It wasn’t easy getting here. The first week of being forced to stay home was tense with constant bickering, door slamming and loud-scale arguments. That was from the adults in the room. The house was a mess, and no one was getting along.
In hindsight, it was the uncertainty and unfairness of the situation that created our family angst. As we settled in and started to accept the reality of the situation, we crafted structure for adults and kids by assigning responsibility for tedious, but necessary, tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms and wiping down groceries. We agreed that summer vacation had not yet started and defined what a school day looked like.
We reinstated family dinners, sitting for more than an hour at the table telling each other stories about work, friends and online school. Our teenagers introduced us to songs by music artists we assumed we didn’t like. Although I still don’t understand why everything — or really anything — on TikTok is funny, we’ve enjoyed watching our daughter laugh hysterically on the couch versus wondering what she’s doing in her room.
Of course, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. My father-in-law died in early April after contracting COVID-19 from his caretaker at a facility in Houston. We miss my parents, whose plans to winter in Scottsdale, Arizona, have been extended. With temperatures every day in the 100s, they’re desperate to leave. But with the case numbers in Dallas County, we’re not eager to put them on a Southwest flight home.
The lack of an organized school day in a classroom environment has certainly been a challenge, as well as the annoyance of having to wear a mask when venturing outside.
I’m a self-proclaimed rule follower, and a big challenge for me is that I don’t know where the line is between acceptable and risk. My husband was mortified when I told him my plans to play tennis at Samuell Grand, and he shook his head when my son picked up food from the Burger House drive-thru.
As we traverse into our new and uncertain world, each of us will have our own rationalization process on how we re-engage with society. What is horrifying to one person is safe to someone else. We’ll know soon enough if we did it right or completely messed up.
When we look back on the pandemic of 2020, we will undoubtedly tell tales of those who fell victim to the virus, the steep decline of the world economy and protesters who conflated opening our country with the Second Amendment.
I hope, however, we will relay more broadly how frontline workers risked their lives to make ours easier, how our school district provided half a million meals a week to our students and how our planet was allowed to heal.
For my own family, I’d like my children to tell their children about the joys of quality time at home and nowhere else to go.
Only time will tell.
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