You know that thing when you pull out a comfy, worn-in pair of lounge-around-the-house-pants, and slipping them on your legs and pulling them up you realize that they’re a bit…snug? Yeah, I experienced that this week. It’s not a big deal. I mean, I’d rather have packed on a few extra pounds than be dead from COVID. But it’s still a little alarming, isn’t it?
The tightness of my pants notwithstanding, this realization got me thinking about what has really transpired over the last two years.
For the last two years we’ve collectively been experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. We all know this. I’m not going to go on about how difficult it’s been or politicize my blog by telling you all the opinions I have and my desire to change hearts and minds of those on the “other side.” No, I don’t want to talk about that.
What I do want to talk about is this: what I realized after rocking my now form-fitting comfy pants is how much I have changed. And how much the people and relationships in my orbit have changed. How we generally interact in public has changed, and how all of us are, or are beginning to, or maybe haven’t even yet thought about, reconciling how this pandemic has affected us.
You might be someone who considers themselves relatively unaffected by the adjustments you’ve had to make to your life over the course of the last two years. And to that I say, good for you and you are probably right in a lot of ways. There are many people for whom their day-to-day existence didn’t really deviate much from what it was in the Before Times. But I think we are forever changed in big and small ways.
And the thing is, it’s going to take a long time for all of these changes and their impacts to fully unfurl before us. There’s no way to really tell right now what exactly the pandemic has done to us.
For my part, with some reflection and through lengthy conversations with friends and family, I have determined a few things I can say have unequivocally changed in me.
- It takes a herculean effort to go anywhere. I clearly have taken for granted how convenient it was in the Before Times to run errands on my way to or from somewhere. I have found it quite challenging to muster the motivation to get out and about. Case in point: I have a package that I need to pick up from the post office, which is located in the Shopper’s basically around the corner from me – about a 10-minute walk. This package has been there for 9 days and counting.
- Time has no meaning. I feel like the last two years could be lifted right out of my life’s timeline and it wouldn’t make a difference at all, but at the same time, like they are the most meaningful years I’ve ever experienced and have irrevocably changed my life’s trajectory. It’s like the last two years are just a void – a holding place where we’ve all been waiting for life again. But life, of course, has continued because that’s how time works.
- I’ve never eaten so much take-out before in my life. I like to cook, I do! And I really love to cook for others. When I moved into my apartment almost four years ago, the thing I was looking forward to the most was hosting my friends and family for dinners, hangouts, parties and all the quality time we could handle because I finally had the space (and beautiful dining table) to do it! But, living alone during the pandemic, dealing with major life changes, coping, surviving, and being resilient apparently stole my desire to cook. This is a big part of the reason why my pants are tight.
- Spontaneity and I aren’t really friends anymore. There’s no room to fly by the seat of your pants during a pandemic. When I have gone anywhere, usually to be with family, it was always thoughtfully planned and laid out. I miss spontaneity. I like flying by the seat of my pants.
- I’ve become a bit of a voyeur. Not in a creepy “peeping Tom” way, sickos. I mean I’ve grown so accustomed to being alone, not really talking to or interacting with humans a fraction of how much I did before, that I find myself mostly observing. It’s not an inherently bad thing, and I’ve always been inclined this way – I’m a certified people-watcher. I like to imagine what their stories are, what their lives are like, who they love and how they fill their days, what keeps them up at night and what fills them with joy. A good friend told me once when we were talking about people-watching that she watches for the fashion – she likes to see what other people are wearing, and essentially decides whether she thinks it’s a good choice or not. I will say that my friend is quite fashionable herself, so when she told me this, I wasn’t surprised and nor did I think it was a bad thing. Anyway, when she asked, I told her what goes through my mind when I’m idly watching people live their lives and she smiled and said that it’s because I’m a writer. I’m always writing stories, even when my pen is invisible, and the story is in my head. Anyway, all this is to say that I find that because of how much time I spend on my own, this practice of watching and thinking and wondering and story-building has become much more prominent.
- I’ve become lazy. Well, lazier, really. I think this is because there’s nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, nothing to plan for and no new experiences on the horizon. It’s depressing. And while it does sort of force one to live in the moment more than they probably ever have before, it feels limiting. There is only now. That’s not the same thing as spontaneity though. It’s a strange vortex in which we simultaneously don’t, (or didn’t until very recently), have the freedom of true spontaneity – no last-minute plans to go to the movies, or to a restaurant, or a mall – and where, because of the uncertainty of the life of this pandemic, there is only the present. We couldn’t make vacation plans, or plan weddings or parties because we didn’t know what was still to come and when we could reasonably expect to regain some normalcy.
- I’ve developed a bit of an online shopping problem. For me, it’s clothes, mostly. I think I’ve worked out that it’s because of two things:
- I want to imagine what life will be like when the world is fully open again, and specifically, what I’ll be wearing when it does. I think about going back to an office and putting on a mini-fashion show every day, even if it’s just for a handful of others in the office who don’t know me or give a shit about what I’m wearing, it excites me. I have accumulated a fantastic wardrobe – work and non-work clothes. I just don’t have anywhere to wear them. Yet. I will. And I will look fantastic. Just you wait.
- Ordering things online – clothes, groceries, medication, take-out, random housewares from Amazon – gives me something to look forward to. Yes, as sad as that sounds, I’ve deduced that it is the crux of the issue. It’s the truth. My life has become so small, so insular, that anticipating getting a delivery (of anything, apparently), gives me a little tiny sense of suspense and purpose.
- I’m rusty when it comes to social interaction. You have to understand that in the Before Times, I was the life of the party! OK, maybe not immediately before the lockdown and ensuing end-of-the-world panic. But I’m a very social, outgoing, entertaining person. Case in point: I was with my family over the Easter weekend – the first time I’d seen any of them since Christmas – and I thought we were having the best conversations ever! I was so excited to be sitting with my mom and sisters and brother just shooting the shit, catching each other up on our lives – it was invigorating. Later in the evening, my siblings started calling me “Windy.” Apparently, I was talking a lot. Maybe too much? In my defense, I have been seriously lacking human interaction for two years. Actually, more than two years, but we’re not going to get into that right now.
The aforementioned points are just scratching the surface. They are only the things I have come to realize on my own. I’m sure there are myriad other ways the pandemic has changed me, probably unexpected, and perhaps tiny and insignificant, but whatever it is, I’m ready.
Bring it on, universe! I don’t need to go back to life as I knew it before, I understand that things change, and a lot of specific things have changed because of the pandemic and may stay changed forever. But I do need to get out of my damn apartment, go to work, meet up with friends and go out for dinner. I need to connect with people, especially my people, and make sure that I do it often enough that “Windy” doesn’t stick as a nickname.
Also, I’d like my pants to not be so tight.