When I stood in line for my booster, I was reminded of the hope I had the last time I walked the halls of this community center – the elation I felt at the prospect of seeing and spending time with loved ones again without fear of death.
After my brother’s short-term visit last November, I didn’t see another friendly face for three months. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s alone. And while I created coping mechanisms and relied on a community of support virtually, that isolation had serious ramifications for my mental health – some of which I am probably still processing.
One of those community members who helped me through it was my 89-year-old Papaw, who’d recently discovered the wonders of gifs, emojis, and text (and who surprisingly shared a similar love of ABBA). He lost his life to COVID in September. So, as I approach this holiday season, it is hard to reconcile another winter without him.
I Have a Dream
The difference is now I am not alone. I am taking small risks because I feel safer, and I trust the people in my inner circle. Sometimes those small risks are bigger risks with strangers (even re-entering the world of online dating), but I take precautions. I’m still wearing a mask indoors. And for the most part, I feel okay.
I know that I am lucky that I have survived this long without a real COVID scare. I certainly witnessed loved ones endure it, and it is scary. And I know I am privileged in that I can still access the life-saving supplies I need to manage my diabetes. I can work from home and limit social interactions. I have no one to care for but myself and a cat who now has more chronic conditions than I do.
And I worry about that loneliness going into this winter. I never felt FOMO throughout the worst of the pandemic, but as more people take risks, the more I feel left behind. But I also acknowledge that I have a chronic condition that puts me at greater risk, and I have to do what I am most comfortable with. That is something we have all learned from this past year.
Knowing Me, Knowing You
But as much as I yearn to start over sometimes (because I feel stagnant and the excitement in life is limited, the spontaneity I once reveled in almost non-existent), I also know that I am lucky to have such an incredible community of support. It is more essential to survival than I ever realized. There has been loss this past year in more ways than one.
After I got my booster, I cried – not tears of joy this time but tears of sadness – for the losses endured. And even though my Papaw is no longer here, I know he would want me to be happy, as happy as I can be in this current state of things. And he would take comfort in the fact that I am not spending Thanksgiving and Christmas alone this year (I may keep New Year’s for myself, after all).
I may not have followed the traditional path of womanhood as many in my sphere of influence did, but I am loved. And sometimes, that is enough.