Back to Normal (But Not Really)

A stadium filled with fans. A restaurant packed with people. A store swarmed by shoppers. Until recently, these things were mostly nonexistent during the pandemic. But now that people are getting vaccinated, places are opening up and people are venturing out in public again. Except not everyone.

I’ve been housebound (often bed bound) for the last decade. That’s ten years of missing out on baseball games, meals at restaurants, and shopping at stores. Then the pandemic hit and, for a brief moment, everyone felt some degree of that same isolation. Suddenly, people had to rely on remote communication, using their phones and other devices instead of meeting in person. They had to eat all their meals at home, and go months without seeing friends and loved ones. For them, it was a big adjustment—a new, more difficult way of life. For me, and disabled people like me, it was more of the same. It did, however, make me feel less alone knowing that literally billions of people around the world were experiencing a similar existence to the one I had been living for the last decade.

I didn’t enjoy seeing these people suffer, but as they say, misery enjoys company. And, I must admit, my misery did enjoy their company. Call it selfish or solidarity, it was comforting to have that kind of a shared experience.

But now that things are returning to normal (that’s a general sense of normal, not my sense of normal), I’m left with an even bigger void of knowing that all the people who were united with me are now uniting in a different way, leaving my way of life behind. They are going out in public again, enjoying each other’s company, while I’m still housebound, still fearful of getting a secondary illness, which, paired with my existing condition, could send my fragile health into a tailspin.

While I’m still wearing a mask, taking the necessary precautions to avoid getting such an illness, many people are returning to life as they knew it before the pandemic. After all, some people find that the easiest way to cope with a difficult problem is to pretend it doesn’t exist. But such thinking doesn’t usually end well (just look at Typhoid Mary).

In other words, there is a direct correlation between people returning to their normal lives and an uptick in COVID cases in the last several weeks. There are other factors, of course, like large numbers of unvaccinated people and the Delta variant being more contagious, but we could keep the cases low if everyone took the necessary precautions.

I say this not so my misery enjoys company a little longer, but as a logical solution to a reoccurring problem—wearing masks prevents infections. And also, my hope is that the number of cases will some day (hopefully soon) become low enough that, if my health continues to improve, as it has in the last several months, I will feel safe going out in public for the first time in a decade. And it’s not just me, there are millions of sick and disabled people who are holed up in their homes right now, still waiting out the pandemic, hoping the infection rate decreases enough so that their compromised immune systems won’t be as much at risk. So, please, keep that mask on a little longer.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

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