Teri Orr: A post-COVID post
We have no time for the nonsense — no patience for it, really. Not anymore. We lived through a damned worldwide pandemic! Our parents never did that. Nor their parents. WE are the Champions! (Queue up the Queen music.)
And while we have spent the last — nearly 18 months — feeling battered and bruised and mentally questionable and fearful and lazy and numb and feeling everything and eating and drinking at an Olympic level — we are just beginning to understand the level of hyper hermitage we lived in for such a very long long time. We ask permission now before we hug friends — or … hold on … kiss. We wear a mask and take it off and put it on when a new person joins the circle. We don’t want to offend and we don’t want to — not feel welcoming. It is a confusing, freeing, loving, really loving time on the planet. We all went through this crap together in real time — it is a common global thread and bond.
And words like “quarantine” and “Tiger King” — are a kinda shorthand for the shortages we faced — with toilet paper and tuna. We — all over the planet — rode the same wild wave and many of us are just now washing up onshore. “You know,” a dear friend I hadn’t seen in more than six months said to me recently, “I had a nervous breakdown during COVID. I know I did.” And I quoted back to her from that low-grade literary classic — “Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood” — “Honey, we all dropped our baskets (this past year.)”
Everything has become a bit 3-D. Vibrant colors and behaviors and technicolor moments with folks we came to love — really, for their service. The cashier at our favorite drive-thru, the women (and men) of our local postal service, the cops on a beat who always showed up —always — professional — as the crazies got crazier and the rowdy calls turned deadly. And lord — don’t get me started on the teachers who were there day after germ-filled day — making certain this generation of students didn’t have a giant gap in their learning and their socialization.
The post office hasn’t changed but we have. We see folks we have known for years there and we do a little — do-si-do — of hug/no hug — (there is no wrong answer by the way for me). I am comfortable/you are not … no problem. I am a hugger now — which came MUCH later in life — hell, I am Irish — we don’t HUG or display affections unless we are in our cups. We nod and wave and maybe slap a shoulder.
At the markets that once had clearly marked the “up” aisles and the “down” aisles, all arrows of direction and distinction are gone and we are back to a free for all. Switch partners and all dance. They shoot horses, don’t they? ( Sorry, an old reference from an Oscar award-winning film, starring Jane Fonda in ’69 that focused on the dance marathons of the ’20s — I once wrote a paper about in college. The paper was a catapult to other things and dreams … that I deferred.) This digression happens more often lately. The squirrels in my yard have nothing on me…
So how do we re-enter — your home, my yard, their car? How do we be respectful and also celebrate our double vax position? Where do we land on say … a shared bowl of guacamole now — do you dip or spoon? So very many confusing social issues. And the kiss on my cheek at my Rotary meeting I have come to rely on — for maybe a decade now — from a man at least one decade-plus younger than me? It was the sweetest of things. He saw me after more than a year of no visuals beyond Zoom and said — “You know what’s coming — right?” And sure enough, he bent his tall frame in half and gently kissed my cheek. It was somewhere there and then I knew all those little moments and kindnesses we took for granted, we will/I will never ever take for granted again.
I am finding the baby squirrels this season amusing, not annoying. Ditto the magpies. The varmints and marmots and potguts get no such love. I have not gone completely mad. I was quite fine without any of them. The strawberries that never blossomed last season to produce fruit look downright hopeful right now and the tarragon and mint and lavender and chives are all thriving. Me? I am staying up too late with the doors all open and using the Startracker app my dear friend placed on my phone about a week ago because he knows I love the stars and am at a loss to name them. So now I use my phone to name the light clusters above me on clear nights. They have fancy names mostly — I won’t commit to memory but tonight The Rabbit was there.
I find post-COVID that I try hard to be present more — in conversations and observations. So many days and certainly all the Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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The hesitancy among some to be vaccinated reveals another pandemic, Amy Roberts says. “[W]e’d rather double down on being wrong than admit we’ve learned something new and changed our mind.”