In Other Words: My "user friendly" life

We have reached that place where we are slowly inching back to some semblance of normalcy. Life is becoming more “user friendly.” Well, not entirely. We still have to wear masks and keep social distance. Variants are also making mischief. But now that arms have been injected with the golden elixirs: Pfizer, Moderna or J & J, we are suddenly faced with choices. This is both exciting and daunting.

The thing about isolation was exactly that: we were sequestered, a word I have come to embrace this past year. I clung to that word, in fact, as though it were a raft on a choppy sea, a life preserver, a place in which to retreat when the world became dangerous and foreboding. “Sequestered” even had a calming ring of home and hearth with a welcoming association attached to it. “I’m sequestered,” I told friends when they inquired as to my well-being. It slid off my tongue almost poetically.

We are by nature social animals who once tripped about with others, enjoying the pleasures of group interaction. We dined in restaurants with people at tables less than six feet apart. We went to movie theaters, schools, and sat next to strangers. We shared food, indulged in conversations, and breathed in the same air, all with full-frontal views of our faces.

Then, last March the pandemic hit. For those who took that seriously, we lapsed into our new roles as temporary hermits, which translated differently for each of us depending on our mindsets and lifestyles. The rooms of my house were my stomping grounds, as I gazed out my windows each day, watching the hours pass like rotating scenes in a silent movie.

But now liberation is the light at the end of a long hibernation. Once vaccinated, our world expands, and that means we can return to the old familiar days when we weren’t scared stiff. And therein lies the conundrum: how do we readjust from going from secluded and “abnormal” to life without borders and boundaries? Freedom is suddenly interpreted as embarking upon a long-awaited new adventure filled with slight trepidation.

I ponder it all with a certain amount of cautious optimism. I feel joyful that soon I can hug my grandchildren, engage physically with friends, and resume where I left off a year ago. Though, to be candid, the life I carved out for myself wasn’t so bad. The pandemic, though undeniably tragic, and emotionally costly with the loss of so many lives, out of necessity forced us to redefine ourselves, as we similarly reinvented our environment and tried staying stoically focused. But now I ask myself the big question: what next?

Fortunately for many, the worst, aside from being enormously “inconvenienced,” was being profoundly grateful for the opportunity of being fully vaccinated, and for having survived an apocalyptic event, both physically and emotionally.

For me, Facetime with family, Zoom workshops and recreational online outlets helped. So does speaking with those who bring joy to my life. Equally important was managing to stay creatively active. In those ways, lockdown offered us daily escapes with more time on our hands. I read books and listened to music, and I hedonistically indulged my fancies without the guilt, usually associated with being labeled, well, lazy.

Drives to the beach became little staycations. Mother Nature can be gratuitous and nurturing. Sitting beneath a shared sky, I was a mere speck in a universe struggling with the same ominous demons. Such moments connected me to something larger than myself. I felt part of a bigger picture, which transcended miles and oceans.

Naturally, I am eager to get back to the world as I knew it, but I don’t expect things to be the same. I am no longer the pre-pandemic person I was. In many ways I have changed. Grown. Evolved.

Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Going forward, I plan to take bite-size pieces out of life, treading slowly, and carefully, until I can take the big leap back to the good old days when, as Billie Holiday so exquisitely belted out, “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.”

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at joodth@snet.net or at judithmarks-white.com.