by Paula Okray
Not ready to get back to “normal” just yet
There! I said it.
I’m not ready. Nope. Not ready for no masks. Not ready for hugs. Not ready to jump into social situations. Not ready for crowds and crowded places.
The last year was really amazing—if you were an introvert. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be, except maybe your job—if you still had a job. It was heaven, and I enjoyed every single moment of it.
Well, almost. I did miss certain things from time to time, especially seeing and holding my grandchildren. But for the most part, I was pretty darned happy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy people. Most of the time. I enjoy getting together with friends, sharing stories, and laughing for hours. But being an introvert, I get burned out quickly. The more people around me, the quicker my batteries die out, and the longer it takes me to recover.
Yes, I realize I’m a bit of an oddball, but that’s how I ended up writing this column. I see things differently, from an unusual perspective, think about those things way too much, and after processing them for a time, I find a way to string it all together in (hopefully) an entertaining way worth reading about.
Anyhoo, people are typically surprised to discovered I’m an introvert. After all, I’ve been in more than a few productions of community theater and really had a blast being someone else on stage making people laugh and sometimes cry. But on stage, you aren’t really yourself. You’re portraying a character, and that’s actually easier than being yourself out there, with hundreds of people staring back at you from the inky blackness.
After being home for more than a year and not really socializing the way we are all used to socializing, I wasn’t aware of how much was actually changing. I wasn’t aware that my tolerance for being social had dropped to such a low level.
In the Before Time, a handful of my lady friends from community theater and I would get together on a regular basis to enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes we’d talk about our jobs, sometimes our children, our significant others, or whatever we needed to get off our chest. Sometimes we’d have a theme, like clothing or food, and once we even had a tea party so we could try new teas without going broke.
The parties were great fun, filled with lots of laughter, wine, and sometimes tears.
But the pandemic put an end to all that.
We tried a group chat, but it just wasn’t the same. We did share quite a bit on a regular basis through Facebook Messenger though, and it was wonderful to stay in touch.
Recently, having all gotten our vaccines, we felt it was finally safe for us to get together without compromising the health of our families. We were all very excited for what we expected to be an epic get-together.
However, it didn’t quite work out that way.
Sure, it started off amazing with group hugs for each new arrival at the door. And boy, did those hugs feel good! We held them long while squealing and laughing and looked forward to the next one.
We ate good food, drank good spirits, told funny stories, and talked the night away.
After a few hours, I noticed that my head was throbbing in a way it hadn’t for a very long time. I found myself exhausted and fighting to stay focused and engaged. I was dismayed and shocked! These are people I absolutely love and had missed terribly. I should be having a great time, but my body was screaming for respite.
My body was not ready for this dive back into “the new normal” and was rebelling with everything it had. And although it made me sad, it did make a lot of sense. And it wasn’t only me, either. We were all trying to cram a year of missed camaraderie into one night, and it wasn’t going to work.
After fighting it as long as we could stand it, we reluctantly and slowly made our way to our cars and said goodnight.
I awoke the next day feeling like I’d been pulled through a knothole, napping on and off all day long. The dog was very confused, and I had learned something important about what I’ve come to call re-entry.
There are so many events to attend now as we gear back up to where we were before, and that’s a really wonderful thing—but I’m still not ready. I think it’s great that everyone is so positive and excited about it, and for those who are ready and can handle it, more power to you. We’ve certainly waited a very long time to enjoy this moment, and enjoy it we should.
This summer is going to be amazing, since we’ll be making up for all that lost time and savoring every delicious moment of it. For if there is one precious gift the pandemic has left with us, it’s the gift of appreciation.
I’ll be out there enjoying it all, too.
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