Mask Confusion

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Less than a week ago, the CDC came out with new guidelines for the vaccinated, including that those of us who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks or socially distance. This is great news.

Except…

There seems to be a little confusion on this guideline (including from the CDC itself), and I have some concerns.

My first concern is that unfortunately we are allowing the people who spread the misinformation quickly and without remorse since the beginning of this pandemic to continue with their campaign of dishonesty and deception. They are already at it in regards to mask wearing and who is allowed to remove their masks in public settings. Some have stated that mask wearing is over, leading the CDC to clarify its position that ONLY FULLY VACCINATED people should remove masks in SOME settings. One example, people think that the CDC said that masks are no longer needed (THEY ARE) and even more unfortunately, retail outlets are beginning to change their masking policy in a groupspeak mentality which will put many in danger of being exposed to covid.

Second, less than one third of Americans have received the vaccine. Some of this is the result of vaccine hesitancy, children under twelve who can’t receive the vaccine, many who are immuno-compromised who either can’t receive the vaccine or are still at risk even after receiving their doses. We are nowhere near herd immunity which should have been the criteria for unmasking as a policy.

Third, the entire premise of stating that vaccinated people can take off their masks in all settings relies on everyone who is not wearing a mask to be vaccinated, but are they? We’re relying on an honor system that’s been missing in this country for more than a year now. We’ve watched hundreds of viral videos of mask-less people shirking responsibility, ignoring mask mandates, spitting and coughing on people, and now we’re expecting these same people to voluntarily wear a mask until they are vaccinated? When they wouldn’t voluntarily wear a mask before?! Or follow LAWS about masks?

Fourth, the lack of guidance and specificity leads to the kind of confusion that we really don’t need right now. As I listened to the CDC Director discussing this subject with Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolis, I wondered: if this person was with the Trump Administration, what would I say about their comments? And so I’m speaking out on the lack of direction on the masks. I think this is giving non-mask wearers and non-vaxxers an out instead of doing the right thing and regrettably, the retailers are jumping right into new policies without a thought to the possible concerns of their employees and loyal customers.

There also doesn’t seem to be an significant changes to travel policy regarding mask wearing.

I don’t expect much from Walmart, but from more progressive retailers like Target, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s, I’m extremely disappointed in their new stated policies that if you are vaccinated you can enter their stores and shop mask-less.

How are we to know who is vaccinated?

We can’t presume that everyone without a mask is fully vaccinated (two weeks post the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna or two weeks post the single dose of Johnson & Johnson) when this last year (often traumatically) showed us that our fellow citizens don’t care about the rest of us.

They didn’t wear masks before.

What makes the CDC think they will wear masks now?

And what will the enforcement be like? It seems to be put back on the lowest paid retail and fast food workers, some of whom have already been assaulted by non-mask-wearers.

Will there be consequences for being unmasked?

According to Pien Huang of NPR, the CDC has expressed that “they’re going to be making more updates to mask guidance in the next few weeks,” but how does that affect businesses that have already announced a new mask mandate? Is it feasible for a company like Walmart or Target or your local mall to say if you’re vaccinated you don’t need masks, and then change that policy for public places in another couple of weeks? It’s confusing and will lead to more confusion as well as a lot of anger from people with compromised family members and also from anti-maskers as they’re continually asked if they’re vaccinated.

I suppose that if you refuse to answer, then you need to wear a mask to keep everyone safe, but that’s going to go over like a lead balloon, and please for the love of everything, do NOT cite HIPAA – it is not applicable, do some research.

Two of the retailers changing their mask policies – Costco and Trader Joe’s — will not require proof of vaccination to go mask-free. The others have not said anything about verification.

I feel like for some of us, instead of being relieved by the positives of the vaccine and lower covid infections and deaths (I’m thrilled by this), we’re going to revert to staying in our homes and only going out when necessary. For our family, wearing masks didn’t make us invulnerable, but we did feel comfortable eating out most of the last few months and allowed us to go on vacation. We were very lucky, and I feel (somewhat melodramatically) that we’re being punished for having done the right thing all along.

I’m personally concerned about church as our Bishop has talked about cancelling the dispensation for attending masses and holy days. Regardless I will put my health and safety first, and so far, no changes have been made at my local parish. Will we have vaccinated and unvaccinated sections for worship? Or eating in a restaurant like they had smoking/non-smoking?

I don’t know.

I do know that this could have been, and should have been, thought out more fully and implemented in stages, just as the shutdown was implemented in stages.

I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I’m interested to know your opinions on this. Let me know how you feel in the comments.

How Fully Immunized Feels

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It’s been an entire week (and one day) since I’ve been fully immunized. Two and Two. (That’s two doses followed by two weeks for maximum protection.) I know that we’re still waiting for a determination as to whether we’ll need a booster shot or if that potential booster shot would be yearly but that’s for Future Me to worry about.

The question for Present Me is: How do I feel?

After the initial bout of second dose side effects that went away after almost three days, I’m fine. No aches, no pains, no fevers; back to my normal.

More importantly, I’m relieved and that relief is palpable. I’m down to regular levels of stress and anxiety and that in itself is a relief.

There’s a lightness in the air that wasn’t there a few weeks ago. It’s like the weight of the world was lifted off of our collective shoulders. I see it wherever I look. More people in the stores, the restaurants, and on the roads. (Honestly, I didn’t miss the traffic. At all.) People are more apt to talk and smile behind their masks rather than be hesitant and step away. At least in the places I’ve been there’s a feeling of we’re all in this together.

My writing group is getting back together – still outdoors, but most of us are now fully vaccinated. My retreat house is doing hybrid retreats with some attending in-house and some over Zoom. I’ve done both, and while I love Zoom and will continue to attend over Zoom, I miss the atmosphere of the retreat house that I really can’t get at home with a house full of people (even when those people are being relatively cooperative). I go to church in person at least once a week and I’m thinking about returning on Sundays.

We’re talking about hugging friends again.

We’re talking about visiting family.

My husband went out Friday night for a work dinner and Sunday morning went for his first dose of the vaccine.

My son is planning on seeing Black Widow in the movie theatre. I’m still a little hesitant, but by July I may feel differently, and in five weeks he’ll be fully vaccinated.

I don’t know, however, how I feel about a return to what was considered “normal”. I don’t know if I want to go back to what was routine a little more than a year ago. While my calendar is filling up again, I’m thinking twice about what I want to spend my time on and I’m starting to say no to some things.

I also noticed that throughout the pandemic, my children’s principal (at the high school) emailed us (all parents) a minimum of once a week to keep us up to date and updated on what was going on at the high school with not only covid-related notices, but regular school information. This would have never happened without the pandemic. At the high school level, you don’t hear from the teachers or principal unless there’s a problem. I found this communication to be a positive and welcome practice, and I respect and appreciate the extra time that it takes for the principal to maintain this level of involvement with parents in addition to their regular duties.

I would never say that this has been a blessing – it hasn’t, and for the majority of the country, it hasn’t in tragic and profound ways – but we’ve been very blessed and I recognize the privilege we have with my husband working from home and my younger children being able to continue school at home with a minimum of change. We’ve spent more time together, watched streaming movies, went on drives, cooked more, and have been well overall.

As a first responder and frontline health care worker respectively, my oldest son and his girlfriend never stopped working and were the first in our family to receive the vaccine. For any parent, their children’s health and safety comes before their own, and I was relieved when they were one of the first in our state to be eligible.

What I want to do now is remember and not dismiss the tragedy of the past year but also take from it the positives that we’ve encountered and move forward with intention.

Covid Vaccine Update – Second Dose

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To read the previous posts on my covid vaccine experience, links are here:

One Dose Down

Covid Vaccine Update

And without further ado, here it is, the post you’ve all been waiting for – ha, ha! I got my second dose of the covid vaccine on Tuesday, three days ago, and I am now able to describe the side effects I experienced.


Three caveats before I share:

1. It’s a little TMI as most medical posts are wont to be.

2. Side effects will vary from person to person and from vaccine to vaccine. You may have these or other side effects not listed or you may have none. I’ve have friends and acquaintances offer both experiences. They can also be mild or severe. YMMV. I would characterize mine as a bit more than mild. Nothing was incapacitating, but I could not do my normal daily routine. If I didn’t already had my physical scheduled for Wednesday, I woudn’t have left my bed. That may have also extended the length of my side effects simply because I didn’t give my body the liquids and rest it needed on that first day after the shot.

3. Side effects will go away. Most of us won’t even notice them. I’m a whiner and a share-er. Don’t let someone’s side effects stop you from getting the vaccine. We’re almost through this and we can get through it together.

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Masks or No Masks…No, It’s Definitely Masks

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Earlier in the week, I was standing in the gathering space at church filling in my form attesting that I did not have covid, did not travel, etc, and another parishioner came in and began talking to the usher. After about a minute, she gasped.

“I don’t have my mask! Why didn’t you tell me I didn’t have it on?!”

I honestly hadn’t noticed which is weird because even if I don’t call it out, I ALWAYS notice the people not wearing masks. I guess not always though.

About an hour later, after mass, I went through the drive thru at Starbucks to get a frappuccino. I parked, took off my mask (yes, I wear a mask in the drive thru) and took a sip. Aah. Wait.

It was coffee. It was supposed to be creme based. I don’t drink coffee.

No problem. Starbucks will fix it.

I grabbed my drink and went inside to exchange it. The barista knew exactly what had happened and they were already making a replacement. I thanked them.

A boy and his mom came in and were being helped at the other end of the store, and there was something about the look on his face when he looked over at me. He looked at me, then at his mom.

Oh. My. G-d! I’m not wearing a mask!

I said it out loud. “Oh my G-d! I’m not wearing a mask!” And then added excitedly, “I am so sorry!” I pulled my shirt up over my mouth and nose and my drink was ready at that point so I apologized again, and left.

I was so embarrassed! I mean I wear two masks at church and grocery shopping and one going through the drive thru. How could I forget?

We all have those moments. Just like the woman in church that morning. Just like me later on. It’s been a long year, and we’re almost at the end of it. We can do it and we can gently remind the people around us. I just got my second covid shot, and in two weeks I will be fully immunized. I will still wear a mask in public and probably every flu and winter season from here on out.

No question about it: Definitely masks.

Definitely masks.
(c)2021

Gratitude by Mary Oliver

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Mary Oliver’s Gratitude Poem came to my notice while I was searching for quotations on gratitude for another project. I am only familiar with Mary Oliver from one of her famous quotations that many religious people use in their meditations and artwork: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” and a short book that I borrowed from the library (Upstream: Selected Essays).

As I read this poem, and then read through it again I was distracted how each of Oliver’s stanzas answered a question. It was thought-provoking and contemplative and I immediately thought this would make a great writing exercise; a way to stretch myself whether as poetry or prose. A push like the daffodils poking through the soil.

I still don’t know for sure if her poem should be read prior to the answering of the questions, but I would suggest doing whatever feels right for you at the moment. Obviously you can’t unread the poem so make your choice with care.

I suppose you could answer the questions and then read the poem and perhaps go back a few days later with the questions again. It may be a nice exercise on its own to see if the original answers changed in the ensuing days along with another reading.

For me, I will read the poem and savor it and then I will continue the writing exercise. I plan to come back to the questions next month from a different perspective, perhaps on an outing or after church services. There are many ways to approach something as profound as Mary Oliver’s writings.

Mary Oliver’s poem appears below the highlighted questions and my answers to the questions appear below that.

In doing this exercise, I sat in the quiet, in the stillness and let the questions speak to me. What do you hear them speaking to you?

What did you notice?
What did you hear?
When did you admire?
What astonished you?
What would you like to see again?
What was most tender?
What was most wonderful?
What did you think was happening?


Mary Oliver – Gratitude Poem

What did you notice?

The dew-snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

When did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue,
her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness,
her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green beast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve of the first snow—

so the gods shake us from our sleep.

[Gratitude is copyrighted to Mary Oliver and her Estate and Publisher. No money is made on the use of this poem.]


I sat for some time and thought about the words in the questions. I decided to go back about one year and contemplate the pandemic in all the ways that the questions made me think about it. Some things have changed – more people out and about, masks (we weren’t wearing them a year ago or we were just starting), vaccinations. It’s good to look back as we begin the real recovery in so many ways – economically, yes, health, yes, but also emotionally. It feels like coming out of a shell or a shelter after a storm.

What did you notice?
the quiet.
my heartbeat.
no cars, no people walking, no dogs.
at the grocery, head down, everyone getting in and getting out.
tension.

What did you hear?
on my excursions to my front yard hearing the breeze,
the birds,
the church bells,
a stray car,
and one kid in a stroller says hi

When did you admire?
my kids doing their schoolwork at home.
the school district keeping it all together.
the grocery store workers.
Zoom.

What astonished you?
the incompetence.
the kindness.
the quiet of all of us at home at the same time.
how frightened I became, especially of the unknown.

What would you like to see again?
the retreat house
Canada
the inside of a Starbucks
church family

What was most tender?
my kids still cuddling just a little.
seeing Onward – the last movie I saw in theatres.
cooperation.

What was most wonderful?
not running out of toilet paper!
livestream masses,
Zoom retreats,
weekly telephone rosary.
information.
Dr. Fauci.
podcasts,
Books.

What did you think was happening?
the end of the world – just a little bit…
a reset,
a chance to re-prioritize,
re-engagement,
reflection.
expect the unexpected.
too much time and not enough.

COVID Vaccine Update

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It’s been one week since I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I go for my second dose in two weeks. I can’t believe how excited I’ve been to be part of an evergrowing group of vaccinated people. The one thing I will not miss about the pandemic is the overriding anxiety that saturated every aspect of my being for the last year.

After what I described in the update and edit last week, I had no noticeable side effects. After a couple of days, the injection site was sensitive to touch and there was a slight bump there, but nothing not consistent with any other vaccine I’ve gotten before.

I will continue to wear my mask, probably two. I’ve been doubling the masks since late winter when the variants became more prevalent in the US.

The vaccine may not keep us from getting covid but our symptoms and illness will be much more mild than without the vaccine.

A very important reminder: You cannot get the covid virus from getting the vaccine. There is no virus contained in the vaccine itself.

Read up on the different vaccine options. You will probably not be given a choice as to which one you get – it is simply a matter of which vaccine is available at your vaccine site.

When you are eligible to get yours, get it!

One Dose Down!

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COVID VACCINE THOUGHTS AND REACTION Updated 3/17/21 – see below

This post perfectly aligns with yesterday’s inspire for March: gratitude. I am truly grateful to have received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Much gratitude to all the doctors, nurses, health care workers, scientists, named and unnamed whose hands guided this moment to fruition. I said all along that I would take the vaccine when and if Dr. Fauci and Ron Klain said it was safe – they have, and I did. And I will also shout out a thanks to President Biden and his Administration for the roll-out!

At the FEMA site I received my vaccine at, it could not have gone smoother. Everything was very organized. There was plenty of parking and a shuttle to bring us to the site. The wait was minimal. I was in and out even before my scheduled time.

Knowing myself I did not eat breakfast. I have a nervous stomach when I’m unfamiliar with a place or what’s coming next. I did bring a bottle of water, although they had bottles of water to take.

A few notes:

  • Wear short sleeves – it’s easier to get jabbed that way.
  • It was recommended that I receive the shot in my dominant arm – they said that it hurts less in the long run.
  • No pictures were allowed in the medical area, but on the way to the exit was a sign for selfies. I am happy to say that I was not the only one taking selfies – there were at least two other dorks.
  • There’s a fifteen minute wait for observation, all socially distanced. You need to keep track of your own time, but there was a large clock at the front of the seating area.
  • If you’re getting the Pfizer or Moderna, they will give you a card with your next appointment – same time, same place.
  • They recommended staying hydrated and provided water bottles to take with you when the observation period was over.

Reaction:

It’s been about two hours, and I have no reaction or side effects. My arm doesn’t hurt at all, and didn’t since the initial poke. Gently touching it also does not hurt at all.

If anything changes or develops, I will update.

UPDATE 3/17/21: About 13 hours after the initial shot, I began to feel a little pain at the injection site – very, very little, minor pain, but more than was there all day. Waking up this morning, about 20 hours after the shot, I was a little stiff, but I rotated my arm and stretched and now all that remains is minor pain from the needle. No swelling, no hotness, no redness.

Yesterday afternoon, I did feel a bit achy and tired, but I can’t tell if that’s a reaction or my normal Tuesday afternoon. I’m inclined to think it’s just me and unrelated to the vaccine.

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Inspire. March.

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“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

— John Milton, English philosopher

Original. (c)2021
Inspired by the following art:
Ruth the Gleaner, Suzanne Moore, Copyright 2010, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. 

I was too sick last week to publish this month’s Inspire post. I didn’t have anything come to me for inspiration, which to be honest, is usually how it goes. Either a quotation or a picture – something starts the post off in my mind, but not this time.

As I kept staring at the continually postponed space in the planner, nothing came, and as I recovered a few days later, I spent time catching up on everything I’d missed.

And still, the idea of gratefulness kept returning to mind. Lent has a way of turning thoughts inward. More praying, more meditating, more contemplation, and yes, more gratitude. It is a quieter few weeks as we think on the journey to Easter and the Resurrection, and in the quiet, we are able to be with our thoughts and see the blessings and the gratitude that we often miss along the way in our cluttered minds.

Was it not doom-scrolling on Twitter, checking each morning that the world was still intact? I was certainly grateful for that.

Was it the covid relief money that our family received this weekend? I am very grateful for that. I paid all of my bills on Sunday. We’re even considering a home improvement, although that will take more discussion.

Was it teacher friends getting their vaccines?

Was it new Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, a brilliant, direct, honest representative of the Biden Admnistration? Watch her daily briefings and see what I mean.

Was it just the very idea of the Biden Administration being in charge? Waking up this morning to a quiet Twitter, the President visiting with his grandchildren at his family home and attending Sunday Mass? It’s certainly different.

This week, I’m filled with gratitude. For the researchers, the scientists, the doctors, the ongoing competence with the vaccine roll-out, and on a personal note for everyone I will encounter tomorrow at the vaccine site where I will be receiving my first dose!

With credit to the gratitude I feel to those who have gone before me, I will publish pictures and a listing of side effects (if any) that I encounter.

I feel very strongly that everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated, and I also feel that everyone should have all of the information available to them. Side effects are individual and not everyone gets them. Knowing what you may expect before you go is the first step in moving past the pandemic year. It may sound cliche, but knowledge is power. I hope to add to your knowledge and I’d be grateful for your good thoughts and prayers.

Murphy

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Murphy is not a friend of mine.

I don’t like him or his stupid law.

Who’s idea was it for a law elucidating that everything that can go wrong will go wrong, but as if that weren’t enough throwing in a little irony just to make the sweetness that much more bitter?

After setting my own alarm and getting reminded by my husband as well as a separate phone call reminder from my son, and having the internet cut out after I had filled in the entire registration form online, and then having to set up my mobile hot spot I was finally able to register to receive the covid vaccine.

I had been waiting for what seemed like forever, and while I am not glad to have a comorbidity to get at this place on the list,

I am still happy to be on my way to being vaccinated.

All was well.

Or so I thought.

I went to a Zoom workshop/lecture, and I did not feel well. I hadn’t felt well the night before, but it’s spring-ish, so of course I ignored it after taking several naps, and sleeping all night. That should have been my first clue. I don’t sleep all night.

As soon as the class ended, I ate a bowl of soup and parked myself in the recliner. I was hot.

Really hot.

My fever hit 101 on the forehead thermometer where 97 is normal. This was a fever. The screen was even red to let all lookers know there was a fever in the house.

Every half an hour or so, I had my daughter add a blanket on me.

I had my son bring me a pillow.

That was my second clue. No one argued. Not that I was very demanding, but still not one gripe, groan, or grouch. Also after delivering a blanket or pillow, they remained an extra moment. I must look really sick, I thought.

I ate nothing else the rest of the day or the next. By the time they came home that first night, I had been sweating so much, my clothes were drenched and the blankets were piled on the floor at the foot of the recliner. I had to put my clothes directly into the laundry basket.

How could I be sick?!

My vaccine appointment was in two weeks.

And then it occurred to me: did I have covid?

I told you I do not like this Murphy fellow. I finally get a vaccine appointment, and now I’m going to have covid?! I was not happy, but I was also very sick.

I went to the local Walgreen’s drive through and took a covid test. Twenty-four hours later, I found out it was NEGATIVE.

By then, my symptoms had pretty much subsided. I was really fine except for a low, dull headache which was cleared up with some Tylenol.

I spent the next business day catching up on a week’s worth of owed work: minutes for the committee I’m on, calling the doctor to make sure I was still able to be vaccinated, making appointments for my daughter, confirming my mammogram appointment for the end of the week.

A lot of, “I was sick all last week, I’m covid negative, should I…”

Fortunately, I’m good to go on everything.

On Tuesday, my daughter and I left early in the morning. She had appointments and between them we had breakfast and lunch plans and a little bit of school shopping – halfway through algebra and she needs a new calculator. We’ve been lucky; she’s been using her brother’s which we got from a friend of mine. High school calculators are expensive.

Murphy.

We went through the Starbucks drive through and I had my card in my hand to pay when the barista pointed to the car ahead of me who was just driving off and said, “That guy paid for your drinks.” I looked at my daughter and I knew the look on her face mirrored my own. Her eyebrows rose, her smile widened. She was happy, excited and we laughed and were shocked. I heard him say to the other cashier that they had a pay it forward going. My daughter wanted to pay for the person behind us. What else could I do? We continued the chain.

What was really remarkable about it was that I’d never had that happen before. I’ve offered to pay for people, I’ve donated gift cards to the customer behind me in Target, I’ve left money at the laundromat for strangers, but the excitement and the feeling of both being on the receiving end and the giving end of something so spontaneous and convivial was really something else; something special.

I think it meant even more coming off of the week I’d had. After getting progressively worse day by day and then returning to normal, it was so special to have this not-normal, not just kind or generous, but to have this joyfulness that comes with the unexpected was something that stayed with us all day.

It will continue to stay with me whenever I need something to lift me up. I will remember the stranger in the car in front of me at Starbucks ending a bad week and beginning a good one.

Don’t tell Murphy.

What’s Missing?

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Back in July, I published a list of the five things I missed most during the pandemic. It was a way of putting down on paper/screen some of the “normal” things that had been interrupted in what is becoming this lost year. They were mostly superficial, little things that I wouldn’t normally notice throughout the day or week, but that by July were obviously missing from my life.

Online, I saw parents in chaos as they tried to juggle their work from home, their lack of day care, and homeschooling their kids with and without wifi and other resources. I couldn’t relate to that experience either. My two youngest children are teenagers in high school. We are fortunate, in more ways than one, that they no longer share a room. They went to their respective corners, closed the door, and went to class (if there was online class) and did their homework. We’d see them each once a day as they emerged from their cocoon of isolation for lunch. I kind of missed them.

We cooked more, and our kids cooked more. We did takeout now and again, but it wasn’t special anymore. It felt like more work. Masks on, rush in, rush out, masks off. Eat, clean, repeat.

Television was postponed when filming was postponed. We signed up for a bunch of streaming services and watched things we’d missed on the first go-round. Hamilton came to Disney+ early. Wonder Woman 1984 came to HBOMax. Supernatural returned (finally) and then finished its series run seven episodes later.

Glancing back at my original list, I was able to get most of it back in the summer and fall when covid numbers fell. Our Chinese take out place re-opened. My town’s new Starbucks was the only Starbucks in the area that had indoor seating. I was thrilled. Target was my getaway – we were always looking for toilet paper and soap. I mean with four people home twenty-four hours a day, we were always in need of one or the other. We stayed in our state, one of the safest and were able to actually go on vacation before school started again. I returned to in person mass on Mondays, although therapy remained by phone. My retreat house went hybrid and I was able to enjoy a few retreat days and two weekends before they closed again due to an increase in covid numbers.

Recently, I realized what I was really missing. The lingering.

It wasn’t church that I missed, although I definitely missed the sacraments and the liturgy and the homily, but it was the standing around talking to people I only saw once or twice a week. Our Cursillo group stopped meeting when the parish center closed. All our community events were cancelled. No parish picnic, no in person day of service, no hospitality at Sunday mass, no Lenten fish fry, no Holy Thursday lasagna dinner.

I couldn’t go to the library to work on things in different surroundings.

When my writing group met in the park after weeks of not meeting, we sat far apart. It was hard to hear. It was cold. We didn’t linger. And then winter came.

Even when I was able to go to Starbucks, before they closed the indoor seating, I’d go for a limited amount of time: eat breakfast, write for an hour (which does seem like a lot, but I was used to going for two or three at a time), and then either head directly home or get groceries and then go home.

I stopped taking myself out to writing lunches, which in my pre-pandemic days I didn’t realize how much I relished and needed.

I had one telemedicine visit, which was convenient and helpful, but I did that in my dining room. I wanted to get in the car and go somewhere else after the appointment. I didn’t.

My retreat house moved to Zoom, which was great in many aspects, but in others, the camaraderie was missing; no compliments on my scarf or my earrings. No handshakes or hugs. No breaking bread and no chapel prayer.

The word lingering came to me the other day, and it summed it up so succinctly that as I thought more about it, and what it meant, it just clicked and created a small space of melancholy and understanding.

I began to linger in the mornings in bed. Not the same thing, not a great idea either, although with my Kindle, I listened to my daily morning podcast, I took my medicine, I paid the bills, and read and replied to emails, I scheduled appointments. It became an office space, and that led to sleepless nights. My actual office became overrun with papers and pocketbooks and receipts, and was unusable. I commandeered a space in the dining room and now I work in there, although my time is spent organizing and decorating. Not helpful for a writer.

And I don’t linger there.

I work. I move to another chair to read. I move back to work some more; to write. And then I move again.
Rinse. Repeat.

I want to linger. I want a weekend to write and rejuvenate. To reenergize and reemerge a better person; a better writer perhaps. I don’t mind being home so much, but I mind not having the choice; not having anywhere to linger anymore. I dislike going out only with a purpose and losing that freedom of myself, alone with my thoughts or my own brand of quiet.

When will I be able to linger again without rushing off to the next thing?