As we ease into summer 2023, we’re three years beyond the daily news briefings that urged us to isolate, quarantine and stay home during the covid-19 pandemic. Life for most of us is back to normal. For others, grief deepens, long covid symptoms linger and precautions are still part of daily life.
Just a few weeks ago I met a woman who left her home for the first time since the spring of 2020. She’s been isolated for three years. She was slowly working on integrating back into society by attending a small weekend social event in a rural area. We welcomed her with open arms. You might initially wonder why in the world she would wait so long to start venturing out again, after all, federal quarantine restrictions have been lifted in the US, most mask mandates have expired and daily business routines look much like they did pre-pandemic.
Well, she has two medically fragile family members at home. One has a terminal illness and the other is managing long covid symptoms. She doesn’t want to get sick or bring anything home to them and risk exacerbating their conditions.
It makes complete sense to me — the me who manages multiple autoimmune conditions and works hard to stay healthy.
During a visit with one of my doctors maybe a year into the pandemic, I was chatting about covid and we discussed what it would be like if I were to become covid positive and it weakened my immune system. What if the illness would trigger another Steven Johnson Syndrome episode? Or a severe rheumatoid arthritis flare? A combination of covid and an additional illness would be extremely difficult to battle and likely not end well. I’ve kept that information in the back of my mind, and have continued to keep many covid precautions in place.
- I still wear a face mask in crowded places, like concerts or funerals.
- I haven’t been on an airplane since the fall of 2019.
- I carry hand sanitizer gel in my purse and car.
- I wash my hands more often than I did pre-pandemic.
- I decline to go to some events based on crowds and indoor locations.
Some of these habits are simply good hygiene, but others are diligence driven by my awareness of what could happen. I see the hell that my best friend is going through with her health, new intolerances, multiple surgeries and other issues due to long covid after a fall 2020 infection from covid. I also see friends grieving the losses of loved ones who passed from the virus.
A friend recently asked on Instagram for tips on how to ease back into socializing after isolating for so long. Good question. I guess my gut reaction is to say, one day at a time. I’m back out there doing things, but not like I used to do. And initially, it is driven by my desire to stay healthy, but more so, it’s because the time spent in isolation also showed me how much time I spent out and about doing things that didn’t really bring me joy.
I’m being more intentional with my time these days. I’m making sure that when I mix and mingle with others, it’s quality time, I’m not overextending myself and I’m always aware of my health and needs. If I feel I need a mask, I wear one. If I’m feeling worn down, I leave early to keep autoimmune flares to a minimum. I don’t overspend to keep up with the social calendar of “the group”.
So, maybe I’m not the one to ask when it comes to easing back into socializing, because now my favorite social activities are chatting with random people on dog walks, talking to the trees on trail hikes, exploring new campgrounds and making friends with strangers around bonfires and going with the flow of life.
Simplicity is rewarding.
I haven’t tried to return to my previous level of busyness or social patterns. Sometimes I miss that level of in-person community, friendship and support. But, I still have it without the craziness of planning meet-ups every weekend, staying out late or overextending myself. I’m having quality phone conversations, text threads and DM conversations. I share memes and use social media more. When I do meet up in person, I feel like I’m honoring my needs better and not running on autopilot.
I like my level of intention better now – and I’m staying healthier thanks to this approach.
Until next time,
PS: Visit me on Facebook at Cupcakes and Yoga Pants!
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