What I’m hearing about the re-entry process is that one’s response to it depends, to a large extent, on one’s age. Of course, there are many other variables and conditions that would make it an entirely individual response, but I’m referring to averages.
Many adolescents and young adults are diving back into life with intention, especially if they’re double vaccinated. They are making patio reservations and travel reservations without hesitation. For the most part, they are feeling confident, trusting, hopeful, and even excited as they journey into this new unknown. They seem to be quite ready and willing to take back control of their lives and perhaps even make up for lost time.
The older adults among us, however, seem to be taking it much slower. We are moving forward more cautiously and gradually, with greater skepticism and hesitation. Many of us are having reservations rather than making them and are feeling insecure and anxious around the entire re-entry process. I’ve heard it described in a podcast as a “wobbly” kind of feeling, and it resonated with me.
Falling Prey to “Amygdala Hijack”
At first, I was comparing myself to my children, who are all in their twenties, and to my husband, who has always been much more laid back than I, and I was beating myself up for once again being “different.” I secretly wanted to fit in with the popular opinion and “belong,” but I am still not feeling compelled to dive back into life.
My son shared an article this morning from Canada Public Health defining the protocol and guidelines for gatherings for the various levels of vaccination moving forward. As he was reading it aloud with great excitement, I felt myself tightening and shutting down—falling prey to a kind of “amygdala hijack.”
Although we’ve waited close to a year and a half to hear these words, “If you are fully vaccinated and indoors with a small group of fully vaccinated individuals, no mask or physical distancing is necessary,” I could not listen to them let alone derive any pleasure or excitement from them. Was there something wrong with me, I wondered?
Permission to Feel
As I sat with this and gave myself permission to feel, I realized that, like many others, I am still quite confused. What are we stepping back into, anyhow? Is life as we knew it about to resume, or will some things be forever changed? If we are not yet post-COVID as the virus and its variants are still present, how exactly do we respond to this stage of “lingering COVID?”
The government can tell us whether we need to wear a mask and physically distance, but as far as our day-to-day routines and gatherings, I have many questions that require more detailed answers. Are we embracing and kissing each other with every greeting? When we gather, are we going back to offering foods buffet style? Are we ready for large group gatherings, indoor and outdoor, for extended periods of time?
Honoring Our Differences
I don’t believe I’m alone with my questions and concerns. We are all trying to move through our personal challenges as we step back into society. Over time, we will each have to determine our own comfort zone, stretch zone, and panic zone and learn how to navigate our way through with dignity intact and all the necessary boundaries in place. But as we do that, we will have to respect each other’s comfort zones, timelines, and boundaries and honor those differences.
If we take it too fast or too slow, there will be consequences and a price to pay, emotionally and physically, as individuals and as a collective. If we take the leap and throw caution out the window, then the virus will linger for longer. If we stay small, boxed in by COVID anxiety, it wins by becoming chronic and all-consuming and we continue to suffer as we miss out on various outings and get togethers.
Define and Redefine Your Pace as Needed
We will each have to set goals and intentions and define as well as redefine our pace as we go along. We will have to experiment and test the waters for ourselves. Many of us have spent much time and energy building a vast emotional toolkit over the past year and we will now have to access those tools and practices as we cautiously step back into life and move across our “spectrum of reactivity.”
For me, this re-entry process will be more anxiety-provoking than pleasurable, especially at the outset. However, the more mini exposures and small successes that I accumulate over time, the greater the joy and freedom that will follow. I understand the work that lies ahead of me as well as the need to take it on, but I also understand how delicate and vulnerable a process it will be.
I can do this, and together, we will do this “re-entry thing,” but we must do it in a respectful and loving manner. Life is always more about the journey and less about the destination. The journey back has the potential to get ugly unless we remember to slow things down and take care of ourselves and be mindful of each other along the way.
Remember the Lessons Learned
And may we too remember the most important lessons learned from this global pandemic and live by them moving forward. May we be kinder and act slower. May we appreciate more and complain less. May we cherish the tiny pleasures and live full yet simpler lives.
And may we not jump too quickly on the bandwagon to make up for lost time. For time was not lost, it was redefined. And we can take our time and choose to use it more wisely.
As master Suzuki Roshi said, “The most important thing is remembering the most important thing.” So, let’s remember this as best we can as we each have and make our own re-entry reservations.