After a year of forced hibernation, people are ready to emerge from their pandemic caves.
While some may harbor grand post-COVID-19 dreams, others just look forward to the little things that will brighten our days like hugging friends and family and seeing their smiles.
For Sal Alfano, 71, that means taking a walk without having to think about who to avoid or who is avoiding him. When the former remodeler and now part-time editor rambles around his Montpelier, Vermont, neighborhood he watches fellow walkers give each other a wide berth, much more than the requisite six feet. “They do this even when the wind is blowing, and everyone is masked,” he says.
His wife Elaine Alfano, 69, adds: “There's a lot of anxiety because we've spent so much time thinking about things we normally wouldn't think about.”
A craving for normal
It's not just social distancing; the list of things we need to think about has tossed spontaneity on its ear. “I don't want to have to be so deliberate; I want a little more flexibility,” says Miriam Mandell, 66, a project manager at a software company, living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who just wants to stop off for a cup of coffee if she feels like it or to “not have to worry about where to use a restroom.”
Some people are ready to venture into more public spaces. “I'm so sick of home cooking,” says Barbara Braverman, 81, in Newport, California, who has run through lots of new recipes from the New York Times and wants someone else to cook, preferably inside a restaurant.
Lisa Rosenmertz, 56, in Metuchen, New Jersey, is hoping to attend a hot yoga class in a studio. “I can't wait to be around people and not practice by myself in my room,” says Rosenmertz, who had a job lined up to teach yoga to caseworkers at New Jersey's Department of Youth and Family Services that got nixed once COVID hit.
Flexing social muscles
The nature of connection has altered in the past year, says Helen Bartos, 68, a retired clinical psychologist in Pittsford, New York, “and people are going to have to redevelop some social skills,” that might take new energy. “It will take a long time to feel normal,” she says.
Some are eager to flex their atrophied social muscles.
Jim Haynes, 69, of Spencerport, New York, spent the past year recovering from kidney cancer and severe injuries suffered after a fall from a ladder. He says he's now “pretty well fully recovered” and is planning retirement travel that he and his wife Carol had to postpone.
"We want to visit children and grandchildren and do something as simple as be with relatives at holidays and hug loved ones,” he says.
And Rabbi David Abrahams of Congregation Etz Chaim in Fairport, New York, says he's looking forward to his pre-pandemic routine of making in-person pastoral calls. “Because of COVID, I couldn't visit friends or congregational members in the hospital,” he says. “To not be able to provide some challah and say Shabbat prayers with someone who's ill is frustrating to me as a rabbi.”
Unlike animals who hibernate, we haven't had a peaceful sleep. One year later, we may be ready to roar, but we'll start quietly at first and enjoy every second.