What do we do now?


Hmmm.  It’s the million-dollar question, and the answer isn’t one-size-fits-all.  Part of it may depend on where we were before COVID.  We are all in a different place now, that’s for sure.

While it’s a fact that we got some mixed messages through the crisis, we generally knew that “less was more” when it came to socialization and public exposure.  We developed a feeling of safety behind our masks, and hand sanitizer has become our new BFF.  We touched as little as we could, refrained from our usual embraces, and learned to say a polite “no thanks” to any social invitation that was not well ventilated, masked, or outdoors.  And now, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issuing new mask guidance just last week, we have an enhanced level of freedom.

In the beginning, it was bizarre not to see faces.

We learned to “read” eye language.  We could see a smile from the cheekbones up.  We learned to speak a bit more loudly and clearly behind the mask.  We became reconditioned.  In all honesty, I feel a little vulnerable taking my mask off.

From time to time, I quickly turned on my heels as I was about to enter a store when I realized I was maskless.  As a nurse, I always felt foolish.  I should have known better.  Of course, I always did an about-face and got the mask.

How do we make the enormous internal shift and be “ok” without the mask?

Well, the good news is that you don’t have to if you are uncomfortable.  I have started in my office.  We’ve all been double vaccinated for months now and observe open windows, HEPA filters, and a wide berth.  Thinking back to our Office Holiday Party in December of 2020, we had a great event with 12 tables of one… all 6 feet apart. It’s hard to believe that was only five months ago.

Perhaps, we start small and safe.  We know who is fully vaccinated – we can ease into re-entry by meeting outside with them at first.  Then, maybe we visit with them inside.  We can still crack the windows and leave the air filter on.  We can mask up for a hug goodbye.  We can take this as slowly as we need to.

Right vs. Left

There are two parts of us needing to make this a comfortable transition.  If it’s easier to conceptualize, think of right and left brain.  One side says, follow the science: the CDC says we can “de-mask.”  It’s okay since we are vaccinated.  It’s safe.  The other voice at the table says:  I’m still afraid.  What if they are wrong?  What if I get sick?  I feel too vulnerable.

The good news is that we, our own chairperson of the board, can take all this data and make a decision that “works.”  We can accept or decline an invitation, keep the sanitizer handy, and use our mask whenever we want to.  We don’t need to be angry when we see someone unmasked or roll our eyes when we see a mask.  We can let everyone be themselves, and we can be ourselves.  It’s the proverbial “both/and,” as it usually is.

We are taking care of spirit, mind, and body all at once.

Everyone deserves a seat at the table, and everyone should be heard. I f I’m ready to ditch the mask and you are not, we both have the right to do what is most comfortable for us.  Let’s not judge.  Let’s support instead.

As more information becomes available about the booster vaccination, as kids starting at age 12 are approved for immunization, as schools re-engage and health care facilities ease restrictions, life opens up.  Each of us will decide where our vulnerability is and behave accordingly.

We will all emerge from the state of real and perceived lockdown in our own time and in our own way.  There is no right or wrong.  There may, however, be differences.

Educate, discuss, ponder, and chew.

There are resources to go to for more information: our own PCP office, Mass.gov, CDC, and hosts of other online options.  If you are overcome with anxiety, tell someone and talk about it.  If you are struggling, don’t do so in solitude.  Share and open up; you are not alone.

We are like the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. It’s beautiful and uncertain.  It’s about time, and it seems fast.  It’s freeing and frightening. It’s both/and.  You get to make your own choice.  Yahoo!