My Journey by Michele Herenstein

We are three months into severe quarantining. Personally, this has had no effect on my life. I am still wearing my mask constantly and my gloves occasionally, still social distancing, and I tested negative on both coronavirus tests. Most days I’m bored silly, but it’s a safe bored — a safe feeling — living in my parents’ house so I can help out and not be cut off from seeing them.

But I have to admit a dirty little secret: I’m not ready for reopening. Right now, I barely have any responsibility and I like it that way. There is generally less pressure in my life. I am worried less consistently and in my past daily life I was definitely a worrier.

I was worried that I was the only one afraid of the reopening, but it turns out not to be so. “Ten weeks ago (or was it ten years?), if you’d asked how we’d be feeling once lockdown lifts, the answer would have been simple: joy! And yet, now that the prospect of self-isolation is easing, and ‘Stay home!’ is more a suggestion than an order, you might find yourself experiencing some unexpected emotions: anxiety, fear, guilt … that nostalgia you can have in real time, when you think about how much you’re going to miss this very moment when it’s over? Yeah, I feel it, too.” (“Is It OK to Dread The End Of Quarantine,” by Sarah Laing, Flare.com)

“I live on top of a hill in rural Umbria, Italy, and at no point in my 11 years here have I been more grateful to be smack in the middle of nowhere. In the nearly two months I’ve been in lockdown with my family, I’ve gone from feeling anxious and frustrated to feeling safe. Not just safe from contracting coronavirus, but really safe — like this-is-where-I’m-supposed-to-stay-forever safe.” (“Why You Might Be Dreading the End of Lockdown,” by Elizabeth Heath, The Washington Post).

I understand exactly what Elizabeth Heath is saying. I feel quite safe in lockdown. There’s a sense of peace.

I also am having the lucky chance to spend quality time with my parents. We take walks, discuss our meals, play Rummikub and 3-way spades, discuss the news, watch Governor Cuomo’s press briefings daily, and so much more. I try to make phone calls every day and catch up with people I haven’t spoken to in a while. I play many games on my iPhone, including Mah Jong, against the computer.

“As I started quietly admitting that I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to life and routines going back to the way they were before early March, I found I wasn’t the only one reluctant to let go of the warm fuzzies. ‘It’s not just the fear of breaking out of the cocoon and facing what’s out there,’ says Barbara Fredrickson, director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ‘The slowing down of being at home allows us to feel different kinds of positive emotions that we typically race past, like the coziness of connections, the deep-in-your-bones gratitude at being healthy, of being able to access decent food.’” (Heath)

Having to run errands and get back to responsibilities is something I don’t look forward to. I often get bored during the hours of 2–4 p.m. but I sleep better at night because I feel safer. My apartment feels like a place that isn’t safe and I wonder how I’ll experience it again after the virus.

“It’s one thing to take some guilty or not-so-guilty pleasure in the newfound ‘freedoms’ of lockdown, but what about actually dreading a return to old routines? Healey says several of her colleagues were not too keen to go back to civilization, even after their long, dark months in Antarctica. Some enjoyed the daily structure, their role in the crew and the organized nature of life in a research station.” (Heath)

All in all, Long Island is opened up, albeit in a very small way. My brain is concerned about how life is going to change for me as we move forward. I have to try to be hopeful that this “new normal” will bring only good. We should always remember the 100,000 Americans who passed away. But we must move on and realize that as safe as we felt, we can still feel safe in times to come.

We must all be there for each other and help one another to get back into society relatively unscathed. This is something we will always remember, but it is also something we can move past.

As much as I crave the safety of lockdown, I do crave the company of other people. It’s not clear-cut how it will play out, but we do need to move forward.

I hope you’re all staying healthy and safe. I miss my readers greatly.

Michele Herenstein can be reached at msh61670@gmail.com.

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