What Works? Maintaining Our Mental Health-Part 1

Since my first blog posts this pandemic year, the virus has spread to every corner of the world. Here in the US, including our little city, cases are spiking in the midst of the still surging first wave. There is little progress in slowing the explosive growth of new cases. The vaccine is still an idea, not reality. The lack of political will hinders smart policy making. That, plus the unwillingness of so many to take simple actions to protect themselves and others convinces me that we will be in this pandemic for a very long time.

My own mental state flails between mild contentment and mild depression. Anxiety is less than a few months ago, probably because we remain so isolated. Our scariest sojourn so far was to my husband’s eye doctor for what is called an A Scan, necessary before cataract surgery this year. We were nervous and stressed, disappointed that the office did not seem to be on top of all of the latest protocols for patient safety.

As the news becomes more dire, we are canceling every planned outing…dentist appointments, dinner out with friends, a road trip to southern California, house-sitting for family. We are coming up with creative ideas for at least being in the same space in real-time with a few family and friends who have remained as isolated as us.

We await the delivery of baseball caps with attached face shields. Our expectation is that wearing these along with our three-layer masks with filters may enable us to venture out a bit more. I can’t believe that those words are appearing on my screen. Venture out…so timid, so tentative.

My husband and I were world travelers for the last 25 years! Europe, Africa, South America, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, most all of the 50 states, plus Canada and Mexico—-we’ve traveled widely and fearlessly. And now, somehow a visit to a friend feels as complex as planning a vacation in Morocco. Are we over-reacting? Or being prudent?

I can’t see us remaining as isolated as we have been without damaging our mental health. As helpful as video chats are, they don’t replace being together in person. So, we’ll take baby steps…walks with friends, a front-yard chat, maybe outside dining in a few weeks. We’ll plan one activity every week away from our retreat, wearing our protective gear, watching our distance, washing our hands. Being with family and friends creates joy and now is the time for it!

My husband said that this is a very dark poem. Version one in 2016 was a reaction to the looming darkness, but now I glimpse light on the horizon.