Pandemic Thoughts: Lack of Practice Makes Us Rusty.

The last six months have been about twenty-five years long, am I right? This pandemic has tossed so many unprecedented* things at us that I couldn’t name them all if I tried, but we have collectively cartwheeled and vaulted and back-flipped ourselves and our family members all over the place (oddly enough, while restricted mostly to our homes) in order to cope with it all.

*By the way, one of the things that has been rudely tossed at us in excess during this COVID-19 era is an extraordinary overuse of the word “unprecedented.” I would like to request more precedented stuff, please!

I have had unprecedented (ha!) time to think these last six months, which is really saying something because I have always been an over-thinker. These days I’m on overdrive, and you probably are, too. Staying safe during a global pandemic is easier when you’re thinking all the time. I realized recently that all of this thinking about and doing things differently has made me rusty in regards to a few things, both minor and major.

I started out this pandemic getting out of bed each day and doing every bit of my morning routine which includes working out, showering, getting dressed, and putting on makeup and jewelry. Do I need to wear makeup and jewelry at home? No. (Technically I don’t NEED to wear it at all but for argument’s sake just go with me here.) Back in March, doing everything that I normally do in the mornings made me feel, well, normal. I felt like it set me up really well for the day, and this pandemic wasn’t going to last that long anyway so why break long-time habits, ha ha ha ha sobbbbbbb.

These days I wear jewelry about half the time (just my “every day” stuff, nothing fancy, and mainly so my nervous fingers have something to play with at any given moment) and I apply makeup once every three weeks or so for the most random reasons. I am so out of the habit of wearing makeup that when I do, by the end of the day I have rubbed eyeliner all over my face (I know, I know, don’t touch my face! But sometimes I do!), because I’m usually tired and I have usually forgotten that makeup doesn’t stay in place if you mess with it.

And then there are my nails. I was a hard-core nail biter for the first thirty-five years of my life, and then I started working at a nail salon. I got my nails done regularly and learned not to pick or chew them off; having them painted helped a lot. This pandemic has caused me to destroy my nails. I know it’s a stress response. I also know that if I paint them here at home, even if the polish ends up looking like a crime scene I will leave them alone and give them time to grow. I haven’t taken the time to do that and to be honest, it’s currently one of my deepest annoyances…yet I still don’t take action.

A bigger example of my newly rusty skills is simply being with people. If you’re following extremely safe practices during this time like me, you probably know exactly what I mean. I am an extreme extrovert and—while I do enjoy my alone time—I thrive when I’m with people, either one-on-one or in a group. Apart from a safely-executed trip to Kenosha in July to see our kids (who we hadn’t seen in seven months), the only time we’ve been seeing people is when we stop by to see our parents or drop off goodies at friends’ homes. Mostly we chat in the front yard for twenty minutes at a distance of ten feet or so, and then we leave. We’ve enjoyed hour-long patio dinners at both sets of parents’ homes, twice each since March.

Last week we decided to branch out a little bit. Jim and I entertained, safely distanced, over dinner on our back patio two times: one of our friends came over and then, three nights later, my parents came over. Both instances were fantastic, in the moment. Socializing for two entire evenings and being able to fully catch up was fun. Then, each evening when our guests went home, Jim and I both crashed. We’re out of practice. When there’s no pandemic happening I’m rarely exhausted by sharing an evening with others; instead I’m energized by it. I discovered last week that our social muscles have apparently atrophied. It was very upsetting to me, the Extrovert. What is wrong with me? (Nothing.) The combination of being out of practice socially and having to keep my brain whirring at all times to make sure we’re being safe is tiring. Discouraging, even. I know that we will have the opportunity to retrain ourselves eventually, but when?

Finally, I was texting with my friend Vikki over the weekend and she was telling me that the pandemic has caused her writing desire to plummet. (Same girl, same!) Seizing the opportunity because we have teamed up several times before, I replied, “You know I’m a great accountability partner! Want to write a set of companion posts?” She said yes, and then proceeded to get her assignment done a full twelve hours before I did. (Good job, Vikki!) You can read her pandemic thoughts here.

I know this pandemic (along with everything else going on in the world) is so very difficult for those of us who are being careful. Someday though, we will be free once again to go where we want and spend time with others. As we have discovered we’re in a marathon and not a sprint, being there for each other in all of the ways that we can right now is important. We especially have to do a lot of self care, which includes giving ourselves grace. I found this thread on Twitter about the “six-month slump” that was very helpful; maybe you will, too.

(Shown at the top: the moon, one of the consistencies of this pandemic.)