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Oh No! I’ve Wasted The Pandemic!

After 10 months, what I mostly feel is guilt.

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woman watching tv on her computer while laying on her bed with a glass of red wine
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So here we are, 10 months in, and I should probably be grateful. The virus hasn’t killed any close friends or relatives, though it has sickened some. But I feel sad and afraid. I’m worried I’ll be the last person in the state of New York to die from COVID-19 — just before my vaccine appointment. I miss my adult sons who live in California. Life is greatly diminished. Additionally, at this point, I feel guilty that I’ve wasted the pandemic.

A disruption is an opportunity for growth. Just as green shoots emerge from the rubble of bomb sites, so constraints and lockdowns could foster new personal behaviors and activities. In mid-March, my job visiting and playing with disadvantaged children was put on hold. Like many of my empty-nester friends, I suddenly had more time than ever. No job. No social life. No live entertainment. No reason for new clothes, so no shopping.

Certainly, stocking the larder and the medicine cabinet was sometimes fraught, especially in early days. But after that, there was time aplenty for me and many of my peers. This was bizarre after a lifetime of feeling there weren’t enough hours in the day.

So, did I study a new language during the pandemic? I must own six books on learning Spanish, but did I open even one? Tristemente no.

Did I get to Lesson 2 in that online photography course I paid for in January 2020? The first lesson offered excellent advice, but then I stopped. Other students and a teacher in a room inspire and motivate me; without them I wilt.

My guitar offered other possibilities, so I took it out of its case and left it suggestively around the house … to tempt me. It was a temptation I found easy to resist. Finally, I took it to my knee and began strumming for the first time in months. After 10 minutes I had to stop, as my fingers were too tender. I had lost the necessary calluses. I had a brief fantasy about making and selling a product called “Guitar Gloves” (pads on the left fingertips, nails on the right). But did I actually investigate or pursue this idea? I did not. 

People I know began doing arts and crafts projects, but not I. My attempt early on to make a cloth mask was a raggedy failure. My meals were more elaborate in April and May; now, I don’t feel like following recipes so I just cook the same old way I always did. I seem to lack energy and passion.           

I’ve lost track of some friends; this period might have deepened our ties, as we all have more time to talk, but instead it has frayed mine. Most days, it seems too much effort to connect, and what could I tell them? I have no news to share, no gossip to offer, no advice to give. I did make one new virtual friend — a writer — and we exchanged novel critiques, but I can’t think of a way to continue the friendship until we each have a new novel. I’m lucky that my husband is at home with me, though I feel increasingly isolated. Yet instead of reaching out to the people I like, I’m closing down.           

I’ve been told this is a symptom of depression.

For years I’ve cut my husband’s hair, which I continued doing during the lockdown. One day in June I realized I needed a haircut myself. Could I cut my own hair? My bathroom provides the right double-mirror angle so I can see the very back of my head, and that’s where I made my first snip, at the nape. Then I moved forward, careful to make the hair longer in front. My neighbors were impressed. Cutting my own hair may be the only skill I learned during phase 1 of the pandemic.

As we move into 2021, I’m not going to beat myself up for not engaging in other new pursuits. If I’ve never been moved to plant an indoor garden or make a dress, I won’t be doing it now; I’m likelier to spend even more time reading, writing and editing. We are who we are. And the virus rages on. We may well have months more of staying home in semi-isolation. It’s not too late for any of us, even if we “squandered” phase 1. I could still take up needlepoint or carpentry or baking bread.           

But don’t count on it!