Chronically Cheerful #5: A lot is happening all at once.

COVID guidelines and the fantasy of returning to "normal."

COVID restrictions are lifting in the US, and it feels like a lot is happening all at once.

I’m grateful. I’m uncomfortable. I’m excited. I’m anxious. I’m downright scared for my immunocompromised friends and community members. I feel guilt and a deep sense of injustice when countries like India suffer more every single day.

I also feel ashamed for stewing in murky emotional soup, when the media tells me I should be embracing the freedom of a “Shot Girl Summer”!!

The truth is that I couldn’t have a Shot Girl Summer (one filled with carefree travel and pursuits of pleasure), even if I wanted to. No matter what anyone else wants me to think, some of us simply can’t “return to normal” yet. Or at all. But more on that later.

So I asked my IG community:
1️⃣ How are you feeling about a summer of more “freedom”?
2️⃣ Is this freedom accessible to you?
3️⃣ Is living with chronic illness keeping freedom and/or feeling safe in your body at arms length?

The following are replies from a wonderful discussion in the comments:

“I’m feeling so many conflicting emotions - incredibly privileged to be vaccinated and get to see my family for the first time in 18 months; scared for all of those who can’t get vaccinated and have to trust those around them to do their part; hopeful that the world will be more accommodating going forward for those of us who have thrived at home due to chronic pain. It’s a lot to process for sure.”

“I’m pregnant, have Crohn’s disease, and cannot get the vaccine due to being a clotting risk at this point. I’m terrified and find myself feeling like I’m living in the twilight zone as people start to just revert to “normal” with very little easing into things.”

“Thank you for sharing and posing the question. I’m fully vaccinated and Texas has lifted all lockdown restrictions, i just don’t feel comfortable going out as freely and i haven’t stopped wearing a mask. “

“As a chronically ill microbiologist, I think it's all changing way too fast. I'm vaccinated, but even a 2% chance of getting COVID seems way too risky to be running around without a mask on. I am slowly finding activities that I'm comfortable with, and I'm excited to see friends again in private settings, but I'm so nervous about going in public.”

“Here in Ontario we are still in hard lockdown. We have been in stay at home order for almost two months with no end in sight. So I can’t relate to things reopening etc., but I do know that when it happens there will be a lot of anxiety & unknowns for sure.”

“This past week with restrictions being lifted and people deciding they “identify as vaccinated” has almost been harder than the entire pandemic as a whole. i’m compromised with my immune system due to having crohn’s disease and i’m terrified. want to crawl out of my skin.”

I’m terrified, to be honest. I don’t trust that people who refuse to vaccinate will wear masks. They haven’t done that to begin with. I’m still going to wear my masks because I live among immunocompromised people and I care about them. Yes, I will enjoy the beach and life, but still safely from a distance, and with others who are actually vaccinated!

Excited and scared; hopeful and terrified. A fear of being left behind and forgotten. Enjoyment and fear, one in each hand.

The overarching sentiment? Continuing to mask up.

I’m used to living a life that looks different from the majority because of my chronic illness. But during COVID, society lived a life that looked more like mine. For a year, we were all mostly homebound. We all relied on virtual technology for work and takeout/delivery when we wanted to eat out. Introversion became the new extroversion! For once, I was a trendsetter! (Believe me, I wish with greatest sincerity that this were not the case.)

The collective shifts to facilitate a mass stay-at-home/virtual lifestyle might have seemed clunky and burdensome (Zoom fails, anyone?), but ask anyone who had been trying to work remotely for a long time — these shifts seemed positively swift if you’ve been trying to get accommodations unsuccessfully for years.

Therein lies a fundamental issue with a “return to normal” for the 6 in 10 Americans living with disability and chronic illness. The world may be starting to re-open, but our way of living won’t be changing anytime soon. And that may be painful to watch.

Also on my worry list? That recent gains in accessibility will be de-prioritized once the majority of consumers and workers no longer need them. The more we speak up, the more we can ensure this won’t happen.

I’d love to know what’s on your hearts and minds about the new CDC guidance. Let me know in the comments or send me an email!

Remind Yourself of This

Anyone else renegotiating their relationship to social media these days? Based on inspiration from Casper de Tuile (highly recommend The Power of Ritual), I’ve started to take a weekly social media Sabbath. It’s a lovely way to find more presence, connect inwards and reflect on how I can better adjust my content consumption habits.

Consider This