On Saturday Johnny played the bagpipes at the memorial service for his cousin Beatrice, who died of Covid last year. As he was playing the Amazing Grace postlude, the aunts and uncles and cousins started asking me if we were going to join them at the restaurant for the repast.

The thought of sitting in a restaurant with so many unmasked folks who are outside of my bubble still makes me anxious. Even though I already had covid. Even though I’m fully vaccinated. It has been a traumatic year, and I know it will take some time before I’m comfortable with a lot of things. But I told them all that it was up to Johnny.

When he finished playing they each went to ask him. He, of course, said it was up to me. Neither one of us completely comfortable with the idea, and neither of us wanting to be the one to say no.

When Johnny replied that he didn’t know if we were comfortable with it, they tried to convince us that it was safe. After much, too much, back and forth, we said we’d talk about it, and maybe we’d see them there.

All of the cars began to pull away from the church, and we could feel the peer pressure, the self-doubt, and ultimately the twinge of guilt, as we decided not to join them. It was the best choice for us in the moment. It was the choice we were most comfortable with. Keeping our bubble small.

We have all been hibernating in our own personal Covid Caves for over a year. Now, we are emerging into a world that is very different than it was a year ago, as people who are very different than we were a year ago.

We have all built new walls around ourselves this past year. And while we might be ready to step out of our houses, and into the world, each of us has to re-enter in our own time, and in our own way.

There has been so much collective and individual loss, heartbreak, trauma, anxiety, fear, and depression. There has been so much collective and individual change, growth, gratitude, regrouping, rediscovering, and reprioritizing.

Not everyone will emerge at the same pace. Some of us will come out, minds blazing, hearts racing, ready to take on the world. Some of us will move slowly, and cautiously. Some of us will choose to stay secluded longer. Perhaps indefinitely.

As we begin to share spaces again, it is incumbent upon us to honor each other’s personal experiences of the past year.
We must honor each other’s boundaries. Honor each other’s processes. Honor each other’s choices. Honor each other’s hesitation, fears, anxieties. Honor each other’s growth. Honor each other’s impatience, enthusiasm, joy. We must care for and respect each other. We must protect each other, and honor each other’s timelines.

If you’re a fully vaccinated survivor you might be ready to participate in all of life.

Even if you’re a fully vaccinated survivor, you might want to avoid social gatherings, or stay in your house a while longer. Perhaps indefinitely.

And even if you’re a fully vaccinated survivor you might want to continue to wear your mask in public spaces, to honor those of us who remain fragile and at risk. Wear that piece of fabric as a sign of honor, respect and concern. A tiny inconvenience, and a grand gesture. A small price to pay for an act of amazing grace.

However you choose to re-enter, I hope it’s smooth and I hope it’s safe.

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