I haven’t written something personal in a long, long time.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about writing.  So, here we go.

No matter what your political affiliation may be, can we all agree that the biggest collective milestone we’ve hit this year is the reopening of the world from the COVID lockdown?  If your answer is “yes”, can I get an AMEN?  I know, I know.  The Delta variant is scary stuff.  And people are still sick and hurting.  And LA County reinstituted the need for masks indoors.  And our kids may have to wear masks to school this fall.  And, and, and.

BUT.  But, but, but!  But, people, listen to this!  Most of us are actively participating in life again.  Take a deep breath and say that out loud with me…”I am actively participating in life again!”  Depending on where you are in the country, you can probably go out to eat, head into the office if you’d like, gather for sporting events, drink beers with your friends, go to church or synagogue, and shop for things other than staples.   Although it doesn’t feel like a mile marked in stone…a BOOM, we’re BACK!…but rather more like a fluid, rambling, fits-and-starts-filled hundred mile journey…it is at once amazing and disorienting.

I don’t know what I expected re-entry to look like…but the way it actually looks to me is a little weird.  For one, I think a lot of us forgot our manners while couped up for so long.  I was on a packed evening flight a few weeks ago.  We landed in Charlotte, NC, early (thank you, United Airlines) and this one woman hopped up and ran down the aisle so that she could get in front of all of us whose seats were in front of hers.  I wanted to say “hey, where are you going?”…as there was nowhere TO GO (and again, we were early, so no chance of missed connections), other than in front of other passengers who were now shooting dagger-filled looks into her back.  Come on people.   Remember what you learned in kindergarten.  Slow it down, take turns, share, be kind.  Don’t judge…and I know, I know, I just judged this woman, so I need to take a piece of my own advice.

Re-entry also feels a little scarce.  What I mean by that is that although I was never a toilet paper hoarder, I have felt some of those tendencies arise recently.  On the same trip a few weeks back, the lines for food in the four airports I visited in one day were CRAZY time.  All of the restaurants in the city I was leaving after my mid-day meeting were closed by 7 pm, so I got a bag of pop-chips and frozen yogurt out of a vending machine (yep, that’s a thing).  I had an hour layover in the next airport, a much larger one, and everything was beginning to close or had already closed.  The line for fast food was probably 50 people deep as the workers were beginning to pull down the metal door to close for the evening.  I wasn’t even hungry and found myself somehow panicky-in-need of food for fear of it running out.  It was an out of body…”there is not enough to go around!” type of feeling.  I sat at a dingy bar and ordered chips and overcooked queso and felt gross.  Gross.

But, re-entry is not all bad manners and scarcity.  It also feels warm and connecting.  Hugging other people who are not members of my immediate family has been so cathartic.  Have you experienced that too?  I pitched a deal with two of my favorite colleagues a few weeks back, and hugged them so tightly when we met before our meeting.  You know when you go in for a hug and it is awkward?  This was NOT THAT.  This was pure joy.  Connection with other human beings.  Who would have thought we could miss this so much?

Finally, I have to remind myself that my personal re-entry needs to be intentional.  I have a way of moving too fast, doing too much, over-caretaking, spinning like a whirling dervish.  COVID allowed me to witness life without that constant push to do more, be more, experience more.  And it was good.   Good for me.  And good for my kids.  My panic about food/dingy bar experience was an example of a quick reversion back to pre-COVID decision making.  I tried not to berate myself (my mind does not have a good track record of being kind to me!), but rather to say “wow, next time your mind is spinning like that, take a breath and act more intentionally.”

And guess what?  Despite the epic airport failure, I “intentioned” the bejesus out of this past weekend.  The short part of the long story is that I have a big birthday this month.  A big, scary, daunting, yet “beats the alternative” birthday.  Coinciding with that big day, a band I loved in my 20s and 30s came into town.  I decided I was going to go and wear a fancy (not ratty) tie-die dress and twirl into the midnight hour.  It is not the type of show I could take my kids to, and my friends bowed out gracefully…intentionally letting me know this scene was no longer their jam.  I forced myself to really look at why I wanted to go to the show…and I realized it was the fear of this big birthday.  Like going to this show would somehow make time stop and let me feel not fifty years old (said with a whisper…and an OMG!).  Truth be told, I hadn’t listened to the band’s music in years.  So I ordered some really nice face cream in lieu of the ticket price and tucked myself into bed at a reasonable hour.  Intentionally.