We’re now 6 months into living with the COVID-19 pandemic. And for many of us, life looks and feels drastically different.
I used to be a bartender, spending the bulk of my time in close quarters with other New Yorkers. I also enjoyed a full social calendar. Now, I’m a full-time writer, stuck in a corner of my apartment most days.
I mask up in the sweaty summer heat and pine for social interaction, but I’m keenly aware of the risks of getting too close to anyone. I grapple with the thought that the actions I take when I step outside my door can affect someone else in ways they haven’t before.
Yes, it can be a little overwhelming and anxiety-inducing to think about, but for now, this is our new normal. As we’re working to manage our daily feelings, we’re also forced to manage our daily habits.
Working from home helps, but unless you’re confined to a bunker with years’ worth of supplies, you have to leave the house at some point.
Perhaps our biggest challenge will be going from thinking about what we can’t do anymore to thinking about how to do what we do differently and being OK with that.
Can we do this? Absolutely! How do we do it? One step at a time.
Everyday trips have now become a capital-P Process. Whether you’re running to the grocery store, visiting the post office, or refilling prescriptions, be sure to leave the house with a plan.
My must-haves when leaving the house:
- hand sanitizer (the CDC recommends at least 60 percent alcohol)
- antibacterial wipes
- an extra mask (After my partner dropped his in a puddle, I realized it was necessary.)
I rarely use the gloves and extra mask, but they give me peace of mind. Also, listening to my favorite music and podcasts helps curb my anxiety during weekly errands.
If you haven’t fully switched to the decidedly low risk options of ordering groceries online or receiving prescriptions via mail, focusing your shopping trips is key. Making a grocery list is a great way to streamline your process.
Some stores are limiting the number of people allowed inside at a time, so be sure to mentally prepare for longer wait times. And be kind to essential workers. They have the hardest job of all!
If you’ve gone from commuting to work every day to setting up your in-home office, you may be annoyed with having to rely on your less-than-reliable Wi-Fi. But let’s focus on the benefits: What you wear to bed is what you wear to work, fuzzy friends are now our favorite co-workers, there’s no traffic, you can take endless snack breaks, and you have more time to lie on the floor, pondering your own existence. (OK, maybe don’t do that.)
If you’re still required to leave home for work, adding a mask to your uniform and (politely) enforcing social distancing rules can be difficult. If you deal with the public, you’re in my thoughts. Be sure to keep your PPE and work clothing separate for safety. Maybe it’s time to buy a fancy house robe?
It’s crucial to carve out some non-work-related time during the day. Whether that means creating a sacred space in your home or enjoying some fresh air, pausing can help you prioritize mental rest.
Parents of young children know the pandemic has created a huge issue: the lack of child care. You love your kids, but it’s hard to like them when you have to submit a report by 5 p.m. and your youngest is having their fourth tantrum of the day.
For some, home schooling or virtual learning is a viable option. For many others, the only option is to take the risks involved with resuming in-person learning in the fall. Because much is still unknown, it’s tough to feel confident. For now, do your best to stay informed and decide what works for you.
Sure, you might still like to go for walks around the neighborhood or recline on a park bench. Thankfully, those options are still available. They’re now served with a side of caution and maybe some Lysol.
Lately, if I go out, I’m going from point A to point B and then back home. But if you want to take a few stops along the way, keep distancing in mind and you can still maintain most of the activities you know and love.
I get it — virtual hugs just feel empty. When seeking your mid-pandemic face-to-face quality time with others, tread carefully.
Food delivery apps and curbside pickup are great, but I miss sitting around a table with friends and sharing food! If you’re comfortable dining out right now, sitting outside is better than inside.
Remember to be extra kind to service staff. Stack your plates and consolidate your trash. This helps reduce the exposure waitstaff face when clearing tables. Also, consider leaving a really good tip.
As summer chugs along, you may be craving a trip to a beach or lake. That might not be totally out of the question — you just gotta go about it a little differently. While you should be wearing a cloth face covering while there, you should not wear one in the water. They’re difficult to breathe through when wet.
If you’re partaking in any other summer activities, be mindful of the time (it’s ideal to go at less popular hours) and stick to the outdoors when possible. The risk increases substantially when you’re indoors.
So what should you do if you’re going to someone’s house or vice versa? Communicate extensively. Have a good understanding of your friend’s lifestyle, where they’ve been, who they live with, and what they’re comfortable with. These things are important to know if you’re entering someone’s space and putting yourself (and those around you) at significant risk.
Many of the social restrictions due to the pandemic have affected normal dating activities as well. What does this mean? We all need to have larger conversations. I’m polyamorous, so this is twofold for me.
I’ve had a quarantine “pod” of sorts, where my partner and I interacted with only a specific set of people. Now, as my little circle slowly tries to expand and reclaim aspects of our former lifestyle, we’ve created guidelines within our group. They include going on socially distant dates in outdoor areas, fostering a level of trust, and getting tested frequently for COVID-19.
Apart from the “fakecation,” in which you create travel experiences from the safety of home, the safest way to travel is via car. When choosing where to go, it’s important to look up the number of COVID-19 cases in the area. Compare it to the number in your city and weigh your options. Hotels and Airbnbs have different rules concerning coronavirus safety, so make sure to be fully versed before you pack your bags.
A woodsy staycation isn’t anything new to city folk who want to escape the air pollution and the constant sight of trash. It’s also likely the safer option. If you’re going to another city via bus, train, or plane, it’s also important to get tested and quarantine when you return.
It may be hard to reconcile, but we have a new responsibility to our communities. In addition to protecting ourselves, we must do our best to protect those who don’t necessarily get to choose their level of risk. For folks like me, who are able-bodied and can work from home, it’s important to acknowledge that. This is an immensely privileged position.
If not 100 percent accepting of all the changes, we have to at least be open-minded to them. Take solidarity in the fact that we aren’t in this alone, even if it can occasionally feel that way. There will continue to be moments of uncertainty, even hopelessness, but we can adapt. We can make this weird time normal, because it could be, for a while.
In the meantime, wearing a mask and doing my part so someone else can safely find their new normal is the least I can do.
Gabrielle Smith is a Brooklyn-based poet and writer. She writes about love/sex, mental illness, and intersectionality. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.