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Contemporary

To be or not to be?

On a beautiful sunny day in the middle of March I look out on to my front garden. The bank, for my front garden slopes down to the road, is covered with daffodils, celandines and violets. I am able to stand outside without a coat as the cold March wind has stopped. Spring has started and signs of new life are everywhere. Birds are singing, squirrels are leaping about in the trees where leaf buds are swelling.

This year this is more significant than usual as I too am promised a new life. For a whole year I have been shielding. Initially I was only allowed to be in my house and garden. After three months I was allowed to leave my garden and walk around the neighbourhood – providing I kept two metres away from anyone who was out. The  exercise was good for my physical health and this small freedom was good for me psychologically, according to the government.  After nine months I have got used to this life.

From the end of the month I am to be allowed to be the same as everyone else. I can visit an essential shop and buy anything I need. So I will not need to spend hours researching on line. I will not need to leave anything delivered for three days to make sure there is the virus is no longer present. By mid April I will be able to visit any shop and drive my car to town or to the coast. I will even be able to go into a pub garden and order a meal.

Why am I not elated? I have conditioned myself to keep clear of other people. I see going into a shop or to a pub garden more as a threat than a joy. Other people will be there. They may come close to me and I might have to talk to them. I am not sure if I am able to hold a conversation anymore. For twelve months I have only had myself to talk to and I have found that I have enjoyed my own company. Do I want to have to listen to someone else?

Can I still drive a car? I am now 80 and having a year in which I have not even travelled in a car, can I trust myself to drive safely? Do I want to go to the coast? I have got very used to the paths around my home. They are pleasant paths not just through houses but down beside the golf course and up past the playground. There are birds, trees and flowers to enjoy on theses walks can I face looking out at all that sky, sea and sand? Will I find all that emptiness threatening?

Once I start to change my behaviour I am worried that I will not be able to control the speed of change. I will not have an excuse not to visit people or not to attend a meeting. Do I want to go back to life as it was where in reality I was only partly in charge. Like everyone else I was engaged in the subtle negotiations that are always there in taking part in a social life? Do I want to leave the control I now have where any decision I make only affects me?

Small steps could work. If I choose a quiet morning in the week when the weather is fair I could drive round the estate and, maybe, meet only one or two cars. I could then take my golf clubs and drive to the park where there is a pitch and put course. This is short trip but means I will have to negotiate lights and turn right on a busy road. Again if I choose a Wednesday morning early I am unlikely to see anyone other than the official who takes my money. He is happy for me to use the course as I want so I can take the holes in any order and avoid any one else out playing on the course. I could pop into Waitrose on the way back and buy something near the tills. The problem with that is the delivery driver told me the shop had been altered so I will not know where anything is and I cannot see how many people are inside till I go through the second door and by then it might be too late. Also I am likely to be seen by someone who knows me and wants to talk – how can I avoid them without appearing rude?

I cannot think of shop that has clear windows so I can see inside before entering so this is like playing Russian Roulette – if I am lucky the shop is empty if not...Buses are another problem I can look inside before I board but anyone can get on during the journey. It is likely that someone will get on, either when I am going in to or coming out of the city, who will know me and come and sit beside me. I DO NOT WANT THAT.

I have managed to disentangle myself from most groups and committees that I belonged to before the epidemic. Unfortunately I am still committed to two organisations. Luckily neither will meet face to face before the end of May. However once we meet it will be impossible for me to avoid committing myself to a number of social functions.

Can I control my re-entry to social life? If it starts to happen faster than I want it to is there a way to slow it down? Can I go back? In any case do I really want to try?

What should I do? Should I try and re-enter normal life in a controlled way? Should I take the bull by the horns and just start living as I used to straight away? Or should I accept I am now a different person? Should I become a recluse? 

March 26, 2021 16:40

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