Each day of my life I savour the wonderful memories of doing all the things that I enjoyed without any regrets. There are days when I think of my true friends, and I can’t stop smiling. There are days that I can’t stop crying too when I think of our great love for each other. It’s one of the few things that inspire me to keep going. The pandemic has changed all our lives in unimaginable ways that were never expected. In December 2019, I went on an adventure of a lifetime and relocated from San Francisco to Melbourne, Australia. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to explore a country that was visited over 25 years ago. I would fall asleep and wake up with the same goofy smile on my face. Like a slap in the face, COVID hit hard and knocked the smile off my face.
After 2+ years of being in lockdown and isolation, my mind, body, and soul have gone through a major setback. There are days when I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person looking back at me. The pandemic has affected my outgoing, fun personality, pushing me into a constant state of anxiety. Initially, I thought that I was just being over-sensitive and the only person feeling this way. It was easy to believe the wrong message voices were whispering in my ear when you don’t have access to socializing with others for an extended period. Have you ever felt like hiding in a closet or burying your head in the ground like an ostrich until you receive an ‘all clear’ message? That was me. My introverted friends loved being in lockdown and not having to deal with other people, especially at worksites.
During COVID lockdown I would talk to all the plants and trees in the yard and give them names while watching them grow. I chatted with magpie birds that are big, and shared seats on the park bench with them as they would look at me and sing those beautiful notes. Initially, I was afraid of them but began looking forward to seeing them. One day I thought, am I losing my mind sitting here chatting with Dr. Magpie? We both laughed and I continued chatting.
As a boy, I can remember reading the church program every Sunday and asking my mother what a sick and shut-in was? As always, she would roll her eyes which meant to stop asking so many questions. Today, I totally understand the term and I feel like a sick and shut-in individual, unable to get out and resume life. Anxiety has a way of creating a prison inside our minds and it’s challenging to find the key that unlocks the door.
This week it started to all make sense while watching the latest season of Australia Unmasked with Miriam Marcoyles as she travels around the country. When she talked about her emotional anxiety living through the pandemic, the lightbulb went on for me as I clung to every word. She used the term “Social Intercourse” to describe what’s missing. The moment I heard the phrase I could see the key to my prison cell. I love Miriam for her honesty, she never bites her tongue. I highly recommend her series.
I am suffering from the loss of social intercourse. Let’s be clear, this has nothing to do with sex. Social intercourse is communication between people as they spend time together. While living in San Francisco my life was filled with social intercourse. Living in a beautiful loft in the Mission Bay / Dog Patch neighborhood, our home was a magnet for social interactions, dinner parties, cocktail soirees, and just a place where many friends would meet to enjoy great conversations, debate with each other, celebrate birthdays, bring their young children to play or to watch movies on the television. Regardless of the occasion, laughter and good times were the main ingredients to having fun. Strangely enough, I assumed this was the norm. Lessons in life continue to teach me that the only thing constant in life is change.
Many of my friends and colleagues often tell me to just let go and stop being so uptight. They recommend just living life to the fullest and not letting fear of COVID or the other variants dictate how I live each day. I would always look at them with one eyebrow slightly raised to indicate that I would consider their suggestion. After lots of thinking, I decided to give the idea a chance and start living my life to the fullest. Immediately I reached out to friends all over the world to discuss traveling to visit them. Contacting friends in France filled me with so much excitement. As expected, they all jumped up and down with enthusiasm, but as true friends will do, they told me about the escalation of the virus and other variants but assured me they would welcome me with open arms. Next on the list is visiting Italy with one of my oldest friends who wanted to surprise me in 2021 with a trip to Rome for my birthday. Unfortunately, the Italian government recommended canceling all travel. Another trip to America is also on my list to see friends on the east and west coasts. Amazing how happy thoughts can open the locked gates in our minds.
So instead of giving up and accepting the label of being a sick and shut-in person, I have decided to start living life again. Even taking the train and getting lost roaming around Melbourne brings me joy and happiness, if Google maps are working on my mobile device. So instead of waiting for all to return to normal, I am reminded that the old normal wasn’t that great. Today I am open to change and although it’s not easy at times, I am coping and enjoying life and creating a new path that leads me on a new journey of joy and happiness.