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Balancing Act: Readjustment to buzzing schedule might take time

Pat Snyder
Guest columnist

I feel like a cicada. Suddenly freed after years – I’m sure it was 17 – of pandemic isolation, I don’t know what to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about the CDC’s sudden hip hip hooray that allows the fully vaccinated to run maskless inside and out. I have been playing "Mother May I?" with the agency for months, telling all who care to listen that I’ll just follow its expert guidance.

Pat Snyder

But now that freedom is upon me, I wish I could be as certain as my insect buddies about how I’m going to manage it.

For them, it’s easy. Once they emerge from their 17 years underground, unless they quickly become another creature’s dinner, they get weeks of rampant mating and then death. Might as well go for it, full tilt.

It's not so easy for a human to return to something approaching normal life.

With virologists debating the wisdom of the CDC’s new guidance, I’m feeling the cicada-like urge to go party before Mother changes her mind. Within weeks, I’ve suddenly gone from planning meals wisely around curbside pickups to running randomly into stores to squeeze peaches and cherry-pick bottles of wine.

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I’ve actually entered a clothing store and tried on tee tops with only random worries that the cloth I was pulling over my head had earlier been worn by a COVID-coughing customer.

I’ve driven across town for in-person meetings with fully vaccinated friends instead of Zooming with them. We’ve had book group with shameless appetizers and desserts, which were not individually wrapped in baggies. When it turned cold on the screen porch, we actually went inside.

As I do all this, I’m reciting the wisdom I had heard somewhere: “You’re fully vaccinated. Now go act like it.”

I’m well aware that this is all wonderful and freeing, and I ’ve even read that real face-to face contact releases neurotransmitters that protect us like a vaccine. 

I’m just trying to figure out how I did all this running around before and how I can do it again, or how much I want to. It’s daunting. And there’s a reason for that.

Besides grand enthusiasm about getting out and seeing people again, I’ve never been great at planning my calendar like my closet.

For me, at least, it’s a challenge to see time as space. If I could, I’d know that I cannot possibly jam a dozen activities and errands into the space of one day. It would be like trying to jam every single piece of clothing – winter and summer – into a small bedroom closet instead of parking the offseason load in a wardrobe somewhere.

Along those lines, I somehow never got the hang of the fact that a one-hour meeting is not really a one-hour meeting. It’s also 20 minutes to dress, 20 minutes to get there and 20 minutes to get back. That's not counting lost shoes and bad traffic.

The upside of the pandemic was that it played into ignoring all this. A one-hour Zoom meeting is – well – a one-hour meeting. As long as there’s a good supply of black tops and necklaces, dressing takes no more than five minutes, and the car stays in the garage.

Somewhere there must be a balance between the peaceful boredom and efficiency of pandemic life and the crazed attempt to show up for the same events in person as via computer.

I’m not yet sure where the balance lies, but I have decided to use the deafening noise of cicadas as a prompt and remind myself that each time I hear those amorous males rapidly vibrate their drum-like tymbals on the sides of their abdomens, I will stop whatever I’m doing and think.

They’ll only have a few weeks. With any luck, I’ll have a lot more time. And I probably should revisit my calendar and take some time to breathe.

Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a Beechwold resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Read her work at patsnyderonline.com.