Get our newsletters

Chatterbox: All reentry is dizzying


We’re beginning to see daylight these days, as our COVID numbers decline and we begin to peek out from, and venture beyond, our hollows. It’s certainly about time, if not past, but reentry is dizzying and, in chatting with others, we’ll realize that none of us is alone in that.
Many of us remained socially removed for so long that, these days, it hard to match our earrings to … each other. Recently, I heard my dress shoes talking to each other in my closet; they said they think I’ll take them for a walk soon. Poor things – the light of day will probably fade them on the spot.
We’re experiencing the residual effects of our long confinement. We breathe in life again, but it seems overwhelming. We find ourselves dealing with unusual brain fog, faded skills, difficulty reestablishing our purpose and goals or focusing on tasks, or even knowing what tasks we should be focusing on. After such confinement, re-socializing and returning to all our daily chores, even celebrating joys, can disorient us.
It’s easy to lose track of what we want to do as we reenter the land of the living. I’ve outlined the effective stress buster chart here before but, recently, I’ve discovered a few other fail-safe plans to skirt the procrastination, the post-COVID doldrums, and their accompanying symptoms so we can enhance our focus and achieve our goals when this fallout derails us. They’re not tonics that will work without effort from us but, with it, they offer a guardrail to keep us on course.
First, we need to plan our day and stick to the plan as best as we can. So many of us, finally feeling a bit more freedom, want to do so much that we don’t know what to do first. Personally, in my post-COVID reentry, I find myself getting upset because I’m doing things in a dizzying circle. It leaves me feeling as though I’ve spent my day accomplishing little or nothing.
A personal calendar is a great crutch for this. It’s also wonderful for people with memories like a funnel or those with mild social anxiety disorder, who want to duck when social interaction is approaching. Whenever we doubt where we are supposed to be or dread being there, that calendar will remind us not only where to go but seeing it in writing will dissolve some of the angst of having to be there. It’s also a wonderful record that reminds us of what we spent our time doing. Journaling is also great and a fabulous life story to leave to the generations behind us, if we have the time and tenacity, and we mentioned that just recently.

Then there is what I call chore ticking. That’s just a little bullet list we can keep of our daily goals. It will become our favorite new friend and will even keep our chin up when we start doubting ourselves. Whether we spent the day doing laundry or saving the world, we can see our accomplishments, great and small, in a flash.
There’s a dull confusion and mild melancholia that has come with reentry after such confinement. There’s jubilation too but, somehow, it might feel too disorienting to be as pleasing as it used to. Many of us are wondering if we broke our funny bone over the last few years, not to mention possibly having lost some brain cells. Even if we are starting a new joyous chapter in life, attending weddings instead of seeing them on Zoom, and hugging our grandchildren again, a lot of us may still feel outside the moment – like life is still on camera.
Last week, the crowds were “reentering” at a local mall in droves. It was a bit fantastical, but thrilling as well. Many were still masked but they were there. Parking was hard to find, lines at cash registers were pleasantly long, and the food court was encouraging as it was buzzing with optimism. Even employee presence was pleasingly high. It was wonderful.
Still, there’s that transition from online shopping, and its residual effects that leave us less fit to travel by foot than we used to be. The young people take it all in stride, but others of us can’t stride the way we used to. I felt like the mall had grown by a mile.
Then, when I got home, the whole adventure seemed a bit dreamlike – still having that hum of something just a little surreal … but we’re on our way.