Are We There Yet?

Ok, I have to say it: I’ve about had it with this whole pandemic thing. This week will mark five months since we went into lock down, and, for me at least, this whole “hunkering down” zeitgeist is getting old. Lately, it seems the extended sleep-over, roughing it at camp, take one for the team mood has gotten depressing.

I miss the early lock down days, when we could distract ourselves with laying in dried beans, hoarding toilet paper, or judging our colleague’s home work space on Zoom conferences. Even the threat of murder hornets provided a good laugh, in a what next? sort of way. And we kept busy, too! We volunteered, sewed masks, gave blood, and checked on elderly neighbors. We marveled at the sight of nature and all the species healing in the void left by human inactivity. We did home improvements and drank quarantinis. And here, in New York, we stopped every evening at 7:00pm, to applaud and salute our healthcare workers and first responders – a practice that soon spread across the nation and the world.

These are the things that got us through the early months, as we fought to flatten the curve. We made it to the summer thinking that we would have a break, that we’d crested the first wave and could regroup a bit, at least until the fall/winter flu season. And it’s true that being able to go outside to walk in a park, or dine out, has done much to lift the spirits. More stores have opened in some limited capacity, and travel has eased for many, especially if you’re willing to self-quarantine at either end of your trip.

But as the death toll passes 160,000, and more of us know someone who has sickened or died, it is all getting harder. Harder to live with the risk, the uncertainty, the home schooling, the financial constraints, the grief over loved ones, the isolation, or the sense of loss – if only for our old carefree way of life. Realizing that there will be no second wave, that it’s all just one long, rolling high tide of a first wave that is still pouring in, has been hard.

So the answer is, no, we aren’t there yet, and this long, strange trip drags on. Or, as one of the CDC doctors said, we’re only about three or four innings into a nine inning game.

Once I got used to this idea, I decided that I could use this time to adjust and refine my plans for the fall. And once I started planning, I found that my frustration and depression fell away. I went through my budget a second time, and eliminated extraneous expenses that had survived the first cut. I decided that I will leave my deck furniture out this winter, even if I have to bring the cushions in and out every day, because sitting outside has become a necessary part of my mental health. I stocked up on more ramen noodles — and hair dye, (because, vanity) — and started looking for a second freezer. I reached out to more friends for outdoor lunch dates, and set up more times for fun, social video conferences.

But most important, I gave myself permission to acknowledge the feelings of depression, grief, frustration, and impatience that periodically wash over me. I decided that not every day has to be a good day. It’s ok to ask, “Are we there yet?” Honoring these feelings is, for me at least, the best way to go the distance and navigate my way to a better future.

Cheryl Shainmark is a writer, editor, and certified hypnotherapist with a private practice in New York. A long time contributor of articles and book reviews, Cheryl is now a senior editor and a regular columnist at Merlian News. When she is not reading, reviewing, or dreaming about books she can be found playing with cats of all stripes at her quiet country retreat.


by Cheryl Shainmark