Sometimes it’s hard to venture out when you’ve been isolated from the world for whatever reason. Have fears of Covid contamination made you feel like a kid coming out from under the covers yet?
My husband could fix anything (the only question was when), which is why trying to navigate home repairs is one of the worst parts of being widowed for me. But I had some repairs that could no longer be delayed so I went to the home improvement store.
When I pulled in next to all the growling diesel trucks with custom toolboxes and toppers, I was reminded once again that I was a woman in a man’s world. I felt small before I even got to the entrance.
Always one to err on the side of safety, I slid the straps of my quilted leopard-print Covid mask around my ears and began practicing my construction-speak on the way in.
I always try to channel my husband when I go to hardware stores, so I don’t ask for “electrical thingies” in that embarrassing way some women do.
At home, I had even used the measuring tape and counted the number of holes in the switch plate (1, 2 or 3! Who knew?) I needed replacement for.
My at-home preparation was worth every minute. The clerk typed in my order, no questions asked, took my money, and then I moved to stand on an X in the delivery area, which is actually where this story starts. Because, you see, I hadn’t been out for over two months.
I found being in the presence of all these people I didn’t know, who had also been isolated for months, disconcerting, disorienting really. I felt the same way after I recovered from hepatitis when I was seven.
Some were wearing masks and some weren’t. Having learned on social media that some couples were cutting each other’s hair, I looked around and, to my horror, realized this was true! Who knew cutting your partner’s hair was the new disco dance?
Waiting on my orange X, feeling like a little a girl in a men’s locker room, worried about who might have the virus, I suddenly realized no one was making eye contact with me.
We’ve been isolated for so long we’ve almost forgotten how to greet one another. We’re in our own little worlds, sealed up like heads of lettuce in plastic wrap.
The grand reopening of the economy seemed forced and sad, hopeless even. Maybe helpless is a better word. And it is a helplessness I already understand.
For the first few months after my husband died, I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t want to see other people leading their normal lives.
I didn’t want to see people who had come to the funeral and then had dinner with their spouse and watched TV slumped against each other. I hadn’t slept much or had my hair cut then either and I was an emotional wreck.
The first job a new widow or divorcee faces is to find safety again. Grief keeps us on guard, socially isolated, and withdrawn. A sense of helplessness is common and to add insult to injury, I’ve noticed that one helpless memory seems to lead to another.
While those of us who are grieving the loss of a loved one are having a hard time, I think Covid has put the whole world into a universal grief.
Grief about those who have died and left their partners to navigate a strange new world, grief about the world’s economy, grief about the loved ones we can’t see, the parties and meals we won’t enjoy together, the events that we won’t be going to this year, and the fears we share.
To combat this feeling of ongoing dread, try creating a heart space where everything is okay; a heart space that is born when you become friends with your grief. No matter what you’ve been through, you’ve been given this day to live.
Make a choice to feel safe in that knowing and to extend that sense of internal safety to everyone you meet. It’s a beautiful thing to offer safety to others in a scary time like this. We’re all in this together and just for today, everything is going to be okay.
Is this pandemic your first time self-isolating? What fears do you have now that match those of live after marriage? In what way can you offer safety to someone else today? Please share your thoughts below.