COVID-19. At the start of 2020, this was barely in our vocabulary. If we knew about it, we only know that was an illness far off in China and we all felt safe in our little bubble here in the US half a world away from there. No one was worried that it would travel to where we live and our children play.
Some experts warned it would spread throughout the world, but people were hesitant to believe such bold statements. Cut to July, and we have now lived in lockdown or with restrictions for several months due to what has become a worldwide pandemic.
But communities and whole states are slowly opening back up, or have already done so. Some are thrilled with this and have felt ready to face the world as if it is business as usual. Others, like me, prefer to treat the pandemic a little differently and exercise more caution.
Do I miss seeing my family and friends and scheduling playdates for my daughter? Yes. Do I miss dining in at restaurants and browsing bookstores? Yes. A lot of other people missed these things, too, and were all too happy to partake in them once the state reopened.
But I’m just not there yet.
I’m not judging anyone with different viewpoints than me, but I do want the same respect and consideration when I’m not up for the family birthday party or a friend’s cabin trip.
With everything opening back up, the only thing I can do is socially distance voluntarily. Not everyone is thrilled with this decision. But regardless of anyone’s opinion, I will continue to do it. The pandemic isn’t just suddenly over because the state has somewhat gone back to normal. I have a 2-year-old who doesn’t understand not touching certain things and keeping her distance from people. I am 30 weeks pregnant and not interested in exposing myself to whatever could potentially be in the public spaces around me. I’ve started saying no a lot and it feels good to put myself and my family first.
If you are one of the select few that I allow to come to my house, then yes, I will still say no hugs and ask that we remain outside during your short visit while socially distancing the best we can with a toddler involved. I will not be joining in on a group activity, whether it be a get together with family or with friends. I will not be participating in playdates. I will not be going to a store just to browse. My family will not be going to the grocery store as a group outing.
Is this extreme to some? Yes, and trust me when I say I pick up on the judgment I receive. But it’s what feels right to me. If I am able to live in a different way for a little longer in order to keep my family safe while I have the option, then I will do just that. Being a teacher on summer vacation has its perks, and right now I am able to fully keep my family home safely with me. Why would I choose anything different?
I know plenty of people who think the pandemic is being taken too seriously, or that it’s no longer a threat. Some even scoff at having to wear masks and I see their complaints on social media regularly. Often, I feel like a fish out of water, or like I am on an island–isolating while everyone else is jumping right back in the water headed for the mainland.
Everyone’s comfort level feels so different than mine, and a friend of mine reminds me that it’s okay that everyone’s comfort level is different. She respects me saying no more often than any other words right now. She has shown me that it is okay if I am not ready for things that others are ready for and I am thankful for her words. I’ve felt a lot of pressure to participate in family gatherings and I’ve felt guilt when turning them down. Turning down a hangout is not personal, it’s about the health of my home and the people in it. Which, on the other hand, is personal. And that’s why I’ll keep saying no.
Getting honest with people and saying no is hard, but it’s important to remember that it’s temporary. Zoom calls won’t always be how we “see” each other. Distance learning won’t always be how school takes place. This will not last forever, and if I need to make others uncomfortable for a little longer in order to keep myself and my family comfortable and safe, then I choose to flip that guilt around and instead feel empowered.
This in-between time has made me realize that I have agreed to do lots of things that I actually do not feel like doing in the past, and in the future I will feel more confident when I turn down something that does not work for me.
I am a recovering people pleaser and I no longer wish to live to make others happy if my own happiness is compromised because of it.
My views might make those who have to repeatedly hear no from me right now uncomfortable, and they may judge me. I might be accused of being scared of nothing. But I will no longer take responsibility for others’ feelings if they do not agree with my decisions. Social distancing has empowered me in a way I didn’t see coming, and turning people down has made me keep my priorities and values in focus. I have strengthened my voice. This is one thing that will not change even when the pandemic is long gone.