Vaccinated! Now What?
One week past my second shot, it’s time to look ahead.
Posted Feb 11, 2021
Ten days ago, the heavens dropped nearly two feet of snow on our condo complex. We gawked at the fat flakes as they fell from the sky, so big that they mimicked the ones we used to cut from folded paper in elementary school. I watched as the drifts reached my waist, wondering if we would be able to make it to the hospital in the Bronx for our second COVID-19 vaccination.
By Wednesday morning, highways were clear, traffic was light, and we checked in for our shots twenty minutes ahead of schedule. We headed home within the hour. Gratitude flooded my heart and brain with happy hormones. Each snowflake had been unique, just like everyone’s journey this past year. I began to re-evaluate the personal impact of pandemic once I was fully inoculated, paper proof in hand, a testimonial to procedures followed according to FDA and CDC protocols. Theoretically, the document might open doors we had slammed shut on March 18th when we had returned home from a real lockdown in Paris.
The first vaccine shot had brought me unexpected joy and relief and unleashed energy that surprised me so much that I wrote about it, probing psychological mechanisms that might explain the strength of my reaction. I expected more of the same following the second shot. Wrong! My #1 rule for living: Beware of making assumptions.
We had been forewarned of severe side effects following the second shot and prepared for a day or two of discomfort, making minimal commitments. I smiled at a slightly sore arm the next day, a rocky stomach the third night; my husband had muscle pains during the first night and slept them off the following day. We were fine. But rather than euphoria and a surge of energy, this time I turned introspective and self-protective. My first impulses were towards self-care: napping whenever I felt tired, eating foods that appealed to me most, luxuriating in a long shower and squeaky-clean hair the morning after, smiling at the pleasure of a home that has been tended and maintained lovingly with our own hands and efforts, especially during the 11 months of near-complete quarantine. I wrote in my journal, read a book for pleasure, contacted people close to me. I let the shift away from acute vulnerability settle in slowly, as I intuitively understood I needed to practice reawakening my “desire” impulses that had been deliberately set aside for so long.
Now, a week later, I can embrace the enormity of the year that has passed since we returned from Paris last March, 10 days earlier than scheduled. We had found ourselves amid an active pandemic, serious lockdown, increasingly cancelled international flights, and confinement to the space we inhabit when we travel. No restaurants, no museums, no visits with friends, no chats with the vendors at the outdoor food markets, all complicated by long and socially distanced lines at our local pharmacy and grocery store. We printed and filled out required papers, necessary for an “exception” to ride from the city to the airport. We headed home to New York and into the unknown, setting aside expectations along with hopes and plans for the future.
We now have some protection against serious illness or death — risks amplified by our age and conditions — and know a lot more about the virus, ourselves, our communities, and our country than we did last March. Still, so much remains to be learned.
As I look at “What now?” I am clear that:
My behavior now and in the foreseeable future will change little in regard to caution concerning the virus. Vaccines are not 100% reliable and I do not want to be an asymptomatic carrier who could infect others with whom I might come into contact. I will wear masks — even doubling them when I am among two or more others — because of the mutations that have developed. I will respect social distancing, whether in supermarket lines or walking on trails, and avoid crowds or locations where people naturally gather closely together. I will wash my hands for two rounds of “Happy Birthday to You” frequently and continue other hygienic routines developed during this past year. I will continue to embrace the energy released by no longer carrying the burden of all that unconscious fear. (Details in my last post.)
And I will try to use that energy well, in alignment with all I have learned during the pandemic.
My biggest takeaway is that the protection of the vaccine allows me to shift my focus more securely on the gratitude I feel, reviewing both the recent and more distant past through new lenses, and to formulate conscious choices that I can make about the future. In other words, I am both embracing those silver linings and looking for ways they can help me be better at loving — myself, others, my life.
Silver Linings (lessons learned during the past year):
The revised social life provided an ideal opportunity to revisit relationship priorities and allow them to evolve with time, conditions, and capacity.
Our quarantine encouraged the development of new ways to express myself, honor my needs, connect to other people, and improve the quality of our daily life. “Silent breakfasts” will become a permanent part of our daily routine.
I walk away with a profound appreciation for science and what it can bring us in understanding, innovation, and humility.
Since I turned 40, my life purpose has centered around loving — learning it, living it, teaching it. Throughout 2017, each Sunday I published a “Life, Refracted” essay on a different way of expressing love, and I could have kept going. Indeed, last May I wrote an update to the series, even as I had moved on to address topics, explore personal perspectives, and adopt a larger prism. This year, my focus shifted to the “how” I have, can, and will continue to love. A recommitment to listening carefully to others, writing about observations that may inspire, and modeling loving behaviors.
I will continue to clear away the clutter to better embrace the essential. Choices. Priorities. Spaces used based on tasks that need to be done – a functional approach to home. Home. Time. Meaning. Revisit 3-pots perspective. Pleasure. Sharing. Honesty. (especially in the nature of needs and relationships.) Having limited distractions, I’ve become better able to monitor my attention. Simplicity will help me continue to focus on what matters most to me and to choose consciously rather than be lured away by seductive opportunities and other distractions.
In other words, I now live in the world with less vigilance, more choices, more noise, the option of planning more, and the need to continue focusing on priorities and solutions that address them.
Does all or any of this resonate with you? Does it suggest helpful approaches to your own experience? Think of the silver linings you hopefully have found during this year of challenges.
Copyright 2021 Roni Beth Tower