When the pandemic first hit, I sat in the kitchen listening to Dr. Fauci and Governor Cuomo, glued to the news, watching in horror as New York shut down. Even though I live in North Carolina, it was terrifying to watch. My family immediately took social distancing very seriously, including my two daughters who are now 21 and 18. They understood our position, even though they didn’t always like it. While we’ve had some heated conversations over the past year, I am grateful my kids respected our rules. I also know what they’ve missed because of it.
As the months went by, I watched many of my friends make different choices regarding what they allowed their kids to do, how they were social distancing, the activities they continued to participate in.
I tried not to judge.
I tried not to judge when my friends let their kids go to parties, even when the parties were inside someone’s house, without masks, in large groups.
I tried not to judge when my friends traveled, flying to fun places and going on vacation.
I tried not to judge when my friends started going out to eat, going to the gym, and spending time with their extended families.
For the most part, I kept my mouth shut.
I reminded myself that everyone has to figure out what level of risk they’re comfortable taking, and live accordingly. For me, as a 7-year breast cancer survivor, I wasn’t willing to take unnecessary risk. I understand how precious my health is, and I didn’t want to do anything that could possibly tax my immune system.
“I can understand you taking this so seriously,” friends said to me. “You have a history.”
My friends have honored my decisions, and I’ve never felt judged for the choices my family has made. We respected one another throughout the pandemic, agreeing to disagree with the way we see things.
While I do have a medical history, I’ve struggled to understand why so many people think if they get the virus, they’re going to be fine. It is true that most people who contract the virus are OK, but no one really knows how they’ll respond to the virus or what the long term impact could be. “It’s unlikely that we would get really sick,” many people have said to me. Maybe, “but what about all the people you could possibly, unknowingly, infect?” I wanted to shout.
For the most part, I kept my mouth shut.
Now, almost a year later, with the numbers increasing and the variances changing, I’m starting to have trouble not judging my friends.
Believe me, I’m tired of all of this.
I want to travel, go have a two hour lunch, enjoy dinner at my favorite restaurant, hit the gym. However, it feels like now, more than ever, we need to stay the course. I don’t want to put my health, or the health of others, at risk. The experts are practically begging people to stay home and social distance. The vaccines are finally out, hope is so close we can almost touch it. Yet, a lot of my friends continue to do all the things. Now, I’m having a really hard time keeping my mouth shut. I find myself starting to judge them, even though I don’t want to be.
“Why don’t you just worry about yourself?” my daughter says to me. “The actions of other people aren’t impacting you. Why do you care?”
These are wise words, and I know she is right. Just as I don’t want to be judged for the choices my family has made, I don’t have a right to judge the choices other people are making. It really isn’t any of my business.
Why, then, is this seriously starting to bother me?
I’ve thought about this a lot. Let’s face it, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. Am I jealous? I’ve wondered about this. Do I wish I could live a little more and feel less stressed about getting COVID? I don’t think this is it. I know people who have lost their lives to COVID, and other people who have been hospitalized. I also know people who are still experiencing the long term impact of getting COVID, months after contracting it. I would never feel good about not taking it seriously.
After a lot of contemplation, what bothers me the most is how carefree people are about their health and the health of those they might come into contact with. I know what it feels like to go through a serious health crisis, and I don’t want anything to happen to anyone I care about. More importantly, I would never want to be responsible for getting another person sick.
I love my friends. They are amazing and kind and would do anything for anyone.
But, why can’t they just stay home?
Why can’t they say “no” to their kids? Why can’t they do take-out instead of eating in restaurants? Why do they have to travel and go on trips that aren’t work related? Why do they need to go to the gym?
I’ve noticed the pandemic has brought me closer to friends who are making the same choices my family is making. We talk on the phone often, supporting one another, validating each other, helping one another when there’s been an exposure or illness. I’m grateful for these friendships. They’ve helped me stay grounded and centered during a stressful time. I’ve also noticed I’ve grown apart from other friends, people who have been living completely differently than I have. Will we be able to reconnect once life is “normal?”
I hope so. But, I’m starting to wonder.