I’ve come to regard the past year as a period of hibernation. After all, what exactly is hibernation but a time when many species of animals, not just bears, succumb to a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression. I ask you, is this not an apt description of how most of us have been living these past 12 months?
Before an animal finds a shelter in which to become dormant, it stores energy by having a sufficient amount of food and hydration to sustain itself throughout the period of inactivity. I ask you, is that not what we humans did when we were requested to shelter in place in March 2020?
Those of us who were brave enough personally raided supermarkets, others used shopping services. We stocked up on canned goods, water, and other sustainable food items. We hoarded paper goods and cleaning supplies, and soon there was no more toilet paper. (Fortunately for the animals, they don’t need toilet paper, except maybe the bears.)
But unlike the rest of the hibernating animals, humans could not simply settle down for a long winter’s nap. Instead, we sought diversion inside our caves and contact with other humans. In place of personal meet-ups, we Zoomed and Face Timed. Not able to attend movie theaters or performances, streaming became a way of life; “What are you watching?” a common conversation-starter.
As for me, I may have started with Netflix, but soon added Hulu, Acorn, Prime, Apple TV. Smart TVs offer endless possibilities, as long as you’re willing to pay for them. British detectives and Turkish gangsters became my new best friends, along with Moira and Shtisel.
I rediscovered cooking at home as opposed to overindulging in recreational eating and extensive conversations about what to have for dinner became another way to pass the time.
Clothing became optional. I don’t mean to say that I walked naked inside my cave. But the pretty blouses, fancy pants, high-heeled shoes (well, maybe at my age, not that high) and decorative accessories gathered dust, while comfy clothes needed frequent washing.
Being afraid to go to a store, I learned to shop on line, ordering everything from dog food to an electric toothbrush. One highlight of the day was a text from Amazon telling me my delivery was on its way. The other highlight was actually ripping open the package once it had been sanitized to my satisfaction.
Holidays, birthdays, and other family occasions became two-dimensional celebrations on the flat screen of my computer. Less than satisfactory, but I learned to adjust the equipment so that the light was most flattering to my appearance. This maneuver unfortunately is not possible in person.
When one is home all day, one tends to focus on home improvement. Cabinets, drawers, closets, garage have never been neater. Forks and spoons are perfectly aligned, and book shelves are color-coordinated. Even the clothing that no longer sees the light of day hangs as proudly as if it were on display at Bergdorf’s.
So all in all, I think it’s accurate to claim that life had acquired a different rhythm. There is a new normal inside the cave that we have gotten used to. But three short months ago someone shone a light at the entrance. A shot in the arm was about to change everything.
So, folks who are fully vaccinated, we have some decisions to make. What parts of our former lives will we now resume? Even as we step out of our caves, we are cautioned to remain cautious. Face masks, hand washing, and social distancing cannot be disregarded. But what about everything else?
How much of life will resume as before? What feels safe and what still does not? A reservation for dinner where I’m willing to sit inside? Shopping at a big box store with scores of other people? Going to a movie theater, assuming I can find one that’s open?
Hugging friends? Kissing grandkids? Meetings in person instead of on Zoom? Getting on an airplane?
And what did I learn from life in my cave that I might want to bring to the resumption of my old life? The quieter pace was rather soothing.
Personally, rather than sprint, I think I will be taking baby steps out of the cave. And in the meantime, let’s discuss what to have for dinner.