PTSD


A recent survey in England found that over 30% of the people regret we’re coming out of lockdown. I suppose after all the fear and loss I shouldn’t be surprised that some people have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But almost a third of us?


Or perhaps they think things were so fun it’s something to be nostalgic about. Maybe that’s why Facebook recently announced it’s offering profile picture frames featuring Covid.


In that spirit, I have a few suggestions for my profile frames:


How about one featuring raw, bleeding, hands being washed in bleach while singing Happy Birthday twice? Or maybe one of me standing at the open fridge shoving an entire chicken into my mouth? Or a cute clock face showing two o’clock in the afternoon with a half-drunk jeroboam of wine? Maybe one showing a closeup of love handles being squeezed into a pair of last year’s skinny jeans. Alternatively, there could be one of my husband, rubbernecking out of the living room window. Not spying…exactly…but in search of something - anything - more interesting than what was happening between our four walls.


Because that was certainly what lockdown looked like at our home. It was all early-bird specials around our way. Cutlery? Why? Bed at 8:30. With cocoa. We’d become like grumpy old men. On our walks we never made it 500 yards before we’d racked up gripes about kids hogging the sidewalk (entitled); two bicycles trying to run us over (nincompoops); a jogging couple (who really did nothing wrong at all but who were just annoyingly fit.)


Long after Covid is over we could have reunions where we all mask up and stalk through empty supermarket shelves or have catfights over a can of tuna. And don’t forget toilet-paper-gate.


Still, in truth I can see a downside to coming out of lockdown. We’ve had over a year of a get-out-of-jail-free cards. All those bar mitzvahs, Christmas dinners, Seders, family reunions, kids’ parties, business lunches, those “we must meet up for a drink” invitations that we’ve been ducking for two years, they will all be back on.


A year of zero bad hair days…because who cares? Not to mention no bikini or back-hair waxing and other personal care issues. Then there’s the problem of appropriate clothing. Dressing up is not just a matter of wearing a clean T-shirt. And when did you last use shoe polish? (Don’t bother looking. It’s probably all dried up.) Or what about summer wardrobes? It’s one thing when they’re a bit tight and you can kid yourself they’ve shrunk in the wash. But two whole sizes?

Not to mention, the worry of whether we remember how to talk about anything other than a new series coming to Netflix or nagging children to brush their teeth or telling partners to shut the hell up. I’m talking about a real adult conversation. What’s more, holding that conversation plus a drink plus ambushing the waitress with the hors d’oeuvres tray? And beware, no more talking to yourself and pretending you’re talking to the cat.


And yes, we will have to go out on Saturday night. I can barely remember staying out late…by that I mean past 8pm. I’m yawning at 7. But even more terrifying is the thought of having people in. As the dust balls roll across the floor like tumbleweed and those mouldering piles of newspapers teeter on our lockdown desks, home will no longer look kind of homey but more like ready for the Old Folks Home.


We’ve been hiding behind masks. But now it’s time to come out, one year older and with rampant alcohol, cigarette, Mallomar cookies, Netflix, and coffee addictions.


I blame the government (well, why not?) for our PTSD by saying “none of us is safe until we’re all safe.” Which is, of course, impossible. I guess we’ve become institutionalized. Covid’s done more than scar our lungs, it’s scarred our spirit. It’s a “what if something happens when I leave the house?”


And it’s true; something may happen. Life is not without risk.


In a piece published by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, a plant-based diet, cutting out alcohol, sugar, meat, chicken and dairy reduces intestinal inflammation which is at the root of many physical ailments. But without all those things, it may be life, but not as we know it.


There’s a lot of articles entitled, ‘what I’ve learned during lockdown.’ But I haven’t come up with one thing I’ve learned. Nothing. Just the sound of silence. Nothing in, nothing out.


So I say, bring back the frivolous. The ridiculous. The pratfall. The chance encounters. The random laugh. The getting yourself in a pickle, then trying to get out of it. Thinking of all my favorite travel stories, they’re not about the time I lay by a swimming pool, slathered in suntan oil. They’re about getting lost up a mountain in Borneo. Or being stranded at a ramshackle rural Indian airport. Or trekking for over eight hours in the dark with only torches...come to think of it, that’s a less nice memory.


It’s like the Aesop fable about a caged songbird who would only sing late at night when no one could hear it. One evening, a bat (sorry about that, but Aesop never heard of Covid) flew past, heard the bird’s gorgeous song and asked the bird why he only sang when no one could hear him. The bird flew into a rage. “The last time I did that I was trapped and put into this damn cage. I won’t be making that mistake again.”


The bat just laughed. Because, of course, he already was in a cage.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

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