A year ago, I was in San Jose at my former boyfriends’ house when the first shelter-in-place order was issued for the Bay Area. Fear was the driving factor behind all actions that day and in the weeks and months to come. Fear of being arrested, fear of dying, fear of never seeing loved ones again, fear of abandonment.
Well, it’s amazing how one adapts to fear and everything else that has accompanied our COVID-19-filled lives.
Here’s how my life has changed and how I’ve adapted to the changes since March 16, 2020.
Note: I realize I am fortunate to have my health and business and that my family has not suffered. I find it essential for people to share their stories and experiences to empathize with each other and find comfort in that we are not alone in our thoughts and situations. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, and suffered inequities wrought by the pandemic.
Tango Shoes Hung Up
My main social and physical activity before COVID-19 was dancing the tango. I’ve been dancing the Argentine tango socially for over fifteen years. To have the rug yanked from underneath my dance shoes was soul-destroying.
It’s not the loss of the dance itself that is difficult, but the loss of a community. After dancing in one area for a while, we regulars get to know each other. We learn about each others’ lives and start spending time together outside of tango. We become family, connected by dance. Having recently moved to the Bay Area, I was beginning to develop this family connection, and now it’s gone.
I remember the last dance I attended last year. The news was spreading, and the fear was already creeping about everywhere one went. But tango dancers were still embracing each other cheek to cheek. I was at a dance in Mountain View and went to the bathroom where I overheard a discussion about traveling to Asia, someone being sick, and hospital stays. The experience is recounted in the post, Is It Time to Panic? I should have gone home that night, but I stayed because I wanted—needed—to dance. Somehow I knew it would be the last tango for a while.
It was my last dance until September when a good friend, who had been following all safety protocols because he is in a high-risk category, visited me at my small studio in Santa Cruz. We drank wine and danced the tango for several hours—a bright moment of the past year.
I Became an Assistant Teacher
Other factors caused my move back to Santa Cruz to live in a two-bedroom apartment with my daughter and two young grandsons for a year. COVID-19 struck in our sixth month of living together. The tantrums, yelling, coaxing, words of encouragement, and the fleeing of the claustrophobic building began. All in the name of getting the children to learn math, reading, and writing via Zoom on eight-inch-sized tablets.
The schooling of children ages five and seven in a space with only one desk on small-sized screens with adults who did not know what they were doing was one of the most challenging and sadder events this past year. My grandsons’, like many children’s, education has suffered dramatically.
While we have moved to separate domiciles since the beginning of the new school year, I still help my grandsons with their schooling. The task remains challenging. My daughter’s new home is only one bedroom; therefore, the children’s desks are next to each other in the living room. My oldest grandson refuses to wear his headphones, so his class’s noise distracts my work and his brother’s Zoom class. The little one wears his headphones, but it’s hard to keep him focused, especially when his brother jumps up to do activities, such as a Bollywood-style dance lesson.
A Lost Relationship
My ex and I were already on shaky ground when the pandemic struck and set our lives afloat on an unknown voyage. The pandemic only heightened the weaknesses in the relationship and our separate psyches.
When the local government issued the shelter-in-place orders, my ex freaked out. He worried the National Guard would be on the streets arresting people. He drove me home to Santa Cruz before the midnight deadline. I watched him go down the stairs from my second-floor apartment, stop and take one last look at me.
I only saw him once in person during the next three and a half months. He came by for a brief visit during which we took a fifteen-minute walk to watch the sunset—physically distanced. I didn’t see him again in person until June.
Although we had been dating for a year, my ex-boyfriend has children whom I had not yet met, so I could not shelter in place with him. He also thought that because I planned to see my acupuncturist that week and my daughter’s partner is a firefighter, we were not safe to be around. My ex’s primary goal was to protect his family, which I wholeheartedly understand. But the events and resulting actions made me feel I was not an important person in his life. I was alone (my daughter and grandchildren stayed elsewhere the first week of lockdown), scared, and felt abandoned.
Our relationship was never the same again, and we spent little time together after June, only sporadic moments until it finally ended in November. The heartache, of course, lasted much longer.
The good thing that came of all the drama is I began meditating more and started therapy for the first time in my life. It was all a huge learning lesson: the relationship, how actions resulting from the pandemic caused these feelings of abandonment, and how my past affects my relationships overall.
It’s Not the End
I recently listened to an episode from the Ten Percent Happier podcast (oh, the irony!).
The guest, Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a physician, sociologist, and director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, talked about how this period is only the beginning of the road to recovery of what we knew as normal life.
What? It’s been a year! How can it just be the beginning?
But the doctor made sense. He talked about how it will take some time to overcome the long-term health, economic, educational, and other effects of the virus. The vaccinations are not the holy grail of sudden recovery of our previous way of life.
“The world is not suddenly going to return to normal,” he said.
Christakis talked of many other things, the failure of our previous federal administration in dealing with the pandemic, the failings of many people to embrace reality and take precautions, and that the virus’s variants may wreak further deadly havoc. It’s not information I wanted to hear, and I felt depressed.
I want to dance cheek to cheek, to embrace a new love, to go to my grandchildren’s recitals with a host of other parents and grandparents, to dine in a crowded restaurant that’s so loud you have to yell to your companions across the table so they can hear you. I don’t want to adapt anymore.
After listening to the podcast, I sat on a bench on the Capitola cliffs that looked out to the ocean and meditated. The calming wisdom from meditating has helped me so much since the fall: that and my therapist’s understanding.
Embracing a New Life
I know I cannot stick my head in the sand and pretend that life will return to normal this summer, this year, or even next.
But if I must, the following is how I will adjust to another one, two, or three years of so-called “new normal” life:
After vaccination, I will book a trip to Rosario, Argentina, where masked tango classes are taking place. Maybe this idea is only a fantasy, but I will dance again, whether it’s tango, salsa, or ecstatic dancing in a park, in the streets, or a studio.
I will try to help my grandchildren learn what they’ve missed this past year by continuing to give them on-the-spot math quizzes, encourage their reading habits, and educate them with whatever knowledge I can pass on.
I will find a lasting love with whom I can hunker down to weather future storms or, better yet, enjoy the beautiful things life offers.
I owned about twenty pairs of tango shoes before COVID-19 struck. The pandemic and downsizing of my living space reduced that number to ten. They wait for me, wrapped in separate shoe bags, tucked away in drawers.