Post-isolation emotions render me vulnerable and anxious, mixed with relief. There’s joy. My family and I can visit and talk to face to face. There’s a downside, as well. Ten weeks of restricted activity changed my view of the world. My fitness suffered although I walked every day. But unless I swim regularly, my arthritic joints complain bitterly.
I’m less sure-footed than before and avoid steps because I need to use the handrail, and won’t. Caution has become my second name and hand-sanitiser my secret pocket-companion when I leave the apartment.
Less interaction with others left me diffident, less inclined to venture far from home. My first trip to the hairdresser for a much-needed trim felt like an adventure. I’m suspicious of strangers who might forget to keep their distance or even bump into me. Smiling at strangers as I pass them takes an effort.
Curious, I watched other older people as they also began to emerge from their homes. Some looked tentative as newly-hatched butterflies as they negotiated the supermarket shelves. They moved slowly, hesitated often.
Prolonged isolation and the protection of our homes and families rendered us all less confident.
Or perhaps that’s just me.
Coming out feels even more tentative because we have an eye on considered health predictions. Authorities warn us to expect new clusters and even spikes in the number of cases of COVID-19. Even while numbers remain low, danger lurks in the community.
The shops have changed. There’s sanitiser at the doors. Wipes to clean trolleys and baskets. Spaces marked on the floor. Notices. Signs. Perspex shields at the registers and less assistance.
Different reactions post-isolation
Some of my friends seemed to take up their lives almost where they left off pre-COVID-19. Back in the swing of things post-isolation, they lunch with their families and different groups of friends. They play cards and lawn bowls, enjoy shopping and sit-down-in-café coffee. Some talk eagerly about the day when they’ll travel overseas again.
I no longer talk about the movies John and I watch. Those that cause me to weep. Or sob. Post-isolation blues, I call it. Why else would a comedy make me cry?
Support from family
John and I relied heavily on our families while we were in isolation. Our daughters and sons encouraged and supported us, although one or two thought we were a bit over the top.
We’ve weathered a few epidemics and a pandemic or two in our long life-times and we’d prefer to die with those we love physically close to us.
We take COVID-19 seriously. I hope our children and grandchildren know how grateful we are.
(I’ve written blogs about other epidemics. Details at the end of this post if you missed them.)
We kept in touch with our siblings while we isolated. I loved the frequent, often crazy exchanges with my brother, sister and brother-in-law. However, if we had to do it again, I’d insist we used Zoom.
People have joked about our compliance with self-isolation and asked if my family has let me out yet. It takes effort not to show anger. I’m sad they don’t know me as well as I thought they did. They sound ageist but they’re my age. How does that work?
Why do people presume that older people don’t make decisions for themselves, decisions they believe to be in their best interests?
Ours is truly a blessed country
We’ve experienced excellent political and medical leadership. Our world-class hospitals, doctors and nurses prepared for a major surge of critically ill and contagious patients. High levels of personal cooperation developed as people heeded restrictions to protect ourselves and others. The curve of contagion has been flattened.
We have begun to come out of the first stage of the COVID-19 pandemic with relatively few cases and fewer deaths than most other countries. Until a few days ago, there were just two active cases in the whole of Western Australia.
Society has begun to stretch itself after two months of being shut down. Groups of ten people can socialise and exercise together. Cafes and restaurants can now open. They’re permitted to serve twenty customers at a time, suitably distant from each other. Those I passed had fewer than that. Others had not yet opened.
Now attention has turned to the economic disaster caused by the pandemic. State and Commonwealth governments haggle about closed state borders. The focus shifts from the health crisis the economic one.
Meanwhile, ten people in Western Australia, all recent arrivals from overseas, test positive in two incidents over two days (25 and 26 May 2020). A family of two adults and two teenagers returning from Doha submit to isolation in a hotel in Perth en route to their home in Victoria.
A ship from the United Arab Emirates docked in Fremantle to load sheep for live export. Six crew members tested positive to Covid-19. More will probably follow.
As a country, we’ve had enough of ships with contagious passengers and crews tying up in our ports. Surely this should not have happened?
My immediate response – irrational anger. Just when we thought we had weathered the crisis, this! It feels like a personal affront.
Hey, folks! Remember January 25, when the we heard about the first person diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia? With well over 7000 cases across the country since then, the majority infected overseas, we must have learned a thing or two!
Mixed bag of emotions
Relief, sadness, vulnerability, anger, gratitude, pride, pleasure, fear, tenderness … such a mixed bag of emotions in rapid succession can be quite tiring. I look forward with enthusiasm to regaining my equilibrium.
But after ten weeks out, it will take time to get back into the swing of ‘ordinary life’, whatever that will mean. I look forward to our new normal, when we are way past post-isolation.
Here are two about epidemics.
Scarlet fever: Scarlatina: My brush with a once deadly disease
Poliomyelitis: Poliomyelitis epidemics in Western Australia
And one I wrote last week, about life after isolation: How to gain momentum after hibernation
As always, I’d love to read your comments about this post.