How Do I “Normal” Again? Emerging from Quarantine

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

By Kimberly Poovey

It’s April of 2021.

I look in the mirror and see a fresh-faced woman with purple hair and a partially shaved head, a significant change from the long, ginger, virgin hair I’ve had for most of my life.

I look around for my favorite mask, the one that fits my long face and pointy chin and doesn’t get sucked into my mouth when I breathe. An entire basket of masks in all shapes and sizes hangs on the wall by the front door. I grab a small one for my 5-year-old too. His favorite mask is made of soft cotton and has a ninja on it.

I have not seen my parents or brothers in person since February of 2020. It’s the longest I’ve ever gone in my life without seeing my family.

My child and I have been together every single day of the last calendar year. There have been no play-dates, birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, or trips that didn’t involve holing up by ourselves in an AirB&B in the forest somewhere. We haven’t eaten inside of a restaurant since last March.

We have been wildly lucky and privileged throughout this pandemic, but life has definitely looked profoundly different than “normal.”

This week, I will get my 2nd and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In two short weeks, I will have the freedom to do a variety of “normal” things once again. I can go work in a coffee shop. I can choose to eat lunch inside a restaurant. I can see my fully vaccinated family for the first time in 14 months (!!!)

This fall, my child will go to kindergarten. In-person. Away from me for hours and hours a day.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading this.

In a strange way, the pandemic has given me a sense of control and safety, however much of an illusion that might be. I don’t have to worry about my child because he’s right here, next to me, where I can keep him safe.

The variables and risks of “normal” everyday life have been hugely reduced during the pandemic, and that has been oddly comforting.

I don’t fear colds, flu, or stomach bugs, (huge sources of anxiety for me), because we stay at least 6 feet away from everyone, wash our hands constantly, and wear our masks everywhere we go.

Once we are “allowed” out into the world again, I don’t know how my anxiety will take it.

I still have nightmares at least once a week that I’m in a crowded room/at an event/in an airplane full of maskless people. Can I just “turn that off” once the world is a little bit safer again?

The similarities to Purity Culture here are not lost on me.

As a person who struggled greatly to flip the switch from “pure, chaste, virgin bride” to “wild, confident, sex-kitten wife”, I’m confident that my transition from quarantine-life to “normalcy” will likely be a bumpy ride.

We have all been traumatized by the pandemic to some degree or another over the past year, and the results of that trauma will be coming out in ways we cannot predict for years to come. I hope that moving forward all of us will treat our mental health and the mental health of our children with infinite care. There are so many unknowns. We will all be feeling the mental and emotional repercussions of COVID-19 for a very long time, and we need to be gentle with ourselves and each other as we move forward and start to create the “new normal.”

I am both excited and terrified by the freedom of being fully vaccinated, but instead of getting paralized by anxiety, I’m just going to start moving forward one small step at a time. Into the unknown.

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Kimberly Poovey is the founder of The Exvangelical Parent. She is a liberal misfit Enneagram 9 INFP who likes long walks on the beach, honey-habanero lattes, and Zoloft. After spending over a decade in the ministry world, she now writes and creates full-time. She lives with her partner of 15 years and their 5-year-old son in the mountains of North Carolina.

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