Over the past few weeks, I have felt not unlike a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, as I have begun to venture into the world in ways not permitted for the past 15 months. I may not have any wings to unfold, but I am definitely stretching myself with each expedition to an activity long set aside.
I have a running internal checklist that I repeat like a mantra under my breath as I venture forth. Do I have my mask? Am I fully clothed? Do I have my mask? Does my hair look as though I have tended to it recently? Do I have my mask? And on it goes.
The mask, the mask, the mask. In March 2020, when some of us thought the pandemic would be a short-lived experience, I declared — more than once – that I would never wear a mask. Now, grabbing my mask is no different from remembering the car keys or my wallet when I head out the door.
But, the joy, the joy, the joy, of being able to do some of those things I have not been able to do for so long.
Our couch and TV remote control, not to mention our cat, must be feeling somewhat neglected over the past couple of weeks. As of today, my partner and I have either been out or had people over to our house for 10 evenings in a row. And we’re not stopping now – we have more outings on the horizon in the days and weeks to come.
We’ve had friends over for dinner – and we have eaten inside. We have been to other people’s houses for dinner. We have even had overnight visits with friends and family. We have eaten in restaurants.
Our independent movie theatre, the Screening Room, re-opened a week ago, and we were there for the first day’s screening of Summer of Soul. We were back a few days later to see Nomadland. Next up: Beans, which we will be seeing early next week. Before the theatre had to close for the first time, I had plans to see The Truffle Hunters, which I continue to anticipate; hopefully not for too much longer.
Bring on the music
Listening to live music is one of the activities I have missed more than almost any other, so we have been very happy to get back to a bit of that. We attended a picnic and outdoor music performance in Gatineau Park, where we heard Esmerine’s unusual and hauntingly beautiful music.
A week later, we sat on a huge patio outside the Brooklin Pub, north of Whitby, munched on hamburgers and onion rings, chatted with friends and listened to The Spitfire Kings, a fantastic 1970s rock and roll cover band.
Tonight, it’s off to Prince Edward County for an Elliott Brood concert; inside! My daughter, with whom we are going, says she has been waiting for this moment since the pandemic began, when she had plans to see an Elliott Brood show that was cancelled.
In the offing, fourth wave permitting: a Buffy Sainte Marie concert in Toronto at the end of November, with all of our kids.
I feel my soul fluttering, just like a newly emerged butterfly.
The second best thing for your health
While I am happy to be out listening to music, eating in restaurants and going to movies, what I am happiest about is seeing friends up close and personal. I was not a real hugger before the pandemic, but I am now. Each time I can hold onto a friend I have only seen on Zoom for the past many months, I feel like that butterfly, wings fully unfolded and soaring across the sky.
The past 18 months have made all of us more aware of how important our relationships to other people are. A new book on friendship by Robin Dunbar claims that having close friends is the best thing next to not smoking that we can do for our health.
“Dunbar could not have known that his book would be published in a time of such loneliness. . . Personally, I was comforted to know that missing my friends and family to the crazed extent that I do is not, after all, a sign of incipient madness. . . To take just one example, without them to touch and to talk to, my endorphin system is activated far less often and, as a result, I’m lacking the mild sense of analgesia they induce in me. . . We’re all just waiting, biding our time. One day quite soon, a bell will finally ring and we will rush into one another’s arms. Our brains will fizz once again, and it will feel – a word even Dunbar uses – euphoric.”
Welcome back to our social selves, everyone!