“4:00, wallow in self-pity. 4:30, stare into the abyss. 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one. 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me. I can’t cancel that again. 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing. I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness.”

The Grinch

As the conversation slowly turns from COVID to other politically charged subjects, the crippled world begins the long rehabilitation process. What defines recovery? Lifted mask and vax requirements? Lower infection numbers? In-person schooling?

Back to normal doesn’t seem normal at all.

Maybe the world didn’t turn upside down – maybe I did. I didn’t realize it at the time – the agony and adrenaline of world-wide tragedy was all-consuming. The fear. The unknown. The… politics. Unnerving.

COVID’s grinch-like, long furry fingers wrapped around my throat and shook me violently until my limbs fell off and my eyeballs popped out onto the floor. I didn’t even realize I was in pieces until I tried to stand up and couldn’t find my legs.

Around me, the seasons come and go, and the farmlands seem oblivious to any of the shenanigans since early 2020. Traffic has resumed, restaurants are open, and some people seem to have long forgotten the historic event.

But I still can’t find all my parts. I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. I don’t remember who I was “BC” (before COVID). I’m depressed. I’m tired. I’m dazed. I’ve been in survival mode for so long that I’ve forgotten what real happiness feels like. Am I the only one?

Maybe one day we’ll coin a phrase for it – PCTSD (Post-COVID Traumatic Stress Disorder). Maybe psychologists can explain to us what happens when we are cut off from each other. What happens when we can’t read people’s expressions or hear everything they say through a face mask. What happens when we’re told our mere presence could kill another human being if we aren’t careful enough.

I ventured out in January of 2022 and made the long drive to Indiana. At a Pennsylvania exit along the way, McDonald’s doors were locked. Likewise, the entrance to Taco Bell next door was locked. My brain couldn’t make any sense of it. Cars sat in lines in the drive-through? I walked up to the window and asked and was told they can’t find enough people to work so they have to keep the indoor restaurant closed.

Time and time again I heard this story. I tried to put up a fence for my Pandemic Pup, but the wait period was months and months because the fence manufacturer didn’t have enough help to keep up with the demand.

Brick and mortar shops still have check-out lines that wrap around the store because they don’t have enough employees.

It all adds to this ghost-town feeling that I finally peeked my head outdoors after hiding from the gunfight in the street, but half the people have vanished into thin air.

What has happened? Do we know or will it be years before we fully understand the fallout?

Anyway, until I can figure out some answers, there’s always Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy to help me drift off to sleep until I get up tomorrow and begin the wondering all over again.

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