The Meat and Potatoes of Life
3 things I’ve learned since living through the pandemic
Special to Stars and Stripes March 27, 2023
It’s been three years since my daughter and I obliviously danced in a sweaty conga line in Key West. The next morning while waiting for an Uber to take us to the airport for our return trip after a weeklong mother-daughter getaway, the Florida governor shut down all restaurants and public facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We started our trip without masks because Anthony Fauci said at the time they could “unnecessarily alarm other passengers.” One week later, our faces were wrapped in scarves and we eyed every person with fear for our own survival.
Since that time we’ve experienced widespread human loss, skyrocketing mental health issues, the miraculous development of vaccines and the permanence of COVID in our lives. Through these traumas and trials, I’ve identify three ways that the pandemic experience has changed me, for better and for worse.
Habits: No doubt about it, I’ve become a homebody. The house used to be a place that I bounced to and from until dinnertime, when our family settled in for the night. I did my work at coffee shops and libraries, went to the gym or on long power walks, met up with friends, ran errands and generally stayed out for a significant portion of the day. Nowadays, it’s as if the pandemic institutionalized me or instilled in me a need to have my toe firmly planted on base so that I won’t be tagged out.
During my increased time at home, I’ve picked up several new hobbies. Over the years, I’ve dabbled in many military spouse activities, from quilting to bunco to crafts to golf to gardening. You name it, I’ve tried it and haven’t been particularly good at it.
COVID made me easy prey for new hobbies to test my mediocre skills. While watching too much news during shutdown, I became intrigued by the GameStop short squeeze, when the stock increased 600% due to fervor from amateur investors in the Reddit group /WallStreetBets. Before I knew it, I’d joined the group with the user name “StimmieCheck,” bought a GameStop share and was using terms like “stonks” and “diamond hands.”
Eager to fill the pandemic silence, I began an obsession with true crime documentaries, podcasts and audiobooks. I also tried my hand at crochet, succulent propagation, fiddling with broken clocks and cooking spaghetti bolognese. Other than my bolognese, which is a keeper, most of my new hobbies were fails, as evidenced by three dead cacti, neglected housekeeping during the Murdoch murder trial, clocks that won’t keep time, crooked crochet and my GameStop share, which has dropped from $250 to $16.76.
Body: I’ll admit it, I’ve gained 12 pounds since that glorious week in Key West, in addition to the 10 pounds I’ve been trying to lose since the 1990s. Of course, my post-pandemic “homebody” lifestyle is a contributing factor, as are my new sedentary hobbies and that spaghetti bolognese.
But I’m also convinced that COVID has aged me faster. Not only do I have more wrinkles, joint pain and a paunch, I’ve also been sick more in the past year than ever before. I’ve had COVID, bronchitis, a sinus infection, a stomach virus, a second bout of bronchitis and, most recently, pneumonia. In speaking with friends who have also been sick, we’ve wondered, “Did COVID or its vaccines make us more susceptible to communicable diseases?” and “Did masking and social distancing decrease our natural immunities?”
More to the point, “Has the pandemic has become the scapegoat for all of our problems?”
Mind: Before COVID, I thought people who wore surgical masks in public were neurotic. Now I keep them in my purse. I used to think that yoga was for weirdos who kept crystals on their Subaru dashboards. Now I attend yoga classes where I can’t hold an eagle pose for more than five seconds. COVID has taught me that life is too short to harbor hang-ups. Why worry about 12 extra pounds, crooked crochet or lifestyle judgments when our time on this Earth is limited?
Despite all the ways that COVID has changed me, some things will never change. No matter what life brings, I will always dance in sweaty conga lines.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org