by Katherine Schneider

            As more people are vaccinated and mask mandates are dropped in many situations, we’ve got to figure it out again: What will I do, with whom and under what circumstances.

            Recently I was with some friends, all vaccinated and they began hugging goodbye. I froze! I love hugs from good friends but have not been doing that for over a year. Should I start now?  I missed the moment and ended up saying “next time.”

            That little experience made me a believer in FONO, fear of normal. In each situation of deciding on closeness with others, some of whom will be vaccinated and some not, I’ll have to balance FONO with FOMO, fear of missing out. 

             I attended (virtually) a talk on getting back to normal as a guide dog user. Back to busier sidewalks and streets, public dining, etc.  The advice given may be applicable for us all, whether we have a guide dog or not:

  • Think it through ahead of time. As the poet Rilke suggested “from your solitude you will find all your paths.” Try something and monitor your comfort level. If you’re a masker, take it with you, kind of like an umbrella, in case you feel you need it.
  • Take it slow.  Don’t expect it to be perfect the first few times. Social encounters will feel weird.  

If you’re back to in-person work and suddenly need to do chitchat by the coffee maker, you may not know what to say. “How’ve you been?” might elicit a longer discussion than you want. Back to the basics like “So good to see you”!

  • Cut yourself and others some slack.

As Rilke said: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”

You don’t know what someone else’s pandemic experience has been and they may be at a different level of risk tolerance from you for a variety of reasons. 

Remember near the beginning of the pandemic, the slogan was “We’re in this together”. We still are.  Even if you’re ready to go back to in-person meetings, leave the virtual meetings, church service, etc. in place for those who aren’t.

  • If you’re having a hard time, talk to a friend, a doctor, a clergyperson you trust. Just talking it through, instead of having the dilemma running in circles in your mind, can help.