NOW WHAT?

Updated: Mar 25


About a year ago, our local news channel suddenly interrupted our TV show with a special bulletin; the governor had placed California on complete lockdown. My son had recently been furloughed and was in a panic about how he would pay his rent. Later that same day, I unfriended a Newport Beach book club member for proudly boasting on Facebook that she had just purchased the last fresh lobster in all of California for her dinner. Gloating during the beginnings of a frightening Pandemic didn’t resonate well with me.


I belong to a small but mighty family... a husband and a son. We all knew we needed to hunker down tight until this virus dissipated. As 70 somethings, my husband and I were keenly aware we were in for a long haul. And a very long haul it turned out to be.


During this past year, we rarely left the house. Those once tedious visits to Costco and Albertsons became exciting out-of-body experiences.


We continued our daily power-walks and bike rides to the beach. The ocean became our savior.

Since our son lives across town, I invited him to eat dinner with us each night. I am not a great cook and have always leaned on Lawry spice packets to jazz things up; but frankly, they all taste pretty much the same. So when I learned that Pizza Hut delivered, Never Touched by Human Hands Pizza I was all in. Once a week, I treated myself to a free day of no cooking.


Our ‘trapped in the house’ year went by faster than we imagined. I taught online classes at the university and cleaned the house. My husband repaired things, praised my cooking, and started a photoblog. We became addicted to the crazy news, which quickly became the Trump reality show. Did our president really call Stormy Daniels a Horseface?


Brian Williams, now a household word, couldn’t rival my new friendship with Rachel. I watched them both. And thank you too, Facebook friends, for all your Netflix recommendations. We couldn’t have gotten through the year without you!


We’re all vaccinated and 95% bulletproof. So now what? We want to travel. But, go where? Are the hotels safe? Do we dare fly? Do we even want to? One thing we do know, however, is that we need to get answers soon; this could be our last good travel window.


A couple of days ago, I went to Nordstrom for my first attempt at getting back to normal. That turned out to be a bad idea. Standing in an aisle, I thought... Who needs another dress? My closet is full of lovely clothes not worn in a year. Driving home, I knew a year is a long enough time to think about my value system. So now what?


I don’t want or need a new car. I love my 20-year-old Z-3. So that’s why I’ve kept it and am now refurbishing it. I don’t need any more stuff. My stuff is good enough. But, I still want to see the world.


I sense we will all exit the Pandemic a bit depressed. I know I will. According to almost everyone, we’ll have a new normal. The pundits are saying the normal we had wasn’t working anyway.


Throughout the year, I took great joy in hosting Zoom webinars for my students. I learned that many of them, especially women, were struggling. One student, a young woman with three children, teared up during one of my webinars, saying, My husband lost his job, and I can’t sleep at night. Another, a retired military African American woman, shared that she lost four family members to Covid. Her shocking news and sadness left all of us on Zoom that day, trying to offer words of comfort in her tragedy.


Our university doctoral assistant deserves the ‘Mother of the Year Award.” Required to work remotely, she spent nearly every Zoom minute with a baby girl on her lap and another child waving frantically in the background. Another mother with a teenage autistic son shared how every day was more challenging than the last one. And finally, my 90-year-old friend, who lives alone with her pup, Boo Boo, continually shares that her loneliness is almost too much to bear.

It’s no secret that women have had it rough throughout the Pandemic. After all, we are the caregivers, providing support to everyone. We get things done.


News reports share the same reality. A recent study found that almost no one was spared from the anxiety, worry, and overall emotional fatigue of the coronavirus pandemic. Women, however, were nearly three times as likely as men to suffer from significant mental health consequences, including anxiety, inability to sleep, and trouble completing everyday tasks.*


The issue that now begs the question for all of us is will women get back to where they were before the Pandemic? Will we use our positivity, generous spirit, and 'can-do' attitude to take on the challenges of a new normal? Will we reflect on what we learned from this experience and move forward to regain our personal strength and reclaim our lives? Of course, we will.


Be safe, be smart, be kind, Dr. Marilou Ryder


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*Retrieved from https://time.com/5892297/women-coronavirus-mental-health/


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