I refreshed, refreshed, refreshed, woke up at an ungodly hour, plugged in every ZIP code in Massachusetts on the CVS site, refreshed again and now: My husband and I are getting our COVID-19 vaccines this week, thanks to the broader parameters announced on Monday. Part of me is relieved. Part of me (a guilty, nagging part) feels genuinely trepidatious. I’ve gotten used to this pandemic cocoon of no expectations. Inertia is comfortable.
I know I should be absolutely awash in liberation and relief. You’d think that someone with health anxiety would be beyond giddy to have protection from a deadly disease. I am! And yet: Pandemic life conferred a perverse gauze of protection, too. I don’t want to die—but I don’t want to make small talk, either.
For the past year, most of us were living by the same rules and playbook (at least, those of us who took the disease seriously). We social distanced, avoided large gatherings, took the same precautions, did everything outdoors. Now it feels like we’re feathers being tossed into the wind, scattering, doing our own thing, falling where we may, carried by the wind.
Some people might still be afraid to hang out. Others might want to have a 20-course meal inside a restaurant while drinking from a martini funnel. Where will I land? I just don’t know yet, because while the vaccine confers protection from serious illness and death, it doesn’t keep you from getting sick. There’s a gray area. Anxiety doesn’t do well with gray areas.
And then there are the questions:
- What if I have terrible side effects? (I know someone who spiked a 105-degree fever.)
- What about my kids? When will they get vaccines? I don’t want them to get sick, either.
- Should I enroll my kids in a trial?
- Will we need booster shots?
- Will I be nervous to go inside people’s houses, even after I’m vaccinated?
- Will this all be too good to be true?
- Will we ever feel normal again? Will I ever relax again?
- Do I own any actual pants?
These are all good problems and questions to have. It’s just that, for so long, most of us have become used to a certain calculus about how to live—and now we’re approaching something new and uncharted, something physically safer but psychologically unmapped.
I’m overthinking this, right? Have you had your vaccine? How did you handle it?