I’m Taking My Time Returning to Normal

Brianna Albers avatar

by Brianna Albers |

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It’s not just the closeness, the sudden proximity to people other than my parents. It’s not just the dearth of mask mandates. (You’ll pry mine from my stone-cold, long-dead hands.) It’s not even the sense of possibility — for the first time in over a year, I can go places, see people, and be like a regular human being with friends and a social calendar.

It’s the moving. The leaving the house. The I don’t know what to do now that the world is opening up again.

I knew it’d be difficult, returning to normal. A pandemic isn’t something you bounce back from. Not to mention the fact that thanks to COVID-19, my introverted self has an excuse for never leaving the house. I’ve grown accustomed to my hermitage. I wouldn’t say that quarantine has been fulfilling, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve adjusted better than some folks. When it comes to social distancing, I have years — decades — of experience under my belt.

I am slowly remembering what it’s like to share a space with other bodies. Thanks to the vaccine, I have reacquainted myself with my friends’ faces. (We’ve spent the past three weekends losing our minds over the tragedy that is “Mass Effect 3.”) Once a week, my caregiver and her daughters accompany me to the clinic for my routine allergy shot. I catch up with nurses and receptionists, and other than the masks, things feel normal.

But I’m tired. Fatigue is nothing new, but this is a bone-deep, biopsychosocial exhaustion, and it keeps tripping me up. A couple weeks ago, I woke to brain fog and a sluggish body. I’d slept fine. I wasn’t sick or under the weather. There was no obvious culprit, no outing or visit to blame. I was just tired. And I really, really don’t like it when my body acts like a body without permission.

It took me a while to realize that I was adjusting. The fatigue was months in the making — months of isolation, of watching the world through my bedroom window. It’s not like I forgot how to socialize, but there’s still a sense of remembrance to it all.

I’m remembering how to move through public spaces.

I’m remembering how to project my voice, to enunciate, to repeat myself when necessary.

I’m remembering how to build my stamina. I spent months inside with little to no exercise — it’s no wonder that my muscles have atrophied over time. Relatively effortless activities — driving from the elevator to the waiting room, for example — require more energy simply because I’m out of practice.

I’m remembering how to laugh, how to make small talk, how to stay present with the people I love. I’m remembering how to juggle responsibilities, making time for work, craft, and play. I’m remembering how to say no, because my body is recovering, and I need to honor what it’s telling me.

I’m remembering how to take my time. I knew it would be difficult, returning to normal. I’m dying to go out and do things, to travel, to eat ice cream under the sun and rediscover the secret places of Minneapolis-St. Paul. So I’m reminding myself, again and again, that there’s no rush. That everything I want will be there tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

The world is telling me to rush, to make up for lost time, to visit and explore and do, do, do.

My body is telling me to slow down. To take each day as it comes. To ask myself, with all curiosity, what is possible in this moment, and this moment, and this one, too. Sometimes it’s an hour-long walk. Sometimes it’s Cheez-Its and “Doctor Who.” Sometimes it’s writing, and writing, and writing some more. Sometimes it’s Target runs and podiatry appointments and car rides with the girls I love. Sometimes it’s a lot; sometimes it’s nothing at all. Last-minute trips to the zoo and Olivia Rodrigo’s album on repeat. Soaking up the sunshine, just because I can.

It’s not normal. (Especially when you consider the inequitable distribution of vaccines, and the media’s claim that “the pandemic is over” when some countries are considering yet another lockdown.) But it’s a start. It’s something.

And I have nothing but time.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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