One year ago, my husband and I said to hell with Covid and decided to get married – so we did. One year later, we are celebrating our anniversary in a brave new world.
The pandemic altered a lot of plans – travel, birthday parties, graduations, and weddings. We were forced to learn a new way to navigate the day-to-day things we took for granted – grocery shopping, medical appointments, work, and our social lives – but mostly we learned how to live in a new pandemic world. Many of us with RA and other types of autoimmune disease were already accustomed to certain protocols to protect our health, and the pandemic was just one more thing to compromise that safety – but for this RA girl, it did the exact opposite. It drove me out into life.
I wore masks, washed my hands, stayed away from groups and those outside my bubble – but I did not sacrifice living. Instead of cancelling our wedding plans we did it our way. Instead of international travel we became tourists in our own town. We explored, learned, and found inspiration close to home. We enjoyed the world and every little thing it offered. There were no restrictions for enjoying a starry night, cultivating a garden patio, going for walks along the beach or bike rides on a beautiful day. There were no restrictions for enjoying good food (at home or at a local restaurant), going for a drive, breathing in the mountain air, or feeling the kiss of the ocean mist upon your cheek. There were so many things to discover beyond the realm of our previous comfortable life.
The pandemic brought anxiety to a large population of people, and rightly so. We didn’t know what to expect from a new virus. It was the darkness of the unknown that brought fear. We know more today than we did one year ago, and I feel better equipped to deal with it. Vaccines offer hope for a move back to normal life, but I don’t know what normal is and I don’t care. What’s so great about normal anyway?
The world is opening up, and like a flower to the sun, I am opening up with it. In this brave new world, I’m going to celebrate the abnormal, the weird, the wonderful. I know many of us are still anxious, but I’m not going to depend on the actions of others to live my life. I’m going rogue. We never know if we have tomorrow so I’m going to wake up each morning, throw open the curtains and say to the world – what have you got for me today?
I know the risks, I know how to be safe, so I’m stepping out. It’s time. The world is not going to stop for me and I’m not going to stop for it. Maybe I’m tempting fate, maybe not, all I know is that if there is no tomorrow, I will be satisfied that I lived today.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.