Last night I left my apartment building for only the second time since the pandemic hit in mid March (three months from when I’m writing this essay).
I didn’t leave my car either time, which is almost like an extension of home. It does help to impose a bit of distance between you and others, so there’s that.
My partner and I drove around a bit and picked up some food via a drive-through. He wore a mask during the time that he was ordering, paying, and receiving handed-off food. When he demasked for the drive home, he did it properly, not touching the mask itself but the elastic straps that hold it on.
I have a travel size hand sanitizer, a promotional item from saner times with a company logo on it. It’s an item that has weirdly risen in value. We washed up afterwards in the car with that. And then again with soap and water upon arriving home.
What they say about the writing life is true. You do spend a lot of time living in your own head, shut up inside, staring at a wall, trying to imagine. It’s a strange existence.
However, my home is flanked on multiple sides by beautiful parks. Before the pandemic hit, I often would walk out there and stare at the trees and people walking their dogs and try to imagine.
The difference hit me harder than I thought it would.
Still, between the pandemic and my father dying about a month into sheltering in place in mid April, I lost my desire to go outside. I shut down so completely with grief, I barely moved at all for four weeks (about a month ago, I started an exercise routine I can do inside though, which has helped).
I began to joke (half-joke? quarter-joke?) with others that covid might give me agoraphobia. I could end up with a fear of leaving my home.
“Not the worst thing that could happen,” I’d said, noting that I could always make efforts to recover from it in safer times.
Apparently I’m Not Becoming Agoraphobic, Although I Still Love Home
Last night put that to the test. I expected I’d be nervous, because I was nervous the last time I left my home two months ago (to mail some oversized tax documents that wouldn’t fit in my apartment mail box and pick up curbside dinner while out).
But I wasn’t.
And instead I was struck with how beautiful the trees were. I loved the feel of the sun on my face as it shone down through the car’s sun roof.
When I returned home 90 minutes later, I was strangely energized… and a little exhausted from all the excitement. Home stood out in stark contrast to the world outside, as a relaxing, comforting place. Maybe not the most exciting place, to be sure, but soothing and familiar.
It very much reminded me of how I always feel after I go socialize with new folks (something I haven’t been able to do for a while). It can be exhilarating and quite interesting, but I must confess that when I return home to my best friend (that I live with and am also married to) that it’s soothing in a way that’s hard to describe.
It’s interesting outside, to be sure, but I belong at home in a way that I don’t feel like I belong other places.
But yes. A nice little outing. I don’t imagine I’ll do it a lot (the virus is spreading like wildfire where I live, in the Dallas area), but I had a good time.
Apparently, I’m not becoming agoraphobic, although I still love home.