Airplane in sky for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley
Things That Suck

The Anxiety is Real

My sister recently had a baby. A little girl, her second, perfect and tiny and the best possible thing to happen in this year of horror. My dad was finally vaccinated, and he was traveling to see my sister and help with her children. I jumped at the chance to see them both.

But that is all the subject of a different blog post. This blog post is about what it’s been like to be on a very full airplane, next to perfectly nice people who are nonetheless scaring the shit out of me. No, they are not reckless, and they have mostly been wearing their masks. But my greeting of, “I wanted to let you know I’m vaccinated,” was met with silence and a tiny raise of the eyebrows, which I took to mean that they were unvaccinated.

I want to be relaxed about it all. I’m alone, and I’ve been vaccinated for months. I’ve interacted with unvaccinated kids every day at school and I’ve been going to the grocery store all year. I understand the science, and I listen to the CDC. I logically understand that I am not at risk.

And I still think “DANGER DANGER DANGER!”

Which often leads to me thinking, “someone I love could die.”

I know it’s dumb. I don’t actually think I’m going to get Covid from an airplane when I’m wearing two masks and am also fully vaccinated. And yes, I am that person you see at the airport wearing a face shield and gloves and those two masks and think, “damn, what happened to her?” I desperately want to tell this person next to me, “I’m a widow. Yes, me! That’s why I’m so nervous.” And that might be part of the story, but it’s not the whole story of course. I’m likely also just a bit more cautious than my seat mates.

But here’s the thing – it’s easy to be casual about death and disease and overall risk if you’ve never watched the light fade from someone’s eyes that you love. I’m not trying to say it’s a good excuse for my nervousness. But it’s part of it.

Who knows? Maybe my seat mates have experienced loss, and they are just more resilient than I am. Maybe I just need to relax, remember that the science says I’m protected, and that everything will be okay. Maybe I’m the crazy one.

But the anxiety I’m feeling right now? It’s real. And I’m not sure when it’s going to go away.

I really want to laugh with the people sitting next to me, chat about why we are all traveling and share pictures of my beautiful new niece. I want to be that person who is relaxed again, after over a year of nerves and caution. I want to say, “it’s okay! We’re okay!”

But, somehow, I find my emotional side triggered right now. The state I’m in right now reminds me of the early days after Shawn’s death, when I would wake at night and check on my kids to make sure that they were still breathing.

They always were.

But the fear of loss remains and it can be triggered sometimes. I felt it in the early days of the pandemic, and I still feel it now during stressful situations. And so I’m doing all I can do to tell myself what is true, and what is not true.

I don’t have Covid. Probably. Most likely. So says the science. Only a teeny-tiny chance, right? It’s time to relax.

And yet, I think it might be a while before I am so relaxed that I actually sleep on an airplane. For now, I’m going to remind myself about all the times that my children were still breathing, when I snuck into their rooms late at night. They were fine, just as I am fine right now. Danger is not around every corner, at least not at this point in time, for me.

Though I did just pass on a much needed cup of coffee. No way I’m taking off my mask, even for a minute.