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  • Betty Girardeau

Social Distancing

In recent months my days have become pretty repetitive and if it weren't for the need to keep moving and make sure I am putting in at least 10,000 steps a day, I probably would have no need or reason to leave the house. Yesterday I decided I had to get out of the house and see a bit of what is going on beyond my little life bubble. Besides I needed to get a birthday gift for a friend and I was just about out of my yearly supply of gourmet olive oils. Since my last adventure out on Memorial Day, Tennessee has started phase II of reopening, which means that restaurants and shops are now operating, though with guidelines for social distancing, sanitizing, and wearing masks. The hub of activity, restaurants and boutique shops in Knoxville in recent years has become the area around what is known as Market Square. When I drove through town on Memorial Day that area was almost empty and the only people I saw probably lived in the area. Yesterday things were definitely more lively, though the number of people was far fewer than would be considered normal and the majority of them were definitely young. While I noticed that all restaurant servers and store clerks were wearing masks, very few others were! Patio seating at the restaurants was only slightly more widely spaced than I remembered them to be pre-Covid-19, too. I returned home with mixed emotions. Like everyone else I miss the "old days" when socializing did not have the additional description of "at a distance." I, too, do not particularly enjoy wearing a mask either. While I appreciate the health reasons behind the need to wear them, I also realize that they are also a barrier to normal social interaction. Words are muffled and, while not totally impossible, it is difficult to smile with just your eyes. Doctors and scientists have long understood the importance of a social life for people's wellbeing. Having a social life boosts our immune system, lowers blood pressure, improves nutrition, and reduces depression. For the time being it seems like we are all on "the horns of a dilemma." Does our need to stay physically healthy outweigh our desire to be with others in a meaningful way? For a lot of the young apparently there appear to be few reasons to deal with such questions. For the rest of us we are placed in a position where we have to make decisions which, either way, are uncomfortable. Whatever we decide, we are having to do things that feel just plain unnatural because they are unnatural. I don't believe in tempting fate. So I will continue to deal with a life that is social distanced physically and be thankful that, thanks to technology, I can still get some of the rest of that much-needed social interaction with friends and family. It's not perfect, but it is better than the alternative.

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