Last week Warren Allen, my Tai Chi instructor, said that today he was going to start having indoor classes again at his Pacific Martial Arts studio on Court Street in downtown Salem.
I was worried, happy, reluctant, and eager. Which is fitting I guess, since Tai Chi is all about blending yin and yang in a harmonious combination of seeming opposites.
My feelings were natural given how long it had been since I'd been maskless indoors with people other than my wife. About fifteen months, I guess.
A Voice of America story, "Many Americans Anxious About Returning to 'Normal' After Pandemic" talked about this.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, about half of adults are uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions after the pandemic. Their concerns range from getting COVID-19 to communicating with friends, family and co-workers again.
"Some people will feel paralyzing anxiety about resuming their normal activities after being in a fear mode for more than a year," McBride said. Even when the threat is gone and they've been vaccinated, it is going to take time for them to be comfortable reentering society after the pandemic, she said.
But I figured that going to a Tai Chi class was a great way to begin transitioning into normal post-Covid life. Naturally I trusted that all of my maskless classmates had been vaccinated.
And Warren had said that we wouldn't be doing any "push hands" training for a while requiring person-to-person contact.
So I felt pretty darn relaxed as I headed up the stairs to the Tai Chi studio above the Court Street Dairy Lunch restaurant, clutching a bag of treats that I'd gotten from Great Harvest to celebrate our return to indoor classes.
There were just six of us at the kick-off class this afternoon -- which, cosmic coincidence, happened to be the exact number of scones, muffins, and such that I'd bought.
Maybe because we all knew each other so well, it seemed like hardly any time had passed since we'd last done Tai Chi together indoors. (There'd been a few outdoor Riverfront Park classes.)
I'd been doing some Tai Chi every day at home during the pandemic. But that's a lot different from practicing Tai Chi with others. We were a bit rusty, yet not hugely so. I've been Tai Chi'ing since 2004, seventeen years, so the forms are embedded in my mind quite well now.
Talking with my classmates felt wonderfully normal. Covid has isolated us. I'm ready to start being more social again, so long as I'm socializing with other vaccinated people.
Being retired, and living in a rural area, I'd fallen into a basic habitual pattern of daily activities.
Wake up; eat breakfast; read and meditate; take shower; exercise (Tai Chi, resistance band "weight training"); lunch; chores; dog walk; more stretches and exercising while watching political program on TV; dinner; write blog post; bath; watch entertaining TV; sleep.
Most days weren't exactly this way, of course.
However, during the Covid times I'd become accustomed to a life rhythm that didn't involve many face-to-face interactions with other people. While it wasn't like solitary confinement, it also wasn't unlike it -- if my wife and dog are included in "solitary."
This helps explain why I had some anxiety about our indoor Tai Chi classes starting again. New rhythm, though with familiar people. Pleasingly, I enjoyed the first Tai Chi class so much, Covid anxiety has vanished from my mind.
I'll still be wearing a mask when I go grocery shopping tomorrow. But likely even that will seem like something that is coming to an end. Or at least, the beginning of the end.
(I wanted to include a Tai Chi photo in this post, yet forgot to take one of my classmates today. So here's a screenshot from a video of me doing the Tai Chi sword form on our deck back in 2008 when I was so much younger. And just as gray.)