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Home » Trying to Get Over Covid Anxiety
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Trying to Get Over Covid Anxiety

Published in the issue.

The habits of the last eighteen months are hard to get out of. Things do seem to be getting better, the pandemic waning, but it’s so hard to get rid of the fears. How many times have I repeated to myself Jesus’s reassuring words, “Fear not. Just believe,” struggling to make them register?

The other day on the subway, I could feel that Covid anxiety coming over me. There were too many people crowded in the car. Way too many to do any sort of social distancing. And gosh, were any of them un-masked? All right, I happily walk outside without my mask. I am fully vaccinated like most of us New Yorkers. But rules are rules. We’re supposed to mask on the subway. Don’t people know?

Alas, I’ve become a mask Pharisee, a nitpicker for regulations. I tell myself this is a good thing. Isn’t it all about our safety? And theirs. I’ve always figured wearing a mask, especially in those bad old days—before there was the Moderna and the Pfizer and the J&J means of protection—was a way to practice loving your neighbor as yourself. Protecting yourself and your neighbor. (Pharisees’ knowledge of the regulations wasn’t always wrong.)

Now – darn it – those masks aren’t reassuring at all. They serve as triggers of the Bad Old Days. The Covid anxiety rears its ugly head and I’m back in Fear Land. No matter how many times I remind myself of the Lord’s injunction. Fear not, fear not, fear not. Why can’t I simply believe?

The subways have always been a prayer place for me, and now would be as good a time as any. I closed my eyes, putting myself in some sort of meditative trance, the rumble of the train on the tracks offering a familiar soothing message: I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.

Then I opened my eyes. I noticed a woman, less than six feet away, wearing no mask whatsoever. I fumed. Doesn’t she know? She could be passing on the virus right now. Breakthrough cases don’t seem like any picnic. (And goodness, why did they have to use that word “breakthrough” which used to, in my book, have only positive connotations?)

Wait, I thought. You have an extra mask. Give it to her. I dug into my coat pocket and held it out. “Would you like a mask?” I asked, taking the risk that she might just toss it back at me scornfully. Instead, she smiled. “Is it used?” she asked. “No,” I said. “Thank you,” she said. I watched as she slipped it carefully over her nose and around her mouth. She got off at the next stop.

How to get over fear and anxiety? Do something nice for someone. Listen to that nudge from the Holy Spirit. How grateful I was that I did.