It took me a few minutes to be sure. I had to think back through purchases, drives, and mentally picture myself walking through the doorway. Finally I was confident. For over three months, the only store I had been inside was the Target less than a mile from why home.
I felt a little bit proud, a little bit pathetic, and a little bit pandemic-ed out.
And going to Barnes & Noble with my boyfriend seemed like the perfect way to break that pattern. The store had emailed a week or so before, highlighting their new policies to keep customers and staff members safe. The store had been at the top of my Phase 1 wish list (followed by a journey to the beach when we get to a later Phase).
For an hour we wandered the stacks, searching for books and being grateful to have the chance to search. I had a gift card from a past holiday promising that I’d get to buy something that I didn’t really need. I eventually chose a coffee table book with pictures of races around the world; images from 2019 that seem so much farther away. The book is leaning against my couch right now, hoping to be inspiration for a future race.
That was my first normal-ish shopping experience in months. One store at the mall, with no attempt to wander farther because one store felt just scary enough.
Two weeks later I’d venture out again. This time for a long-desired haircut. I sat in my car until the appointment time, followed every direction of my friend and hairdresser, and wore a mask the entire experience. Before leaving the area, I stopped by a friend’s consignment shop. There was a pink dress in one of her social media posts that I thought would fit. I’d end up selecting a different dress, after the required twirl in the changing room to make sure it was right. Now it hangs up in my closet for some future meal out or morning at church or some other opportunity to be dressed in non-gym clothes.
I bought that sweet pink dress for the exact same reason that I wear the mask in every store: for the sake of someday. These three little slivers of normal took a lot of mental and physical preparation. And preparation was to help me stay safe, to help employees (and some friends) stay safe, and to help strangers walking past stay safe.
I want us all to get to a normal someday.