These last couple of months have reminded me of an old joke:A man was advised by his doctor to give up sex, alcohol, and rich food. "Will I live longer, Doc?" the patient asks."No, it'll just seem longer," answers the doctor.

Like many of you, I'm ready to get back to normal. I'm anxious togo shopping (and I'm not a shopper), go to movies and museums, andhave dinner with friends. But even as I say that, I know that many ofthese things are not safe right now. I'm in that "high risk" group. I willbe turning 70 this year and had planned on having a huge party. But Iknow now, that that will not happen. Too many of my friends havethose pesky underlying conditions that will put them at severe risk,and I probably cannot even do a small party.

Last week I did A LOT of shopping, hunting down those thingsthat I will need to have if I am to re-open The Pots Place, my store onthe downtown square. I needed gloves, masks, and disinfectant inmany forms–for surfaces and hands. It was a long day, but I wassuccessful at finding everything.

Part of my day was also getting the Ballots into the mail. So, Iwas with Elinor and Michele at the Church working on that mailing,and later a close friend who shared a Mickie's Dinner with me on myoutdoor roof patio. But the next day I felt like someone who hadfallen off the wagon. I had worn my mask, I had sanitized my hands, Ihad tried to keep my social distancing, but…

Now, I personally am not worried about getting COVID-19. I'mrelatively healthy, I've been doing those things to keep my immunesystem at peak efficiency, and I've only been sick one day in the last15 years. But I do worry about being one of those dreaded asymptomatic infectors. So, like a dieter getting back on the wagon, Ischeduled my test.

Like the Rev. Peter Connolly stated in his talk last month, I ammore concerned about all of those that do not have options for stayingsafe. They must go out into the world where people are refusing towear masks, or worse—coughing and spitting as an act of rebellion onour essential people who must deal daily with those rude,inconsiderate people. I'm concerned about the burnout of our firstresponders, who compromise their own health working too manyhours to keep us well and safe. I worry about those in confinedsituations—whether they be in group homes or prisons and are whollydependent upon others in charge for their well-being. This is our newnormal.

I'm astonished at the new services that are popping up, that willsterilize my packages and then deliver them to my door in plastic, thecompanies that are selling masks with your alma mater's logo or pet'spicture, the cleaning companies that will come to my store andsanitize using their mist machines, or the many way entrepreneurswill create opportunities from this disaster. I'm concerned about thesmall businesses and large corporations that will go out of business orfile bankruptcy because this disaster is causing all of us to do thingsdifferently that in the past. This is our new normal.

Like other disasters that I have experienced in the past, I knowthat I will survive this one, and in the long run it is just inconvenientfor me, but it is deadly for many others. I know that it will change theworld in large and small ways not yet foreseen. So I write a check toHotel Inc. and the candidates I’m supporting in this election, and Ireview all the other appeals for dollars that I am assailed with everyday, and I decide which ones will do the most good with my smallpittance. I re-make my cancelled doctor's appointments, I makereservations for using my pool, and I get ready to re-open mybusiness.

Until COVID-19 is conquered, we are all gonna have to makesome hard decisions. How much can we go out and interact and stillstay safe? What events or people are we willing to trust and risk beingwith? How precarious is our underlying health, and what do we needto do to keep our health and sanity?

At our Congregational Meeting on June 7th and in the next year,your Board will revisit the question again and again as more isdiscovered about this virus, of when and how do we get back togetherin person. We have lost two valued members of our community, veryrecently—Ed Stevens and Nolan Porterfield. I'm sure we all missedthe opportunity to grieve together and support Cheryl and Erica intheir time of loss. But this too, is the new normal.

If you are like me, you find yourself spending more time onsocial media, sending cards or writing letters, and talking to friends onthe phone to keep in contact. I miss the hugs and handshakes, thesmiles, the ability to have three conversations at once. Those days willcome again. For now, I mask, I distance, I garden, I count myselflucky that my family is near.

Namaste. Kathie

P.S. I want to thank you for the honor of serving as yourPresident this last year! I appreciated all the support, assistanceand kindness you offered me.

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