Rise Up, Rise Up! A Shot of Hope and Looking Forward

I find it weirdly, wonderfully ironic that our attempts at inoculating ourselves against COVID-19 have gone viral.

You know what I’m talking about: Social media is full of pictures and posts of people showing off upper arm band-aids like sailors flaunting South Seas tattoos.

The car line selfie is a mile marker on the road to healthy. Instagram influencers, white-haired grandparents, sports stars and office holders brandish vaccine cards like they’ve scored Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. Rise up, rise up — it’s time to take a shot! We’re rocking out to the Hamilton rap.

The vaccine is all we’re talking, thinking and dreaming about: #teammoderna! #teampfizer! Yay, one-and-done J&J!

And doesn’t it feel good to celebrate feeling good? To see happy, cheesy, grinning-like-lottery-winners photos? To know that hugs, happy hours and salon-quality haircuts are on the horizon? To anticipate family gatherings, taking notes in honest-to-goodness classrooms, attending weddings and birthdays and all the other rites of passage that have passed us by this long last year? Heck yeah, it does!

I rolled up my sleeve last week for dose number one. I was prepared for the stick and next-day soreness; but not for the endorphin high and euphoria.

I thought I’d been holding it together pretty well these last 12 months of masks and loss and separateness. But I positively floated out of the vaccination room, propelled by the deepest, longest, Namaste-style exhale of my life. I whooped and pumped my fist and the kind souls in line behind me cheered. It was a wondrous feeling. For once I was happy for the mask because I was grinning like a monkey with a new banana.

The vaccine is a literal, figurative and God Bless Dr. Fauci shot in the arm. I looked up the idiom when I got home and here’s what I found: ‘Shot in the arm is a phrase used to convey a stimulus, something that revives a person’s enthusiasm, energy or confidence’. Bingo for the lingo! That is exactly the concoction we need: enthusiasm, energy and confidence in a less alone, less anxious future.

Having something to look forward to gets us through hard times. It’s the carrot we dangle in front of ourselves to get to the end of crises of the heart, mind and soul. And until now, it’s been hard to look any which way, other than backward to pre-pandemic days and diversions. But now … or soon … we can begin to make plans. We can — with care — come together, leave the house, visit, work and rejoice beyond the barriers of screens and social distance. We can reconnect with the people and pursuits we’ve missed.

As a society, we like quick fixes: a pill, a panacea, a stick of the needle. We like paths of least resistance; yearn for what’s easy. The shot is easy. The hard part is the struggle and sacrifice we’ve been through.

I’m not naïve enough to think we’re in the clear. The immunology experts warn of variants, new strains and outbreaks if we open up too soon, congregate too closely. We need to be patient, put a pause on spring break, wait a while longer before we return to sports bars and Broadway shows. But I am cautiously optimistic — an overplayed term I always scoffed at, but now embrace.

And while we’re cooling our heels, let’s get healthy. Lose the pandemic pounds we’ve added as we ate and drank at home like it was our last meal. Turn off Netflix. Dose up on vitamin D the old-fashioned way. Tend to our wellbeing now that we know we’re going to be around a while longer.

After a long dry spell, we’ve got something to look forward to. Good news is coming soon to a pharmacy near you — and the dope in the syringe is hope.

Writer who believes in the power of language to change minds, change moods and change the world.

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