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by: Susan J. Hay

Eve took one last look in the mirror before heading out the door. She grimaced. The evidence of the past two years was as plain as day on her face. Frown lines by her mouth, deepening lines on her forehead, and stray gray hairs illustrated the deep sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness that had slowly seeped into her life.

With a deep sigh, she slid out the door and out into the cold, biting air. She had a fleeting thought of just going back inside the house as she pressed the automatic start on her car. She backed out of the driveway slowly and putting the car in drive, continued down the road toward the restaurant.

Eve suddenly felt a wave of panic and gulped for air. All the things that could go wrong crowded her brain and threatened to drown her in anxiety. The old familiar black cloud of ‘what ifs’ descended, and she pulled the car over. Just breathe.

What was she thinking? After months of only seeing people on a screen, why did she think she could now start meeting people in person. No barrier. No shield. No easy exit – ‘leave meeting’.

Her mind cast back to a time when going to dinner was exciting. When meeting a date for the first time was all part of the fun. Now, she only felt dread and a deep-seated fear that the only outcome awaiting her was disapproval and rejection. And yet, she longed for those carefree days.

Taking another deep breath, Eve again put the car in drive and eased forward. Catching a glimpse of herself in the side mirror as she shoulder-checked, she forced a smile. Maybe, a new normal was possible. She longed for face-to-face companionship and had for quite some time. What was so scary? Was this just a symptom of the isolation of the last two year?. Just out of practice, perhaps?

She tried to imagine the worst-case scenarios as she had been taught in her therapy sessions. What was the worst thing that could happen? You arrive and you’ve been stood up. Okay. I can deal with that. I just go home again, and the isolation continues. Situation normal. Or you arrive and you are met with disapproval and rejection. Okay, I will be in the same situation I am in now – alone, isolated. You meet up and have a good time. Wait! That’s a worst-case scenario? Aha! Part of me likes the isolation and time alone. Do I want to give that up? Hell, yes!

Eve laughed out loud at herself. The person in the car next to her gave her a funny look. She laughed louder, harder. It felt good. Her therapist had said she was her own worst enemy. And oh, she realized that was the truth.

Eve turned the corner and headed down the street to the restaurant where her first date after the pandemic waited (hopefully). Another deep breath as she parked the car and this time a smile came to her lips unforced. The only way to end isolation is to meet up with someone in person. Scary or not, here I come, she whispered to herself.

She stepped out of the car and walked toward the restaurant door. Just breathe and smile.