Los Angeles Times

Changed by the pandemic


Dear Amy: Do people report to you that the COVID pandemic changed them? It changed me. I thought the isolation wouldn’t bother me because I am an introverte­d woman. I treasure my solitude.

There were times when I didn’t see another human being for a week or 10 days.

I went only to the store and the library just to see another human being and chat briefly. That seemed to suffice — after all, for two years that person walking toward me might be carrying a disease that could kill me.

I remember thinking it’s as though I’m in a spaceship that keeps circling the Earth, and I can’t land.

Well, now I have landed, and I find that I am less tolerant than I used to be, and a lot more cynical.

My compassion for others has fallen to a new low.

I have dropped a couple of long-term friendship­s because I couldn’t bear the other person’s neediness. It was as if I was for years wearing rose-colored glasses, but they fell off and now I see the world differentl­y.

I am active again in an art group I’ve been a member of for 17 years and I attend a music circle where we make music for each other, so it’s not that I have become totally antisocial. What’s your take? E.D.

Dear E.D.: Yes, people do report that the pandemic has changed them. In fact, I can hardly imagine passing through these recent years without being changed.

Your descriptio­n of feeling as if you’re in a spaceship is memorably vivid.

During the pandemic, your ever-present anxiety had an effect on your body’s chemistry. Stress hormones flooding your body, without relief, can have a profound effect on your physical and mental health.

Some of the reactions and feelings you report having now would otherwise be seen as signs of depression — or at least passing through a depressive phase.

I suggest you do some research on the long-term effect of stress, and make sure you see your GP for a thorough checkup. Describe your mental posture. Seeing a therapist could help.

My own prescripti­on for you would be to spend as much time as possible outdoors, and to double up on your art and music, both of which are extremely healing for your soul and exceptiona­lly good for your cognitive and mental health.

Dear Amy: About four days a week, I hang at a wonderful local coffee spot. I bring my laptop and have my regular spot.

There is one worker, “Clara,” I’ve developed a crush on. She’s, well, a ray of sunshine.

I’d like to express my interest in her, but I have two issues: I’m a woman (I don’t know if she’s into women), and I don’t know anything about her own dating status.

I don’t want to mess up my morning routine by oversteppi­ng, but I’m wondering if I should do more to express my interest in her other than smile, chit-chat and leave a 20% tip? Going to Decaf

Dear Decaf: Clara might be receiving multiple expression­s of interest from multiple sources each day.

Servers often report that customer come-ons are a significan­t problem.

Clara has frequent exposure to you. She should be the first to express interest. She can do this in a number of ways, including the nowcliché expression of writing her number on the outside of your cup or on your receipt.

Email questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@ amydickins­on.com.

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