So after being in pretty consistent lockdown since March, we did step out a little bit in the past few weeks. Regular readers know that we made kind of an impromptu road trip to see family in Wisconsin, and that happened to run pretty close to an overnight camping trip we had on the books for a little while.

It was good to get out, but I also definitely feel the angst associated with having rolled the dice a little.

I am a very risk-averse person. I envy the people who can throw caution to the wind and do whatever they feel like without being worried about the heavy hammer of fate slamming down with grave consequence.

Quick sidenote…”throw caution to the wind” is a really goofy phrase. I know we all use it, but the image that comes to mind for me throwing something into the wind is that the wind then blows it back in your face.

As even that illustrates, I have deeply rooted feelings that no deed of any kind goes unpunished. Perhaps it is my deep Catholic upbringing, where you’re taught that even the slightest stumble in a nearly perfect life can get you a few hundred years in Purgatory, but I always kind of feel like the other shoe is about to drop.

So while it was awesome to get out into the world a little bit and spend time with loved ones, it of course kick started a little anxiety for me coming back. We were careful, but were we careful enough? After keeping our circle so tight for so long, what does careful look like right now?

Within a few days of getting back, I started feeling a tickle of congestion in my throat, and thought, “oh no!”

A few notes of context. First of all, when I’ve mentioned that I deal with anxiety, some form of hypochondria is definitely one expression of that anxiety for me. I long ago banned myself from WebMD, because I would conclude that any ache or pain was definitely some rare disease that only Dr. House could cure. That tendency especially sucks in the face of COVID-19, a disease with so many varying, commonplace symptoms that pretty much anything anyone feels at anytime could be interpretted as being COVID.

Another piece of context is that in normal times I travel a lot, and quite often when I come home from a trip I get what feels like early cold symptoms. Maybe it’s a change in air, maybe it’s travel exhaustion, who knows. But the thing to note is that a tickle in my throat is by no means uncommon.

So of course, for about an hour I was convinced I was going to die, wheezing away in an iron lung.

In this case, a quick and rational internet search actually helped suppress rather than inflate my anxiety. I read something that said if you have a scratchy or sore throat that feels better after clearing your throat, that’s allergies or something. The kind of sore throat you get with COVID hurts so much that you don’t want to clear your throat.

Well, I was clearing my throat like there’s no tomorrow, so that made me feel better, and indeed the yucky feeling passed, as it typically does, in a few hours. But still, it was a reminder of why we still play it safe and take all recommended precautions. We might be learning to live with this thing in some ways, but at the end of the day the virus still scares the bejeezus out of me and I don’t want anyone I know to get it.

We are going to be laying low for a little bit after our recent adventures. Maybe I’ll use the time to say a bunch of Hail Marys to see about shaving a few years off my inevitable stint in Purgatory.

I do believe that there are reasonable things we can tiptoe out and do, but it is so important to do them carefully. You do that, too. Please stay safe out there, darn it. Wear those masks. Distance. Wash hands. I’d love to hear about the small, but safe, steps out that others are taking, so please share!