Perhaps we triumphed over the pandemic, but most importantly is the personal transformation. Photo: Adobe Stock

Bob Dylan’s iconic song “The Times they are a-Changin’,” written in 1964, was a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time. Seems to me that this song is still as relevant today with one little twist: The times they are a-changing — or not.

Spring is upon us and summer is running a close second. Springtime is synonymous with renewal and rebirth. And don’t we need it after living a pandemic lifestyle. Along with flowers blooming, bees buzzing and landscapers mowing, mask-shedding is becoming a reality for the fully vaccinated.

During the pandemic, lips have been largely out of sight and as masks come off, lipstick is making a comeback. Like some of my gal-pals, I had a mind-boggling array of lipsticks that have sat like little statues on a shelf for over a year.

When mask-shedding day arrived, I reached for my favorite lip color. Not only was it dried out, but my mirror reflected a cross between a cartoon character and a clown. Good lord! Slowly and deliberately, I applied each lipstick—and one by one they were tossed. Time to switch it up.

The pandemic played havoc with our daily lives. Some felt its impact more than others. My wings were clipped when my regular runs to the west coast to visit my family were restricted.

It was especially heartrending after the birth of Nova Malia. I did not lay eyes on my grand-baby for the first five months of her life — and even then, it was tricky. During my stay, regular family COVID testing became as necessary as water.

We are finally seeing the road signs pointing to the direction “normal.” My lipstick epiphany begs these questions: Do we really want to go back there? Have we learned anything?

When cruelty entered my life, I shattered like Humpty Dumpty. Unlike poor Humpty, I was able to put the pieces back together through prayer, self-reflection, and solitude. Utterly alone, and isolated, I found peace in loneliness. I wonder if my pre-COVID self could have managed as well?

I have always walked the beach, “my” beach. During the pandemic, I took myself out on daily adventures. I discovered little creeks and beaches I had not known existed.

During the freezing winter months, the beauty of the North Fork was incredible. (I know, I know, I’m weird.) I was prompted to pick up my camera and capture the natural world. A simple joy was born.

Most of us befriended technology and “reached out and touched someone” mostly through Zoom. I suppose it was better than nothing. Nowadays, I try not to cancel on my friends or take them for granted.

Like many, I attended church services on Zoom or YouTube. While it tended to my spiritual needs, I longed to be up close and personal with my church family. I missed the coffee hours where we would chat it up. Yet, pre-pandemic, I absented myself from said coffee hours in exchange for lesser things.

My heart is heavy with the dramatic loss of human lives. A friend succumbed to COVID, my brother was hospitalized for many weeks and both my son and daughter-in law contracted the disease.

Our country was struggling with grief-overload. The aura of death and sorrow permeated our air. Bereaved families are the secondary victims of COVID. Life taken for granted, is a sin against oneself, don’t you think?

As a retired health care professional, I have a keen understanding of what goes on behind the mask. During the pandemic, the front- line workers faced uncertainty and a heightened risk of infection. Their mask and emotional scars are self-evident.

The pandemic highlighted our dependence on “essential workers”—those who invisibly impact our lives. These vital workers were in a daily battle with an unseen and scarcely known enemy. It took a pandemic to earn the respect they always deserved.

Our police and firefighters are no strangers to high levels of stress. During the pandemic, the additional stress and the complexity of social distancing and wearing extra protective gear was part of being “on the job.”

Their world is law enforcement, yet they had to balance public safety and public health. Unfortunately, the behavior of some caused a backlash of mistrust for all law enforcement. Notice the difference in the words “some” and “all.”

The pandemic crippled our small local businesses. Some have closed; some are scrambling to stay afloat. Big box stores do not lend themselves to the extra care — as a matter of fact, they would not care if we never returned.

During this long season of COVID, I have relearned what love really is. Feelings of gratitude, humility and my faith have kept me buoyant. Making a conscious choice to turn away from my dawn to dusk busy-ness has enabled me to embrace simpler pleasures.

We have free will to make our own choices. Perhaps we triumphed over the pandemic, but most important is the personal transformation. That, folks, is the real triumph.

Albert Camus writes: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.”

Yup, times they are a-changin’. Maybe, it is time to recalibrate what we consider normal.

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Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.