boundary moments

this is a boundary moment, and i want to make a brief offer into it.

a few weeks ago my partner and i got our first vaccine shots. immediately we felt different, and began renegotiating our own individual covid-19 boundaries in new ways. after over a year of Everything Is Dangerous And We Must Be Inside These Walls, we had/have no measure for what is normal, what is safe, or if safe is even possible.

i felt safe-ish taking risks to be with family. my love felt safe-ish taking risks to be with friends. neither of us was necessarily right or wrong, but we both felt the other was risking too much, and those feelings grew into a sticky situation.

i am sharing this because since this pandemic started, i keep noticing that we are all trying to navigate collective boundaries as individuals or pairs, because we live in an economy of hyper-individualization. but it’s so hard to navigate this way because as Sistah-Dr Alexis Pauline Gumbs teaches: we aren’t individuals. we are cells in an interdependent highly connected species.

it would be so amazing if the information was clear, and safety was guaranteed, and we could just live inside the boundaries as a species, rather than as a million different risks. but we are here, and now. what i want to offer is what my love and i eventually landed, which is helping. (this is u.s.-centered because that is the context in which i am navigating covid-19 boundaries, with the availability of vaccines now fairly high in most places, but without a majority of people accessing the vaccine yet.)


one, review the CDC guidelines on vaccinated behavior. it really helps to not have to debate over things that are known, like ‘don’t change your boundaries until you are fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot,’ or ‘where and when you can be unmasked with other vaccinated people,’ etc.

*Update: i am a bit at a loss with the latest guidelines from the CDC (for those fully vaccinated to stop wearing masks). i don’t grasp the logic and collective responsibility of it.

two, agree on boundaries for this next period. prentis hemphill told us, ‘boundaries are the distance at which i can love me and you simultaneously.’ you can just accept the cdc guidelines, or you can do cdc guidelines with some flourishes that are particular to your health vulnerabilities and needs.

remember, boundaries are more meaningful when you discuss the consequences of what happens if a boundary gets broken, so get that clarity too – apologies? rapid testing? another brief quarantine? rolling back to earlier boundaries?

spend some particular time on any particular adaptations you may need based on your personalities. this ‘personalities’ part is really important – we have forgotten a lot about how to be social animals. being quarantined together means that many of us have been in a house with our person or family, operating as one creature. with this shift of increasing vaccination, our biodiversity will start showing again: for some of us, there is comfort in the highest boundaries; people beyond our pair or pod seem like a terrifying untrustworthy danger. for others, the need to be free and out and normal is a pounding drum within. many of us feel both things…and there’s everything in between. don’t underestimate the social impact of this boundaries moment. don’t assume you need the same things, and don’t pathologize the divergent responses you are each having to impossible pressures.

discuss what you personally need in this transition into the next phase of the u.s. pandemic. do you need to see everyone you love, immediately? do you need to go really slowly? do you need to keep wearing masks until there is more data? do you need to see vaccination cards for anyone you’re gathering with? do you need to understand better how the vaccine actually works? both/all people reflect on and share your needs, and then find the path that is most nourishing to both/all needs.

three, organize, advocate and donate to ensure that more people worldwide have access to the vaccine. what is unfolding in india is devastating, and we in the u.s. are benefitting from their labor, which produced vaccines that they haven’t been able to access. you can support mutual aid efforts there right now. and they aren’t the only place struggling to survive covid with little to no vaccine access – areas already struggling in conflict, occupation, war and economic collapse all need our collective attention. we are not individuals. we have to make sure that everyone who wants this protection can access it.

finally, four, love and protect each other every day. i saw a meme on the internet posted by @hillarydixler that said, “everybody needs more than anyone can give right now.” we are burnt out and overextended at the level of species, and we do not know all that people are holding. channel octavia e. butler’s earthseed wisdom: “kindness eases change.”