We Are All Simone Biles

I don’t know about you, but I totally identified with Simone Biles this summer and her decision to pull out of the Olympic competitions due to psychological overload. I felt her, 100%, and I also felt the zaftig French archer who spoke of his emotional difficulties during the pandemic. Let’s face it, Covid is still with us. (And as a result, many of us, myself included, are a bit more zaftig these days!). The virus has only slightly diminished; but, due to all the raging Covidiots, we may plummet right back into our caves yet again. 

It’s not quite time to celebrate our freedom, but maybe it IS time to take stock of where we’ve been this past year and a half and how we’re doing NOW. Personally, I’m not great. I occasionally take off my mask when I’m out walking, but then I find myself surrounded by maskless carefree young’uns, laughing and shouting right in my face with their beer and onion breath, and I remember about the Delta variant….so I pull my mask back up and make a beeline for my go-to place: home on the sofa — isolated, alone, and hopefully safe. 

My partner Suz and I are both vaccinated, but we’re also both over seventy. And Suz continues to battle urothelial cancer while undergoing immunotherapy treatments that keep her chronically immuno-compromised. Just recently our son and his wife decided to venture forth with their two children by flying to Florida, renting a beach house with in-laws, and celebrating a return to normalcy. They got home just in time to test positive for Covid. At least the two adults were vaccinated, and none of them got seriously ill, but…Sheesh! And now our daughter, who also had to homeschool her nine-year-old for the past year and a half while working from home full-time, has started to suffer emotionally, mentally, and physically. Dental problems with severe pain were just a bridge too far. We’re worried sick about her. And now the whole country is starting to send all of our children back to school — you know, the kiddies who aren’t vaxxed at all yet — right when the hospitals are filling up again. 

This pandemic has been going on for a long time, and it’s hard. Really hard. Let’s admit that we’ve all been through the wringer and that our patience is running out. And then let’s pat ourselves on the back for our courage. Let’s also admit that we’re still going through a stressful time, and that it’s hard to heal when we’re still being kicked in the shins! 

And then we watched the Olympics. All of us, all over the world, had been anticipating this celebration of human achievement… But Japan was having a resurgence of Covid, the athletes’ parents weren’t even allowed to sit in the bleachers to support them, and all of them had to train in isolation during this past Year from Hell. Maybe it’s all just too much. 

Maybe we should all follow Simone’s brave decision to take a step back, to nurture ourselves, and to venture forth at a slower, more mindful pace. Ms. Biles showed us that while it’s wonderful to celebrate our gifts it’s also essential to pay attention to our needs by putting our mental, emotional, and physical health on the front burner. We don’t need to be afraid, embarrassed, or hesitant to acknowledge that we’re worth it. And again, let’s acknowledge what a challenging time we’re still going through. 

So hey, y’all! It’s not quite Prime Time yet. But let’s hold on, because it will be.

Mary Groce is an advocate, writer, speaker, artist and retired harpist and vocalist. She lives with her partner, Suz Atlas, at the John C. Anderson LGBT Friendly Apartments in Center City.