As predicted, this was a hard winter for most people around the globe. The third wave of COVID wreaked havoc and has taken a harsh toll on people physically and mentally. Yesterday, we kicked off our first day of Spring in the United States, and it felt like that in New York City. The parks were crowded. People lazed in the sun and soaked in the warm rays. I hope wherever you are that you are managing ways to bring sunshine into your life.
One year ago, the coronavirus tore a destructive path through New York City. It was new; there were lots of unknowns, and before many of us understood what was happening, we were sick. I wrote the following about what occurred to my family during that terrible period. The lone update I would add is how many friends and family have reached out to say that they would have helped us. I am grateful for them and each new day.
In Mid-March, right as New York City, coronavirus cases were starting to go off the charts, my wife and I became very ill.
It started the day after the Mayor declared a state of emergency, and the sickness ran for more than 45 days. Three weeks of that time were pure hell. Hallucinatory in some ways.
The sickness started with a slow windup – about a week of nose runs, fever, sore throats, and general weakness, but even then, it felt like nothing we had ever had before. I tele-healthed my doctor, and he said that we should stay home because if it was coronavirus, all you could do was “ride it out.”
The worst part of the illness occurred over four or five days. At this point, we were having trouble breathing and getting out of bed. Walking twenty feet from the bedroom to the kitchen felt like running a marathon. It came in intense waves that would ring us out.
We, of course, have children as well. Two beautiful daughters – 4 and 8. They became sick, but it only lasted a few days, and their symptoms were mild. My oldest was aware of what was happening. She learned about coronavirus in school and was also very cognizant of masks and the talk in the subway and street corners.
When we were at our most severe, she would try to make us get out of bed. If we got up, she thought that we would be okay. One day, she asked me if dying was good. I was confused by the question, but then she explained, “If dying isn’t good, why is it happening to so many people right now?” Crying, she told us that she didn’t want us to die.
My wife was much sicker than I was. While she didn’t get out of bed for four days or so, I could at least make it to the kitchen and take care of the kids (they watched a lot of Disney +). Her breathing became worse and worse and more labored. She tried sleeping with the pillows propped behind her, but that only helped minimally.
On the turning point night, I thought my wife would have to go to the hospital. It was dark outside, and her breathing stopped and started. At that point, we could no longer avoid discussing what might happen to the kids if we were hospitalized or worse. One of the insidious things about the coronavirus is that we couldn’t call our parents or friends to help. We were trapped. If we called our parents, we risked making them sick, and if we called our friends – who would want to endanger themselves or their families?
Luckily, my wife didn’t have to go to the hospital, and incrementally, we began to get better over the following weeks. Unlike other illnesses I have had, the coronavirus took at least an entire month to recover from.
As we got better, though, I was unable to sleep for nights at a time. I would get up regularly to make sure that everyone in the house was still breathing. This continued through the recovery, and I am still working on processing what happened.
A couple of things that were godsends during that period – I have been a regular meditator for many years, and at my lowest moments late at night, my mind would return to my father, who has been dead for ten years and the camping and fishing trips that we took every weekend of my youth. I guess that was when I felt my safest and most secure.
Our recovery has been long, but we are incredibly grateful for all that we have. There were multiple times when I was sick that I would think of my life and wonder how a boy from Oklahoma ended up stuck in the middle of a pandemic in New York City. I imagined a lot of scenarios in my life, but that one never crossed my mind.
Recent years have been a time of pressing questions for humanity. We stand at a historical junction where we can embrace an uncertain future or cling to a rose-colored past that is neither glamorous nor fair as some people desire to remember. Democracy is on a razor’s edge, autocrats are on the march, social unrest has reached a boil, and the earth cries out as climate change sends us warning after warning if only we would listen. And the pandemic, of course, has decimated lives, upended economies, and kicked disinformation into overdrive. None of the issues we face are tidy or will be resolved soon. For a world raised on neat and clear-cut stories, the thought that we may be in this for the foreseeable future is exhausting. It can leave you demoralized, beaten down, and paralyzed with indecision. Like many, I have also hit the pandemic wall. At times it feels like groundhog day with the same routine over and over.
Each of us processes these challenges in our own way. For myself, this has led me to reevaluate what my priorities are. My writing, for example, has continued sporadically, but all the issues stated above have taken precedence.
Last March, my partner and I contracted a severe case of COVID that went on for two months. There was roughly a week-long period where I wondered daily if we would make it through. The lingering effects of that sickness led me to be more grateful than before. It made me more aware of savoring each moment, whether playing with my children, taking a bike ride, or doing something as mundane as washing the dishes. I have by no means mastered this and probably never will, but I find myself trying more, and that is a start.
I come out of this time of contemplation with a stronger understanding of why I write and a greater responsibility to what I put into the world. I have finished a novel and hope to release it in the fall. I am recommitted to the work that I do, but also understand that I am only human and that it is okay to let go with no feeling of guilt. I don’t need to compare myself to others. The highest success is focusing on my own happiness and being committed to my family, friends, and striving to make the world better than it was before. As I mentioned, there are no easy answers, only the beginnings of understanding and what I hope will lead to wisdom.
What big questions have you struggled with over the last year? What answers have you found?