My Tango with COVID

My relationship with COVID has been complicated from the start. January 2020: Pouring my 7 month pregnant self into an Uber at John’s Hopkins to go back to my hotel (where I was living while my husband lived {if you can call it that} in the hospital), while dragging a new work bag with wheels because I refused to lessen my workload while in crisis – I chatted with driver about this virus. We had both heard the whispers of cases at Hopkins. And I thought, well it can’t get worse…. Life continues and in February our decisions around hospice boiled down to would Danny live to see Shannon born. The question would be yes, he was alive, but the pandemic had arrived and he was not even allowed to go to the hospital (and would be many days before he could hold her)… To masks becoming a thing sometime between my arrival for induction and “it’s time to push”. That was just the start.

Thanksgiving 2019

COVID and I would fight for coming up to 20 months as it kept loved ones away during my maternity leave, wreaked havoc on my professional industry, and played a heavy hand in the trauma of transplant #2. It has lead to a loss of respect in friends… in our government… and distancing from communities that at one time had meant so much to how I identified myself. So much loss in the world… .in my corner of the world, including life as I knew it. And then 3 weeks ago we met officially face to face as the doctor said: you tested positive.

In Quarantine trying to avoid catching it October 2021

The physical, mental and emotional toll it took on me I am not ready to unpack completely. What I can say is before I had it, it changed everything and after I had it – it again changed everything. Because of a variety of circumstances from being in quarantine with Shannon prior to getting it (manage her all day while working and work at night, averaging 4-5 hours of sleep), to working on the healing from all the change – I went into my COVID battle extremely stressed, very worn down and it showed in how it affected me. I am still very much in recovery. And eventually when things started to turn around day 10 and then even better day 14 and so on…. It seemed this chapter had an end in the distance, while at the same time knowing a whole new story was going to be written.

In her works wearing a mask us what the big kids “get to do” so she always tries to copy October 2021

Following my COVID tango I questioned everything. There is not one aspect of my life that has not been touched. So much of my adult life I lived with the reality of death as very regular part of it… and yet having the illness battle be my own… it made quite the impression. My world could be over tomorrow… tonight… in 5 minutes: and have I been living it well? Did I love Shannon in all the little moments? Did I soak up what it is like to hold her? Will I be able to remember her little voice pleading “Mommy, Mommy” for me to watch her dancing or see what her doggy is doing? What about when she grabs my leg or finds me at night under the comforter of my bed – do I really feel it? Those are the big things… and do I treat them that way? Do I do my very best to not let life distract me and relish them? And what about the little stuff? I have the luxury of choices for dinner…. Know what it’s like to have thirst quenched… life may sometimes leave me dog tired and yet I have a warm cozy bed to crawl into… And do I savor the gifts of life? When did I last absorb a sunset…. Take in a big breath of fresh air…. Taste a crispy apple? These are the sort of things that are such a blessing and so obvious to bring up as a reason to pause and engage in life – but do I?

Able to up & our for a little fresh air a few days in – Shannon insisted Baby say “cheese” too November 2021

The thing that hit me hardest about meeting COVID was the uncertainty of what it will do to me and for how long. The frustrations COVID had brought to my world before having it, could often be worked around with effort and attitude, yet neither could be utilized in actually having COVID, just had to get through it. When I did come out of the wait for the hardest battle to be over, the linger effects, the exhaustion, the mental battle and emotions this illness brought up was the motivation to ask these questions of myself and then to truly answer them.

When we finally were trying to get back to life, it required our fav animal print to give us strength! November 2021

I have been surviving life and sometimes that is all I could do and some days that was plenty…. But do I want that for all my days? Life has already shown me that extremes have to learn to coexist: the last time I remember feeling confident in the future was Thanksgiving 2019. At week’s start all felt so good and by the end, when Danny would call me from a hockey tournament in Ohio to say he was not sure he could even make it home and may have to go to the hospital there. That was the moment my life started to change and has not stopped since. And yet, I have had some of the greatest joy imaginable with Shannon. Living with both is….well it is living.

Finally able to get dressed & ready for at home church while we quarantined post COVID November 2021

And so with living, again what about all those questions on living well? The answer: Well they were pretty clear: time to change and there is life beyond my worries and wondering. There is hope, healing, peace and joy and it’s up to me to truly find them. The interesting part is this time, I would not be able to do it my way: buy a new notebook, make a bunch of color coded lists, read books all about it, and then stay up long hours to try implementation. I am too tired, too weak and needing to recover too much for that. So how? Maybe the greatest change of all: My therapies has said over the past few months if you can’t love someone with the love of Jesus, the second best thing is to infuse peace to them and the situation.* If that advice works for people, what about my life? Aren’t there aspects of it, challenges within it, and frustrations throughout that leave me lacking total love for it? Yup….. but if I infuse peace in the rough spots could that smooth them out? Yes.

Shannon thinks Halloween is wearing spooky PJs & neighbors dropping off a bear & candy for her and homemade soup for the rest October 2021

So peace into my life and I have come out with these realizations.
1 – My past is not gone or changed because where life is now. Having peace with the roads life has taken me and where I find myself is vital. Plus, I know through that personal journey I have found peace, love, joy and hope in the crazy hard. Honoring and loving the past reminds me this time is no different and I can find all these things in my reflection back, my visions for future, but most important in the place I stand right now. (I will say this realization is also result of hard work in prayer, on self, in therapy….not an easy fix and I would recommend resources for this sort of work)

Shannon long awaited return to school was very welcome & her teachers said she was so excited to see everyone & of course for a cupcakes November 2021

2 – There are a lot of idols in my world that I have clung to as necessary, defining of who I am, and an indicator of having a good future: enslaved to being busy, dedicated to perfection, and indulgent of self pity. I have clung so hard to these things that when COVID most certainly blew them I up, I thought I was done for…. when COVID calmed enough and I could start to return to life and yet I was still too weak and exhausted to be 150% back, I had to look at these things that were causing me such stress by not being able to engage in them and ask which ones matter and which ones had taken enough already. Perfectionism and busy weren’t able to be on my list and self pity had already been on rerun for quite a long time – spoiler alert: no peace there. So I have infused peace and am learning to let them go with God as my guide. (For all of you with those red bubbles on your phone that contain high numbers indicating lack of attention, I would formally like to apologize for my judgement and introduce myself to the group: My name is Jackie and I am not going to get to zero everyday.

During Shannon’s entry into the world masks became a thing… nurses started my induction with no masks and by the time we all met Miss Shannon, masks were present March 2020

3 – There is so many little things in my life that bring me peace and joy, going without them during COVID made me realize how important it would be to start hyper focusing on enjoying them. I can pick up Shannon, I can go to sleep praying to God and have peaceful dreams (not the ones that tormented me during COVID sleep), and maybe most exciting of all I have the ability and an enjoyment of learning. I have to stop looking at things and saying “that is not my area or I am not good at that part of adulting” – because I can learn enough about anything to care for Shannon and I daily life. In fact after not having the strength to do things and wanting to not feel limited by them, I have found a bunch of new solutions that never crossed my mind as “for me” (welcome Home Chef). I am reminded over and over again in the power of being able to get out of bed and figure things out…what a gift.

Being back to more of myself, I am trying to soak up so much of my dreams that came true: a little girl to match with November 2021

COVID has felt like a stifling of life …. The ending for life of many… and that is what I have to recognize: not for me. I have not lost life, it has just been changed and as result of so many hard things. It’s not a failure… it has not ended life… it has just what can be found further down my path. COVID came when I needed healing, a new outlook, and a chance at peace – and in the strangest way it has demanded it. I do not have the stamina to live the way I used to…. and it made me ask why I would really want to. Nothing is moving fast over here (another new) and I am having to figure out what this all means piece by piece, but for the first time in a long time instead of feeling like its gluing a vase back together that was broken into a million pieces, it feels little more like filling the cracks with some soft glue to just round out the sharp parts. I am not broken… I am just human and God has deemed me worthy enough to remain continually learn how to be the best human I can. For that I am grateful and you know? For COVID I actually am too.

We made it through & have a lot of changes… but her try out as my assistant did not change our daycare plans October 2021

Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!

*My therapist has seen me since 2016 and is Catholic – she is a huge blessing in my life and I can’t say enough good things about the value and importance of getting help if you need it and if they share the same values, the connection is life giving.

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