I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this morning. I arrived over twenty minutes early for my appointment and 10 minutes before they were scheduled to begin vaccinating and there was already a line winding through the entire second floor and down the stairs. I overheard a few of the nurses saying they would give over 500 shots just that day!
The process was efficient and painless, by far the easiest vaccine I have ever received in my life. I hardly even felt the jab! Afterward, I was congratulated and sent to wait in a room with around 20 other vaccine recipients to be monitored for severe reaction. I left with nothing more than a slight soreness in the upper arm and a lightness in my chest as a little of the fear I’d been carrying for over a year now lifted.
I’m thankful to be among the first to receive the vaccine due entirely to my occupation employment with a school district. I wish more of my loved ones would be eligible sooner rather than later, but besides my wife (who works for another school district) I will be the only one in my immediate family to be vaccinated until at least the summer.
I really wish the vaccine had been developed, approved, and distributed on a schedule just a month or even weeks faster. Maybe my grandmother would still be here. Maybe a lot of people would still be here…
I can’t let myself think like that, though. It’s hard enough living through the pandemic, and through winter, and without all the little things and people that used to bring me so much joy, without the addition of what ifs, regrets, and anger. I’ll save that for the summer.
The biggest question I walked away with after my vaccine, the one no one has an answer to yet, is how long the vaccine is effective for? I worry about losing immunity without knowing. I worry about variants that might outpace not only the vaccine but treatments too. I worry that this novel coronavirus will be with us a lot longer than we think, and with it that heavy burden of fear too.
It’s been nearly a year now since anything has felt normal and I feel like I’m beginning to forget what that old life, that old sense of joy and community, used to feel like.
There were some new glimmers of hope this week. A much missed coworker returned, small snatches of lost focus and passion were felt, and I scheduled my first dose of the COVID vaccine for this weekend. Perhaps just over the horizon is the relief I have been longing for since this time nearly a year ago. Perhaps things will finally get better this time.
Or perhaps things have only begun to feel better with time. It’s been so long since I was myself and life was the old normal that the new normal has become simply the normal normal now.
Albert Camus wrote in The Stanger: “After a while you could get used to anything.” I really believe that is true. Humans feel happiness or misery by contrasts, and the available emotions are growing quite flat. Or maybe it’s only that a small subset of emotions has overwhelmed and engulfed nearly the entirety of everyday life, leaving nothing for the personal pains of ordinary human existence.
My little losses, though great to me, are only drops in the ocean of despair we’re all swimming in, and somehow that makes it even harder to process. My pain blends into the background. My pain hardly even exists.
I wonder, once we are through with this great collective and connective grieving we’re going through now, if there might be an equally weighty but personal and private grief waiting behind it for each of us to bear alone?
I’ve been feeling stuck again. I’ve been feeling lost and when I go in search of direction by retreating into my mind expecting to meet that old chatter of questions and conversation I used to hear nearly constantly, I’m instead met with near complete silence.
I cry out into that dark ether asking: Is anyone is there? Can anyone can hear me? Can anyone can help me?
In response, I catch only fragments. Parts and pieces of sentences and thoughts with no context or meaning I can decipher. I think all the parts and personalities I’m made of are tired. I’m physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.
And I am sure I’m not the only one. The pandemic coupled with never ending political infighting has left us all groping not just for meaning, but connection and change too. Something has to get better and in order for that to happen, someone has to give sometime.
We’d all hoped 2021 would bring the relief without requiring the usual work. We deserved it after all, right? I know I felt I did, but it turns out the new year has not meant a magical new me and certainly not a magical new life.
Of course I knew this deep down, but I will admit I expected at least one thing to get better. Instead, everything has only gotten worse and worse.
No, I don’t really think that’s true. I’ve just become far too focused on the negatives and blind to all the positives. I have so much love and support that even if times are a bit stressful and I’m turning into a bit of a mess, at least there are hands to hold the load with me. At least there is love to lift me back up.
Life is getting easier day by day. I woke up with more energy than I’ve had in weeks, though the various aches and pains are still present. I was able to mark a few things off my to do list, catch up in my journal and planner, and make time for a podcast or two.
Of course, it all took twice as long as I needed frequent breaks to rest and refocus my mind. This may be my new normal going forward, at least until I can get my physical and emotional strength back to where I was—or better!
Over the past weeks I’ve added and adjusted an extensive and strict schedule of medication, meals, and supplements that I hope will lead to not just continued but accelerated healing. It’s a lot to keep track of. It’s a lot of pills and powders. It’s setting alarms and timers and goals. It’s keeping track of every meal and ounce of liquid that passes your lips or passes out of you.
Chronic illness is has become more than a condition, or a burden, slowly, it’s becoming a perspective, a lifestyle, an identity.
I had a bad morning, but I don’t want to write about that. I don’t want my whole day defined by it. A week, a month, a year from now I don’t want to look back and remember only what went wrong.
There is still good to find and still good to do. The blue sky is always there.
The core of the issue is my recent struggle to wake up with my alarm, before the sun and the rest of the house. Waking with everyone else means sharing my time and space and I like having time to call my own and space I can do whatever I want however I want.
But these hours of peace are actually about so much more than being in silence or being alone. These hours are made of more than intangible time, they are physical, solid, and substantial too. I can feel them as space. I can touch them, hold them, and run my fingers and my mind through them.
I’m in love with the tranquility that the morning twilight brings before the day’s activities and expectations begin and being away from it for these past few weeks has left me guilt ridden and, in a way, lonely.
Without those hours there is no time in which I can find to connect deeply with myself, the one who knows and understands me best.
I lost someone I love very much yesterday. A woman who was greatly influential in the course of my life. A woman who, without that influence, I may not be here. Maybe not in this space specifically, and maybe not at all.
This woman, an only child who founded a family totalling in the several dozens at least in children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I was her first grandchild, and she was not ashamed to call me her favorite. I acknowledge the unfairness of my status and I admit fully the joy this privilege brought me my entire life.
This woman showed me the purest love I have ever known. It was a love that had no expectation. A love as close to unconditional as this world has ever seen. I could do no wrong in her eyes and somehow that only made me want to try harder to be good, to be better, to just be me.
I wish everyone could have that kind of love in their lives. I wish everyone could have a vibrant, wild, kind, funny, and wise grandmother like mine. I wish I could have felt that kind of love for a bit longer myself.
Today is a new day! Today a weight left my chest, and a tension left my shoulders. I’m a little less afraid. I’m a little less angry. I’m a little less hopeless.
Today there is a new leader of the free world was sworn in and he is one whose values and vision for this country and its many and diverse peoples are closer to something that looks like progress, unity, care, and compassion.
I’ve been waiting four long years and to be honest, I had so little faith in my fellow compatriots that I still can’t believe it happened.
I don’t believe everything will be peace and perfection for the next four years. Neither Biden nor Harris were my top choices to take the reins and lead us through this time of recovery and resolution, but the more I have thought about it and the more I have considered strategy, I think the best candidates won in the end.
The office of the presidency should be one of centrism. The President, after all, must represent all Americans and not just the right Americans, the real Americans, the Americans who elected him and constantly threaten his political future.
Biden wasn’t the right choice for me, but I have a feeling he’s the right choice for us all.
These past couple of weeks have been hard on me. The work week was more than I could handle and on top of new medications and new side effects plus returning fatigue and recurrent pain, there was nothing left of me for me.
It was harder to adjust from my light quarantine work schedule to full work days. I hadn’t done much past noon, or past Wednesday to be honest, in months, and suddenly I was being asked to stay later and do it all. I’m proud of myself for making it through with minimal mistakes or complaints.
I’m working on getting through tasks I find difficult, undesirable, or uncomfortable by just doing them and getting them over with. The longer I stall and the louder I complain I only succeed in prolonging the pain and proving to be a loathsome person to work with. No, it’s better to put on a smile, put one foot in front of the other, and focus on a job done well and quickly.
I think I succeeded in that goal at least, and now that the long weekend away has arrived, I can let the anxieties and grievances of the past five days go. I definitely deserve some “me time” but sadly there is very little to carve out today. So, I am staking a claim to these few and fleeting minutes to catch up on notes and to-dos from the past week and through the next.
There will be more time tomorrow and the day after that and in the weeks to come my calendar should lighten and give breadth and breath to life outside of work and rest.
I’ve never had a Friday feel less like a Friday than this Friday did. In fact, this Friday felt more like a Monday than most Mondays do.
All employees returned to work at once for the first time since the beginning of November and it was…overwhelming. Of course everyone wants to know how you have been, how you spent your holidays, how is your family, and how you have been coping. It’s fine if you have one, or two, or even 10 coworkers, but to have 50 or more stop you for the same stories is exhausting.
Thankfully, there are quiet corners to retreat into and solo tasks that keep me busy and keep the others at bay.
I’m feeling a little down on myself. Looking back over my journal and planner, I can see I’ve failed to meet a lot of my goals this week. It’s been hard with my health in decline again and with work ramping up. I know I shouldn’t have expected to be perfect, but I did expect to do better. I spent too much time on my phone playing games and doomscrolling Twitter.
And how could I not? After the week we’ve had in this country, I think it’s probably entirely understandable that I struggled to feel motivated or focused on my goals or my work. Of course, when the world is falling apart, your willpower and willingness decline. Your priorities shift. Your needs shift.
I’m trying hard to remember that even without the dystopian images on the screen and the hopelessness creeping in, it is only the first week of the year and no one is expecting me to work so hard but me. I’m trying to remember that there is more to life than check marks and time blocks and even if I didn’t read or write as much as I wanted, I did laugh and I felt loved and maybe some weeks that’s more important than the work.
Emotionally, I’m still reeling from the news of riots in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I’m finding it hard to tear myself away from news outlets and social media platforms, as I feverishly seek out visuals and first-hand accounts in a quest to understand how and why this has happened. I’m trying to process how violent and vulnerable we’ve turned out to be.
I don’t think any of us should expect to be productive in any way today.
When my thoughts aren’t on yesterday, they are running ahead to tomorrow. I keep thinking it’s Friday and that I have no time at all left to prepare for the next work week. When I remember it’s only Thursday, I find myself disconnected and idling. The panic returns quickly when I realize I’ve been distracted and I scrabble again only to lose interest once I remember I’m getting a day ahead again.
It’s not exactly anxiety I’m feeling, but something more like excitement. Tomorrow all of our employees return to work as a sort of practice day before the kids return next week and while part of me isn’t yet ready to give up the peace and quiet, part of me needs a little more noise and chaos to feel alive.
I wish I was being given a little more time to ease into the return to normalcy. It’s been so long that it doesn’t feel like the old boring routine I once thought it was. Instead, I’m going to have to hit the ground running come Monday. It’s probably better this way. This way I’ll have less time to think, to worry , to find reason to object, to fight, to fail.