It’s hard to put into words what these days have been like. Here are some that some to mind – terrifying, panic inducing, stomach churning, awful. Scary. Unimaginable. Sometimes I just stare at my calendar and try to make sense of it all.
When did I first hear about coronavirus and realize it was spreading all over the world? And when, exactly did life change so completely? Also, will this be our new normal, can we EVER go back to the way things were? Will it forever be Before Coronavirus and After?
I recall everything I’ve been up to for the past month and it just overwhelms me with sadness. It feels like I was saying goodbye to an old life but didn’t know it yet. And I pray to be wrong about that feeling, but that’s what it feels like right now.
Can you pinpoint when you first realized the world was completely and irrevocably changing before your eyes?
For me it shifted around March 10th. I almost feel embarrassed to admit that because I know others had their lightbulb moment much earlier. I talk to my friends who are in mom groups online and I realize some of them have been quietly stocking up on canned goods and toilet paper since February. Some even earlier.
If you read my post about fibroids, you know I’ve been recovering from surgery since the end of January, expected to take 6 to 8 weeks of recovery time. This whole time I’ve been resting, healing and thinking about my life after the healing period. I’ve been literally counting down the weeks until the things I could be able to do again, the places I could go, being able to just be myself again and get back to the work of rebuilding Afrobella after 8 weeks of laying low. I had plans. This whole time I’ve been thinking – April will be awesome, I’ll be fibroid free, hopefully back to a better-than-ever normal and I can get back to life, back to reality. Looking back on that now seems so naïve and ridiculous and unaware.
You may recall that I was supposed to do another fibroid procedure,
because the first one didn’t work.
On Wednesday March 11th I emailed the uterine fibroid embolization office to say I was concerned because of the news about the virus, and to ask if my procedure was still planned for March 16th. I was told the hospital hadn’t cancelled any surgeries yet and it was gonna be fine. Basically, stop worrying, suck it up and get it over with because this is routine surgery that will help me feel better. Cool. I was told to continue to get the dietary things I’d need and prepare for an overnight visit to the hospital on Monday, and to arrive at 6:30 am on Monday ready for the procedure. I made my grocery list – on Sunday 15th I was supposed to be on an all liquid diet for 24 hours in advance of my surgical procedure on the morning of Monday, March 16th. OK.
On Thursday the 12th I had my 6-week post-myomectomy doctor’s appointment. I went down to the Magnificent Mile area of Chicago – busy as always, mad tourists, all the stores open and customers shopping away. My doctor’s office is out there in the middle of it all. Go see the doctor and she said my incision site was healing up nicely, yay! Looking great for 7 weeks post-op. She gave me the all clear for my Monday procedure. I mentioned my concerns about going to the hospital for a procedure and overnight visit with coronavirus so easily contagious and rapidly spreading. My doc dismissed those concerns and encouraged me to proceed with my uterine fibroid embolization treatment that was scheduled for the 16th. She said don’t be anxious, and that she herself would be in the hospital performing surgeries while I was there, so no need to worry. Alright.
So I literally left the doctor’s office thinking; well, the news says one thing but my medical staff all said this will be fine, and they’re in the trenches so they would know what’s best. We’re so close to the finish line. Let me stop being a worrywart and just go to Trader Joe’s up the street to get the things I need for a liquid diet so I’ll be ready for Monday morning coming. And that was my lightbulb moment.
I walked into Trader Joe’s off the Mag Mile and it was MAYHEM. I was scared to feel the energy in there. It felt like a hurricane was coming and it was simultaneously right before Thanksgiving and everyone was buying everything to stock up, carts piled high. A real every man for himself vibe. I just ducked into a corner to collect myself before trying to inch forward to buy anything. Shelves were emptying before my eyes. I came in specifically looking for liquids – clear soup, juice, their coconut turmeric drink (I’m obsessed) and those items were not only sold out, whole shelves were empty. Never seen anything like it. People were buying up EVERYTHING. I grabbed some of my usual snacks and got the hell outta there ASAP. Looking back, I wish I had bought two of everything.
Friday the 13th. We woke up on a mission. My husband and I got up early and went to Costco and two other supermarkets just to get basic supplies. Already things were selling out, things felt dire and desperate but at that stage there were no lines to get into the stores and we were able to get almost everything we needed. There was no toilet paper at Costco so we wound up finding it at Jewel and we only bought one pack, not wanting to hoard. Honestly again, wish I had bought two. Ah well.
We basically haven’t left the apartment since the afternoon of the 13th, except to throw out trash, check the mail, and my husband dropped our vote by mail envelopes across the street at the mailbox on Tuesday 17th. I’ve officially been self-quarantined since then and haven’t left the building at all. We have been self distancing from everyone in our building. The neighbor’s kids who typically run to me for hugs, now have to avoid all contact.
I’m physically fine, but I realize that this has been affecting me mentally.
I’m able to function, I wake up, get dressed, make breakfast, shower. I try to write and do Afrobella beauty work, sharing links that uplift and inform on my social platforms. But honestly, it feels futile and I’ve been struggling. I’m feeling depressed. I’m anxious. I’m glued to the news all the time again. I’m afraid for the future of the world and what will happen to us all. Not just in terms of health and battling the coronavirus crisis, but in terms of how our societies will be affected, how things might change forever. I’m usually good at finding silver linings and seeing light at the end of a tunnel, but right now so much feels so dire, on every level. It feels like we’re watching a disaster movie unfold in real time, and there’s nothing we can do but hunker down and figure out how to live through this.
I experienced the Trinidad and Tobago attempted coup of 1990 and I remember what it’s like to go to a supermarket and have to take turns, or find that the items you want aren’t there, or have to make do with whatever you can. I was very young but I remember what it was to know we had a state of emergency and a curfew enforced by the law.
After 9/11, I found myself hopelessly addicted to watching the news. Specifically Headline News, because I felt convinced that if anything were to happen that would be the first place to look. It took me years to stop watching Headline News whenever I could. I feel those anxious symptoms creeping back over me now.
I asked my mom and dad if they could think of anything like this, anything at all. They said no, nothing’s ever been like this. But then my mom mentioned WWII and knowing they needed a ration card to buy grocery items. This of course is different in so many ways, but that was as close as we could come for the comparison of feeling, of experiencing a world that’s changed from the normal so dramatically.
My tribe is a tribe of elders at this stage. Most of my immediate family is over 50 years old; my dad’s in his 70’s and my mom is 80. I am worried for my brothers, my sister, my mom, my aunties, my uncles. The borders to Trinidad and Tobago are closed now, so I couldn’t go home to visit even if I tried, and just the fact of that makes me unbelievably sad. It’s something I could never have imagined. But that’s an everyday occurrence now. Every day I see something on TV or read something I never dreamed would have happened. Soon I wouldn’t be surprised to see national flights within the USA come to an end or become almost impossible to get.
My city has issued a stay in place order and that’s what we will do. Today there was a really loud phone notification, alerting us that Chicago’s lakefront path and major parks would be closed because when the weather was warm, people were congregating like normal. That makes me so angry, the entitlement, ignorance and arrogance of people who still deny the science and seriousness of this pandemic, who still cling to the statement that this somehow was a political hoax (despite it happening on a global scale. Again, the arrogance).
I am thankful we have what we need to get by for now. But I’m worried about my health and that of my loved ones, my family and friends. I’m terrified about my income, this field of work was already shifting beneath my feet like tectonic plates and now everything feels out of sorts.
Already my husband and I are starting to hear of relatives of friends and friends of friends who are sick, or who have succumbed to the virus. Already I’m seeing Facebook status after status asking for prayer, help, jobs, support, donations for funerals ceremonies where a crowd greater than 10 won’t be allowed to gather. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I know friends who are pregnant, expecting to deliver soon and terrified they’ll be giving birth alone because their partners can no longer accompany them to the hospital. I know people who have lost their jobs, or seen a series of events and appearances get cancelled, leaving them to wonder how on earth they’re going to pay their bills or their taxes. Industries will be decimated by this.
I’m afraid for the results of this on our neighborhoods and communities.
I live near Chinatown and I hear that my favorite mom and pop restaurants have shuttered for the interim or indefinitely. That began to hit Chinatown harder and earlier than elsewhere, but it’s spreading, even to the fanciest restaurant rows in the city. And that’s just one industry, completely disrupted. We also live near hotels and boutiques and pet groomers, nail salons and hairstylists, bakeries and neighborhood coffee shops. All closed. All figuring out the new normal. I hope we can all recover. I know life will resume someday, but we don’t know exactly when. And I say the new normal because I believe a lot will change just because now we know this is a thing that can happen. We’re all so much more aware than we were before.
During this time of stay-at-home self quarantine, opportunities will be scarce and budgets are going to be tight.
I fear a spike in abuse and violence, in terms of domestic battery, in terms of child abuse, in terms of animal abuse. I fear shortages and use of military force. I’m super worried about our elections – this upcoming one is SO vitally important. What I see on the news every day scares, shocks and dismays me to the core. We need a significant change. We deserve so much better than what we’ve got right now.
Part of what I’m also feeling is grief. Grief for my own personal, small reasons. Grief for global reasons. Grief for the normal we once knew and took for granted. Grief because I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel where we’re all able to congregate in large groups without fear in the future. I pray to be wrong about my fears.
I’m carrying around all this fear and grief, and then I visit Instagram and it feels like a world apart. There, my peers are doing dancing challenges and wearing beautiful dresses and hosting online happy hours and conferences and putting on makeup and doing skincare routines and hair tutorials. Watching feels like peering through a window into a world Before Coronavirus. I want to join the party. I think the party is very necessary right now. But at the moment, I don’t know how. I’ll get there. It’s just taking me more time.
How am I dealing with this right now? I think I could be doing better. Honestly right now I’m just trying to figure out how to make sure I take a shower every day and exercise a little to boost my spirits and just stop watching the news quite so closely, to keep my blood pressure down. Regrettably, insomnia has been keeping me up late at night. I’ve been having bad dreams. I wind up taking unexpected naps during the afternoon that disrupt my productivity.
In an effort to escape the headlines and social media, I’ve been cooking and baking more. We’ve planted seedlings of kale and spinach and lettuce. I’ve been reading more (will be sharing those details soon). I’ve been watching escapist TV and movies, and my husband and I have been listening to a LOT of music. In fact the title of this post is a song that’s been dancing around my head since the anxiety ratcheted up. The Police, off their great album Zenyatta Mondatta – When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Still Around.
It was written by Sting for an album released in 1980 and is about being the survivor of some kind of apocalyptic event… but that main sentiment and title linger with me. That’s what I’m trying to do.
I’m depressed and sad and working through a lot right now, but my intent is to use this time to improve my health, my mind, and lean into my purpose. I think I know what that means now more than ever before.
The world is running down. How can we make the best of what’s still around?
Please share your ideas with me. And how you’re feeling. Are you OK?