The Irony of COVID and Me
Paranoia to cautiousness — all degrees of wariness failed the same
I originally looked at COVID-19 as one does an asteroid from a telescope: from a distance, confident that — even if it approached — it would shrivel into a raisin before ever coming close to me. I was a skeptic, convinced that the media was stirring up a ruckus over some foreign virus in a ploy for profit.
“So, what do you make of this COVID thing?”
“Well, it’s coming soon,” my friend replied. An intensive care doctor, he delivered the harsh truth sans sucre. “It’ll be here sooner than we expect — closer than we expect.”
His wife, an obstetrician, nodded with the sunset of mid-March revealing only a silhouette of her face.
It is remarkable how right they were; for in eight months time, the virus would indeed find its way from China, crossing oceans to reach New Jersey and, at last, my lungs.
Cabin fever at boiling point (4/2020–8/2020)
I am now convinced I was mentally diseased at some point. After all, what sane person could possibly survive April through August without envy for all the sunbathers and Sunday morning strollers he witnessed on Facebook and out his window? Yes, in those all too few warm months of the year, I had refrained from grazing the Jersey Shore with so much as a toenail. Instead, I waited — incubated by the four walls of my tiny bedroom brewing patience, but what most would probably call a disturbing paranoia of the outdoors.
Even as the government gradually lifted the lockdown, my patience wavered not. My untame head of hair waited an extra few months to be groomed, while my muscles grew stiff from disuse.
What great effort did not prevail without great patience? I reasoned.
Acceptance and adaptation (9/2020–10/2020)
There came a point where it was no longer socially acceptable to use the pandemic as reason to reject invitations. I had long past that point; however, some lingering shard of my former self warned me to go outside or truly lose myself to my fears. Thus, I revealed myself to a new world— a world where the pandemic was still claiming lives nearby, though at a rate tolerable to my mental inhibitions.
While monitoring local statistics, I committed to a weekly outing with a single friend at a time, and otherwise went out at most to fetch groceries or take-out. I was cautious even when it wasn’t fashionable.
Yet, in retrospect, the surrounding indifference was contagious too. I even ventured off on a train to the former epicenter of New York, confident in my cautiousness as well as in the idea that I should accept this “new normal.”
Denial and patience once more (11/2020–Present)
I never questioned my English ability more than when I read my COVID-19 test results. “Detected” — the word seemed as doubtful as I was. After all, by the time I read this report, I had already returned to my hermetic ways — shunning social interactions in light of record-breaking transmission rates. I was confident in my cautiousness.
Where and how? these most interesting and impossible of questions visit daily. One entertains such questions usually to ward off the tedium of quarantine and to reach some satisfactory resolution. Meaningless all the same, of course, once the symptoms become convincing enough.
And so, as my body grows weary, my denial quiets into acceptance. Friends and colleagues reassure me that I have youth on my side, but I still look out at this week as one does a cave with an oil lamp: unsure. Equipped with little else, I return to patience again, convinced that great efforts prevail through great patience.