Testing my patience

“Just go get tested – for your own peace of mind.” Those were my husband’s words last week, the morning after I had developed a sniffly, runny nose. I was debating whether or not to get tested for COVID-19. I had a few other minor symptoms but didn’t really feel ill. I hated the thought of “wasting” a test on a healthy person. However, after filling out the screening questions on the “Check My Symptoms” website, I received a text message indicating that I should “consider getting tested” to help slow the spread of the disease in the community. I think the fact that I work in a health center tipped the scales in my favor.

I called my primary care physician’s office first. They were not testing but I was transferred to the triage nurse/screening hotline. After talking with the nurse, she agreed that I should get tested. She made me an appointment later that day at an urgent care affiliated with their office. The test was quick and easy (just a quick swab in the nostril versus the kind that invades your upper nasal cavity). I was happy to hear this test had a 24-hour turnaround. The PA did a quick exam of my ears, nose, and throat and listened to my heart and lungs. She also seemed to doubt I was positive but we both agreed it was best to err on the side of caution given the number of asymptomatic positive cases.

I of course went straight home to self-quarantine until I received my results. I tried to keep my distance from my family, but honestly, we all figured if I was positive, they had already been exposed so it seemed somewhat futile. Knowing that a positive test would mean a call from a contact tracer, I decided to start making a list of all the places I had been and all the people I had been around in the last 14 days. This was no easy task, but with the help of my calendar and credit card receipts, I started putting together the pieces of the puzzle. We were (are) still staying home for the most part, other than me going to work and the grocery store. However, we had ventured out to see my father-in-law and his wife over Father’s Day weekend and more recently, had been to a small, family-only gathering for my daughter’s sixteenth birthday – which included some extended family members from out of town. Ugh. I was already dreading the calls I would have to make if I tested positive.

Fortunately, I did not have to make those calls. Early the next morning, I received an email that I had new test results waiting in the portal. My stomach was in knots as I logged into my account and then seconds later, a huge sense of relief when I read the word “negative.” My husband and I both let out a celebratory “yippee” and went to tell my daughter who was still sleeping. She was just relieved that she would not need to get tested! In hindsight, I think the runny nose was allergies, triggered by a quick trip to the pet store without first taking my medication. I felt fine through the rest of the day and the holiday weekend, during which I celebrated the freedom of not having to quarantine for two weeks.

But I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I had a client who was sick in bed with COVID-19 for almost 3 weeks. She said it was one of the worst illnesses she ever had. And I was absolutely gutted this week upon learning that Broadway actor (and husband and father to a one-year old little boy) Nick Cordero had died from complications of the virus after three months of battling for his life. He was 41 – six years younger than me. Healthy and strong, prior to contracting the virus. His case is just one example of how surreal this whole pandemic is, which brings me to the real point of this post:

Every positive case and every COVID-related death we hear about in the daily updates represents a human being. Someone’s parent, child, sibling, friend or other loved one. Which is why I get so frustrated and angry with the “covidiots” – the individuals who believe the virus is all a hoax. The ones who refuse to wear a mask out in public because it’s “inconvenient,” “uncomfortable” or worse, “an attempt to restrict my freedom and civil liberties.” [Insert eye roll here.] The young people standing shoulder to shoulder – sans masks – congregating in restaurants on weekends, with an “Oh well, if I get it, I’ll probably be fine” attitude. News flash! It’s not just about you. It’s about all of us, making simple sacrifices to protect those who are most vulnerable.

I know you’re tired of this pandemic and the safety precautions and restrictions that come along with it. I am too. I miss seeing my parents and other family members in person. I want to hug my friends. I long to go to the movies, eat at my favorite restaurants and my gosh, do I need to get away to the mountains for some R & R. But I don’t and I won’t for the foreseeable future because I know that doing so will just drag this whole thing out even longer. No one wants that, but it will be our fate if we all don’t work together and follow the recommendations to help slow the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine or a cure.

As of today, there are over 3 million cases of COVID-19 and over 130,000 deaths in the United States – many of which were probably preventable if the CDC safety guidelines had been followed. It’s really not that hard. Stay home unless you have to go to work, shop for essentials or want to get some exercise outside. When you do go out, please practice the three Ws:

  • Wear a cloth covering or mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Wait 6 feet apart. Avoid close contact when out in public.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.

Do it for me. Do it for you. Do it for all of us. But please, just DO it.

The Truth About the World

This isn’t a post about how I’ve figured out the meaning of life or why any of us were put on this earth. Rather, it is about a song, and more specifically, about the power of music – to lift us up, to carry us through, to help us heal in times of need.

I was recently introduced to the song “The Truth About the World” by Andrea Marie during a Saturday morning Zoom session with some local Nia sisters. To be honest, I couldn’t hear the song that well through Zoom but fortunately, I tagged it through the Shazam app. Later, I found the song through Apple Music and had a chance to listen more closely. And I was blown away.

The song starts with a simple blend of acoustic guitar and keyboard, with some soft, non-lyric vocals. Then comes the first verse:

Have you grown tired
of feeling alone
Numb to the earth
and numb to the soul

Whoa. My first thought was how these words struck a chord given that so many of us have been staying at home, social distancing since the pandemic started, leading to a sense of isolation – and a need for connection with loved ones, near and far. Then I learned that the song is from an album she released in 2016…and it made me think about how many people may have been feeling this way before the words “corona virus” became a part of the lexicon.

Over the next two verses, a variety of percussion instruments join in as well as some strings. A simple drum beat, echoing a heartbeat, growing louder as the song continues…and then we reach the repeating chorus:

Everyone is hurting
Everyone is searching
Everyone is looking
for the truth about love
For the truth about a god
For the truth about the world

On the fourth and final chorus, the instruments begin to drop out until it is just vocals and the drum beat. A simple end, mirroring the simple beginning to a song that is anything but simple in meaning. And so, so powerful. I have had this song on daily rotation for the last week – sometimes it makes me cry, other times it brings a sense of hope and healing. I was not surprised to learn that the artist is also a member of a contemporary worship band called United Pursuit. I don’t typically listen to “religious” music but there are times when music transcends faith.

Click here to listen to a live performance or search for the song on your favorite music streaming app.

Breathe in, breathe out

One of the self-care strategies that has helped me manage much of the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is a daily meditation practice. For almost four years now, I have started my day with Insight Timer, listening to either a guided meditation or meditative music. As anyone who practices mindfulness meditation knows, a mainstay of the practice is focusing on your breath as a way to stay anchored in the present moment. Perhaps now more than ever, I have come to appreciate the calming power of deep breathing.

In thinking about the breath, I had the idea about a month ago to create a playlist of songs that have to do with the breath or breathing. A few favorite songs came to mind and I also did a quick search in my music library. I started with the following songs, but plan to add to the list as I come across others that fit the theme – and contribute to my peace of mind, particularly on those days when I am feeling rattled by the state of the world. Lately, I have been listening to this playlist on Monday mornings, as a way to start off the week on a positive note.

“Breathe” playlist
I’m Alive (with Dave Matthews) – Kenny Chesney
Breathe (feat. Colbie Caillat) – Taylor Swift
breathin – Ariana Grande
Breathe – Michelle Branch
Catch My Breath – Kelly Clarkson

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to use music as a way to manage the roller coaster of emotions you may experience as this pandemic continues to unfold and evolve, with no clear end in sight. Find songs that will make you smile when you are feeling down, as well as those that will help you relax when you’re wound a little too tight. You can even throw in the ones that make you want to get up and move. Create your #pandemicplaylists and tap into the healing power of music.

Life, interrupted

I think it’s rather ironic that the title of my last blog post was “Preparing for the Unexpected” because, wow, I don’t think any of us could have really prepared for something as unexpected as the pandemic we are currently experiencing.

I know there have been rumblings among public health professionals for years that we could be susceptible to a pandemic such as this. But I think we – the general public – preferred to keep our collective heads in the sand and ignore those warnings. After all, we made it through SARS and MERS relatively unscathed. I will admit that we weren’t exactly blind-sided by COVID-19. I recall reading news articles about a novel coronavirus popping up in China late last year, but thinking it wouldn’t – couldn’t – have the same impact here in the US…

It has been about two months since my last post. I have to admit that as the public health crisis grew closer to home, there was so much going through my mind and yet I could not find a way to express my thoughts. Part of me was too busy struggling with how to handle everything within my own family. My husband had transitioned to working from home months before we ever heard of the coronavirus. My daughter’s school district closed facilities after March 13th, but I was still going into the health centers where I work – and it was creating tension at home.

My husband would jump on me to wash my hands as soon as I walked in the door – and soon after he started “social distancing” from me, out of an abundance of caution. I couldn’t really blame him as I wrestled with guilt about possibly being exposed at work and bringing the virus home to my family. I was relieved when my employer finally made the decision about a week later to allow us to work from home. But that brought its own challenges with finding a quiet, private place to coach clients and learning how to set boundaries between work and home now that it was all under one roof.

Once I started feeling a bit more settled, my thoughts turned to this blog and my monthly newsletter. I typically use my newsletter to share my blog posts, mindfulness events (mine or others) and local Nia classes and events. As March was rolling into April, I realized that I had no new blog posts and all in- person events and classes were cancelled indefinitely due to pandemic-related restrictions. For the first time in three years, I had nothing to share.

I thought about blogging every now and then, but I felt like I didn’t have anything new or different to contribute. Many health and wellness professionals have seized the opportunity to promote ways to stay safe or to maintain health habits in the middle of a pandemic. I did not want to just add noise to the already crowded landscape. However, something has shifted in me recently. I realized that this blog has been an outlet for me in many ways, a vehicle for creative expression – an itch I’ve needed to scratch for some time.

So, what does this all mean? A couple things:

  • Prior to the pandemic, I tried to publish one or two posts per month. You may see me blogging more…or less. It all depends on what I feel driven to write about (and making the time to do so.)
  • When I started the blog, my intent was to publish credible health and wellness-related content. I have tried to stick to the facts and minimize injecting too much of my own opinion. That may change some as I now see this blog as a tool to help me process the experience of living through a pandemic. I don’t plan to go totally off the rails but honestly, these last couple of months have given me a new perspective on life. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

As difficult as things are right now, I am trying to approach the situation with an open mind and a whole lot of patience. Not an easy thing to do when you feel like you are riding a roller coaster with no end in sight (especially when you don’t like roller coasters!) but I am going to do my best to survive the ride.