When I got the call I was sitting at my desk, two days before my flight home for the holidays.
“I tested positive for Covid. You should probably get yourself tested too.” said my friend, Caitlin.
Whether or not I tested positive, I knew what that message meant. I wouldn’t be making the trek home to see my family for Christmas.
I made the call to my mother. I stayed cold and matter of fact. That is my protective mechanism. Hard. For I knew if I opened the floodgates, tears would overtake me.
And then the waiting began.
The incubation period.
The calm before the storm, if there was to be one.
Maybe I’d get lucky. Being the hermit that I am, I thought the enforced isolation might be a chance for me to catch up on some Netflix, and get Chinese takeout on Christmas like a good little Jewish girl.
Even if I got the virus “that shall not be named”, could it really be THAT bad? A few friends who had the virus had bounced back quickly. Plus, I consider myself to be healthy. I work out regularly. I eat a paleo diet. I used to own a Crossfit gym and a Paleo meal delivery company for christ sake.
Within 48 hours of that call, I noticed a tickle in my throat followed shortly by some sinus pressure and a fever. I took a lot of naps. It felt like a bad cold.
My first Covid test came back negative, so I told myself that my symptoms must be allergy related. Everything would be just fine. Maybe I could still make it home after my 14 day quarantine.
Oh, the stories we create.
But each day the symptoms intensified. So I kept to my simple routines to stay sane. Long, hot showers were a part of them.
As I stood in the shower, I poured a big dollop of my favorite conditioner into my hands. The one from Target that smells so feminine and sweet. But I couldn’t smell it. Nothing.
With the showerhead still running, I sprinted naked into my kitchen. I frantically swung my pantry doors open ripping food from the shelves.
I put my face inside a bag of coffee beans. Then my favorite lavender candle.
The thing that the entire world has been terrified of catching. The thing that shut down our schools, our restaurants, and our way of life, was now inside my body.
I slumped onto the kitchen floor, still soaking wet, and howled. The floodgates had finally opened.
I felt so alone and I was terrified.
For someone who has thrived on structure her whole life, I clung to that 14 day window. I kept telling myself that I’d be recovered and healthy again in just 2 weeks.
Again, another story I needed for survival.
But I didn’t get better. In fact, I got worse. Much worse.
For days I felt as if I were breathing through a straw. I had dizzy spells that struck me at all hours and left me unable to get up off my bathroom floor.
The pain in my chest felt like I was exploding. I had to use a nebulizer morning, noon, and night to help the burning.
My heart rate would skyrocket just from washing dishes.
My nervous system couldn’t handle any stimulation. I tried to play music to soothe myself. It felt like nails on a chalkboard.
Meditating didn’t work. I couldn’t stand to be in my body.
Mindful breathing was out of reach. I could barely breathe, let alone stress my lungs.
Yoga was too taxing. I wasn’t able to sit or stand for any length of time.
So what do you do when all of your tools don’t work? Everything I had used to cope up until this point was no longer available.
So I sat still and asked myself, “Who am I now, when nothing is working?”
For most of my days, I stared at the walls. It was just me and my thoughts. My dark and twisted thoughts.
For the first time in my life, I thought about death.
What it would be like if this were the end for me. Or, if I had to continue to live in this much pain, would I even want to?
Would God think this was my time? Or if I did survive, why, when so many others did not?
During my darkest hour with this virus, I refused to end Facetime with my mom because I was afraid of what would happen when I fell asleep. So I placed her face on my pillow and pretended she was there next to me, telling me everything would be alright.
And she did, but I didn’t believe her.
I sat with the parts of myself that I thought only existed in my nightmares.
The one who is capable of taking her own life.
The one who can’t grow the fuck up.
The one who lets anxiety swallow her.
The one who is too weak.
The one who will be left behind.
I saw myself as all those women.
When I left my marriage after 5 years, I needed to find who I was without a man in my life to protect me. What was I actually made of?
Who am I when everything I’ve known is gone?
There were many moments I didn’t like the woman I saw in the mirror. Weak. Cowering. Hands up and surrendering. I just wanted my mom to come and make it all better.
Time was moving on. The two week mark had come and gone. Yet I was still so incredibly sick. A reality I didn’t let myself contemplate.
I cried daily. In the morning, afternoon and evening. I was swimming in grief and pain from which there was no escape.
One day, sitting on the couch, I heard the words ringing louder and louder in my ears. They hit me harder than the virus.
No one can save me.
NO one can save me.
No one can save ME.
There it was. That deeply rooted belief that I needed a savior. I white-knuckled it. Its roots planted so deeply in me that no matter how hard I had dug it up in the past, it wouldn’t budge. The belief that one day my prince would come and make life really worth living.
In that moment, the belief showed itself to me so clearly because it was ready to leave me, and I was finally ready to let it.
Up until that point in my life there had ALWAYS been someone to save me.
In my early years, my mother. She was replaced by my husband.
There I was on my little black velvet couch finally learning one of the biggest lessons I believe I came to this earth to learn: No one can save me…but ME.
For years, I didn’t want to swallow that medicine, but Covid showed me that it was time to take it. I believe strongly that that is why I got sick. It was finally time to know the incredibly strong woman that I am. The one who is capable of saving herself.
Yet the lessons kept coming. Learning that I was capable of managing my life in crisis was one. Learning how to fully receive help when it was offered, was another.
It was humbling to be in a position of “can’t”. I wanted so deeply to be strong enough on my own, but I felt so incredibly weak. I sat with that feeling, and let myself take the help I needed.
But, receiving at this level allowed me to see some of the best parts of humanity.
Complete strangers sent me flowers and soup.
Friends left me smoothies, coloring books and pajamas.
Family ordered me meals, and blankets. They called me daily and listened as I cried and cried. Expecting nothing from me. Only loving me as I was in that moment. So raw and afraid.
I remember at one point crying to my grandmother on the phone saying how sorry I was that it took me getting sick for our relationship to strengthen again.
My mother showed me such fierce love during that time. The type of love I imagine I may only know if I enter my own journey into motherhood one day.
Covid showed me the depths of my own heart. Those promises to God that if I just get to live..
I’ll eat the cake and let my jeans get too tight.
I’ll take the adventure on a leap of faith.
I’ll fall madly in love one too many times.
I’ll have the baby I see in my dreams.
Covid taught me to see the magic in the tiniest of moments. Like the kitty that kept showing up in the window across from me when I craved an animal’s love. Or on the day that I missed my family’s ski trip in Utah, it decided to snow in Austin.
It taught me to feel gratitude for breath, movement, and life force energy, knowing that at any moment those things can change. Knowing it and actually experiencing it are different things.
I’m 8 weeks post Covid as I write this, and I am fundamentally a different woman than when I began this journey.
There are still days where my lungs burn, and when my throat can’t be soothed with tea. Days where my vitality is non-existent. Where I have to surrender to the deep heaviness that can only be remedied with a nap.
Days I wonder when I’ll be able to date again. Or if I’ll have enough energy to build my dreams.
I am different now. Calm yet fiery. Steady yet vulnerable. Strong yet supple. Focused yet flowy.
My energetic and physical boundaries have never been more clear.
If I only have so many precious hours in a day, how do I choose to use them? Discernment is my friend.
Gone are the days of being a yes girl. I’m a no woman now.
If what I’m doing isn’t allowing me to fall deeper in love with myself, or my life, then it’s a simple goodbye.
While I would never wish this virus on anyone, I know I’m a better human being because of it. One who knows the cobwebs of her own soul. One who now walks her path with deep trust in the unfolding. One who will know who she is when everything and everyone else is gone.
Because of my darkest days, I am stronger than I ever imagined.
And if you are experiencing your own days of darkness, I hope you know that you are too.