#COVID-19 · Nursing

Hope in 2021 & Yoga

I recall saying that 2021 could be worse. Several times. When I said that I have to be honest I was not picturing an insurrection against the capitol caused by #45. But I knew it could be worse.

I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts about that week because when I think about it I feel this gut wrenching burning anger and fear and a lot of other feelings too. Probably shame too that this was my country. I think about my Dad, turning over in his grave; he would have been the first to volunteer for the National Guard to go protect the Capitol. He would have been furious. I can almost hear him ranting.

It’s hard to put into words what it was like watching the footage of that. So I won’t. Because nothing I say can do it justice.

Sunday my sons were with their other Mom and my sister-in-law was teaching a yoga class. Live. In person. I agreed to go and it wasn’t until I felt my eyes welling up in Lizard pose that I realized why. I hadn’t done a live class since March 2020. So much has changed. So many lives lost. So much upheavel and isolation.

I never appreciated yoga classes until I didn’t have them. I do them on Zoom but it’s different. Dissonance.

I practiced next to my sister. I didn’t know any one else there. It was a huge cold industrial building converted into a gym space. Big enough that we were more than ten feet from any one else. We all kept our masks on the whole time and the ceilings were ridiculously high. It felt as safe as it was going to be in these times.

I had the benefit of being a week out from my second COVID vaccine. So I was less worried than I would have been otherwise.

I was there in lizard pose, with my left foot up next to my left arm. My arms on the floor. Head bowed. I could hear people as we moved through poses. I didn’t have my kids climbing on me or my cats scratching at my mat.

The most visceral aspect that 2020 lacked is connection. We lost our connections with other people. With our humanity. It felt reparative; that moment in Lizard. I was cold. The floor was cold. It was twenty degrees outside. I’m used to hot yoga. This was the opposite.

I had on three layers at one point and my socks.

The acoustics were bad and I could barely hear my sister-in-law as she called the poses.

But that five second moment in Lizard I thought that this was one of the most blissful moments I’d had since March 2020. It was a moment of connection in a time of isolation. It was a moment of light in such dark times. And it gave me hope that we would survive this and things like yoga classes will happen again.

This week I registered with the hospital I work at per diem to administer COVID vaccines as part of their mass vaccination movement that starts this week. Not only do I get to stick people with needles, which after almost a year of telehealth, brings tears of happiness to my eyes, but I get to see other people. Talk to other people. I get to nurse people. In person.

Yes I’ll be masked, face shielded, and jabbing people with a vaccine that has more controversy than any vaccine I’ve encountered in my life. But as a nurse I can’t decline being part of this movement. That line from Hamilton rings, “History has it’s eyes on you,” and I feel super corny saying it but it feels like I’m part of history. Some day when I’m super old and a general annoyance to my children and grandchildren I’ll tell them about COVID and life during a pandemic and how I vaccinated people against it.

I’m sure they will be bored to tears and likely try and escape my presence as soon as possible…and maybe I’ll pretend I can’t hear or like every other old person I’ll pretend I don’t notice the social cues that they are bored and plod on in a boring account of administering injections.

It’s a weird time. A new administration. Fox News doesn’t talk about Trump much these days, or the Capitol insurrection. So that’s cool:/ Yes I check Fox News. I like to know what my fellow Americans are being told so I can counter it. I used to think life would go back to normal after COVID. Now I know there is no normal. There is a before, a now, and a then. The before is gone. The now is here and then is coming. None of it the same as before.

Even my beloved yoga has changed. I can get further into half split then ever before. I can do a one legged stand almost perfectly. I’ve spent the last year continuing to deepen my practice. So when I hit the mat in an actual in person live class it wasn’t the same me as before COVID. But it still felt damn good.


What I Learned in 2020. Yes There are Lessons.

I have so many thoughts about 2020. Recently some one said to me that 2021 can’t possibly be worse. I responded that is what I thought about 2020 as we left 2019. So I do not think 2021 can’t possibly be worse. In fact I think it can be worse. I hope it won’t be. But I am taking it day by day at this point.

I read an op-ed recently entitled “There are no lessons to learn from 2020”. It was essentially a diatribe about how there is nothing to learn, no overarching theme, and no benefit to society from this year.

I strongly and vehemently disagree.

Personally in my own little bubble I have learned about business, divorce, loneliness, the power of friendship, and how I was actually prepared to live through a pandemic. I mean nothing could have actually prepared me. But I am not a hugger so I don’t miss that. I generally wore masks every flu season anyway. I refused to see clients who were coughing and I always maintained at least six feet distance with the window open behind me if anyone even sniffled.

I also had a stockpile of purell and toilet paper because I buy those items in bulk at baseline.

Seriously. I was made for this. I learned how to make the best and safest mask for myself and my two now five year old sons. Their teacher tested positive and was in the classroom with them symptomatic and they didn’t get COVID. Neither did we. I have full faith in my masks.

Professionally my practice flourished and though the work has been harder this year than ever before I think we rose to the task. We have provided mental health services for over five hundred patients this year. It’s a good feeling knowing I can help people. I learned why I take Medicaid. I knew why before but this year provided me more insight. So many people lost their commercial plans. My own clients and clients of other practices who don’t take Medicaid. It was humbling for me to have people be so thankful that we take state insurance. I would never want my established clients to have to try and find a new provider in the midst of a pandemic because I don’t take Medicaid. It always felt like the right thing to do but this year brought it into sharp perspective for me.

Nationally I saw a horrid administration crash and burn and while I am devastated that we continue to lose thousands of lives a day because of their inept handling of an international pandemic…I also find myself saying internally ‘told ya so.’ Back when he was elected I said to only my wife at the time, that at some point in some way the nation and the world would see the true lunacy we elected. I remember saying all we need to do is sit back and wait for some national disaster or something. I could not have predicted a pandemic unrivaled since 1918. But when it started here in March I remember thinking. Well here it is. His test that he will fail dismally.

I was not wrong. Sadly. Back in 2016 I knew there would be tests that he would fail. I did not think so many lives would be lost because of his failure.

I did not think so many Americans lack a basic science education. Germs can be transmitted in the air. Masks block germs from going in and out. Seems like a simple concept to me. Two sentences. Masks could have saved lives if they were normalized. Instead they were vilified and here we are.

2020 should teach us that some people are not meant to lead. That a celebrity with histories of debt and sexual assaults is not meant to lead our country. 2020 should teach us that science is real whether you believe in it or not- germs spread and basic use of masks and social distancing help stop the spread of germs.

2020 should teach us what I’ve been preaching since 2007 when I got my first paycheck as a nurse. Stop paying pro football players millions and invest that money into educating, building up, and rewarding our healthcare workers and teachers. Instead of investing billions into “defense” (because guns/tanks/submarines were super helpful against COVID) maybe invest in educating, building up, and rewarding our healthcare workers and teachers.

2020 should teach us that we need to make education attainable and affordable in order to have an educated society of people who will nurse us, doctor us, make vaccines, and understand basic scientific concepts so wearing a mask isn’t seen as an infringement on civil liberties but as a life saving preventative measure that could have saved thousands of lives already.

2020 should teach us that racism is alive and well in our country. That POC have reason to fear our police forces. That white people center themselves in discussions of racism and we need to stop doing that. 2020 should teach us that being “colorblind” is not the solution.

2020 should teach us that our young people are amazing.

There are so many lessons from 2020 these are just a few. That an op-ed was published in a reputable newspaper stating anything else is appalling to me.

These lessons are not silver linings. They are not the rainbow through the clouds. These are hard lessons that have been learned at the expense of human lives. 2020 was not kind to me. But I will take the lessons I have learned with me and I will not forget them. I will learn from them. I will learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. I only can hope that we all will learn from 2020.

My intention for 2021 is to meet it as I have 2020 and 2019. I could not have imagined what 2020 had in store for me back in 2019. Just as I could not have possibly imagined what 2019 held for me in 2018. So I will meet 2021 as I have the last two trying years. I meet 2021 carrying with me some grief, some hope, the lessons I have learned & a bottle of Purell. Literally.

**** To all the health care providers reading this. I am so honored to be among your ranks. Whether you are front lines or working remotely we are all carrying the burdens of 2020 so close to our hearts. I have never regretted becoming a nurse. There have been hard days for us all and harder ones ahead. Please reach out for help. We all need support right now. Please call for help when you need it. Please go into 2021 knowing that there will be a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Your bravery and tenacity and commitment to providing quality care are beautiful and heart wrenching. You are the true heroes in this country yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We will never be paid enough. We will never be appreciated enough and for that I am sorry. We deserve better. Know that I see you. I am you and I feel the burdens of 2020 with you. Fist pump from six feet away and a toast to 2021. To you and to the lives we save and those we can’t.******

“What’s coming will come. And we’ll meet it when it does.” Rubeus Hagrid.