I’ve been finding it hard to maintain a positive outlook lately. I’ve been worried about isolation this winter, especially given the spikes in Covid cases nationwide. Monotony and loneliness are starting to wear on me.
As I mentioned last week, I love the holidays, but they also bring up a lot. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. And this is a holiday season unlike any other.
Then, only a few days ago, I got news that someone close to me is seriously ill with the coronavirus. It’s touch and go for him, so my mother and I have been trying to stay positive while also preparing ourselves for the possibility of letting go.
By Friday, I felt overcome by fear and anxiety. I’d had a sense of hopefulness before Thanksgiving, but it was getting lost. Worry was (is) affecting my sleep and my work.
As it happens, I had plans yesterday to catch up with a friend who’s a physician here in the city. We got to know each other during my clinical internship year, and I hadn’t really checked in with him since the pandemic began.
He told me about how difficult things had been in March and April of this past spring, when cases were at their peak in New York City. I know the hospital he works at—it’s where I spent my acute care rotation—and I know that its resources were limited even before this crisis.
“However bad you can imagine it being,” he said, “it was worse.”
As I listened to him describe makeshift PPE and to recall the loss of patients and colleagues, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I was as shielded as I was in those months. It was a little frightening in the city, but at least I had the option to stay home.
I often hear and read about how things can always be worse. I also read assurances that it doesn’t make sense to try to rank suffering, because whatever we experience as being painful or distressing is real to us.
I think that both are true. Whatever we feel is real and valid. But, even as we suffer, we can remind ourselves of what we have to be grateful for. A sense of perspective doesn’t need to compete with honest acknowledgement of what’s troubling us.
That’s the space that I was in yesterday, as I talked to my friend and listened to what he’d been through. Sad, scared, stressed out. Discouraged.
Yet also aware of the fact that I have so much to be thankful for at this point in 2020: the roof over my head, the food I eat, the fact that I’m alive, the company of everyone I love.
There’s been a lot of duality this year. Moments of deep appreciation, coupled with so much grief. There are things about quarantine that have been genuinely good for me—clarifying, calming—in spite of the loneliness. I’ve gotten more peaceful with some things, more deeply troubled by others.
It’s not one or the other. It’s both. And if nothing else, it will always be my work to lean into shades of gray, to wrap my mind around dualities and nuances, rather than succumbing to the all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking that comes easily to me. The truth of one thing doesn’t negate the truth of another.
This week, I wish you the space and ease to welcome everything that’s truthful for you. Here are some recipes and reads.
Amy’s hasselback veggie winter tray bake is so colorful and festive.
I could go for a warm bowl of vegan minestrone right now.
Bianka’s vermicelli stir fry looks easy and flavorful.
Ooooh, vegan oreo cupcakes!
1. Speaking of my friend and what he’s experienced this year, a powerful op-ed on healthcare worker burnout.
2. An examination of supplemental vitamins and their effectiveness in protecting against Covid.
3. A deep dive into the science of nutritional yeast (and marmite and Vegemite!).
4. I’m feeling a lot of worry for independent restaurants right now. But I was heartened to read about how pizza parlours have been staying alive—and comforting us all—through the pandemic.
5. I was fascinated by the New York Times Magazine‘s essay on the “social life of forests”—that is, how trees communicate with one another via subterranean fungi.
In a couple days, I’ll share the cozy, warming beverage that’s been getting me through the early days of winter here in New York City. Till then,
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This year has been more extroverted than I’m used to, but also more solitary. On the one hand, I’ve been in busy workplace environments each day, constantly exposed to new colleagues and new patients. This is a far cry from the quiet, work-from-home life that I’ve been living as a self-employed graduate student for the last many years. It’s been invigorating at times, draining at others; if nothing else, a big adjustment. On the other hand, I haven’t had the energy to spend…