It’s now just about the two year anniversary of that week in 2020 when life as we knew it changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m remembering it, as I know many people are.
What feels most chilling about the memory isn’t all of the details of lockdown, though some of them (the sound of ambulance sirens wailing at night in particular) do feel haunting.
Instead, I can’t get past the fact that, at the start of that week, I had no clue what was coming. As of Monday, I wasn’t sure that we’d have to quarantine at all, let alone for months.
I went to yoga that morning. I had dinner plans with a friend on Tuesday, and we canceled them very hesitantly, noting that we were probably overreacting. In spite of increasingly more unsettling news headlines, I thought that the outbreak in New York might very be mild or contained quickly.
Of course I now wonder how I could have convinced myself of such a possibility, but the other scenario—the one that happened—felt unimaginable.
By Friday of that week, nothing was the same. I was sheltering in place.
My mom and I knew we wouldn’t quarantine together—it made both of our lives easier, and it also gave me the freedom to shop for her groceries and supplies and leave them outside her door without worrying about exposing her. We talked every night, each nervous and trying to keep the other calm.
Soon enough, essential workers started posting about the lack of PPE in hospitals. More people became sick, more people passed away. A temporary morgue was erected.
On the home front, much less grave, yet still unsettling things happened. Grocery stores ran out of flour. My launderer closed, and since I don’t have laundry in my building, I started washing my clothes in my bathroom sink every night and hanging them to dry over the bathtub. Restaurants and shops shut their doors with no stated plan to reopen.
Face masks became a norm. Until I could get my hands on some, I wore yoga headbands across my nose and mouth, wondering whether I should teach myself how to sew.
I took walks every day, and at first I chose to walk along commercial avenues, rather than in the park. I like the city’s busier parts, and I thought I might find it comforting to stroll there.
As soon as I tried this a few times, I knew I’d misjudged. I can’t tell you how much it broke my heart to see all of the dark restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and stores. There was a lot of talk about the loss of social contact, and while I did miss that—the physical presence of my friends—it was New York City that I missed the most. At least in those early days.
Well, maybe not the most. The loss of in-person yoga broke my heart, too.
I put my mat down dutifully each day and did the thing. But, as I noted when I actually had Covid this Christmas, it felt exactly like eating food I couldn’t taste or smell: necessary, but joyless. I ached for my communities and the co-created energy that lights me up when I practice.
All of this happened, really, within a month. It boggles my mind to think about how life could have changed completely in such a short period of time.
At this very moment, circumstances continue to change instantly for so many around the world, and I’m thinking about that a lot—how rapidly and unfairly life as we know it can be taken away.
There’s so much that I couldn’t predict on March 13, 2020. I had no idea that the pandemic would persist for as long as it did. I didn’t know how much solitude and soul-searching I was in for. What a journey it has been for everyone.
The personal consolation of looking back on all of this is my present-day awareness of the ways in which these pandemic years have changed my life for the better.
I couldn’t have predicted, for example, how profoundly the pandemic would enhance my sense of gratitude. It made me give thanks not only for the existential stuff—the shelter over my head, the supplies in my pantry, my mom’s safety—but also the little things. Spring flowers in the park. Socially distanced walks with my yoga friends in the neighborhood. Flour, when it came back to the stores, and then lots of baking vegan cake.
I didn’t expect, though I should have, for NYC to persist in as courageous and neighborly a way as it did. I didn’t count on all of those 7pm cheers out our windows, the furious hooting and clapping for healthcare workers. I wasn’t expecting the orderliness and respect I’d see on display in grocery stores and drugstores: people lined up exactly six feet apart, keeping to themselves, giving each other space.
I couldn’t have known how elated I’d be when I did customary things for the first time in months: riding the subway, eating at a restaurant, hugging a friend.
I could easily have predicted how much I’d cry when I took my first led, in-person yoga class in over a year, but even so, the joy when that finally happened was overwhelming.
At this time two years ago, I didn’t know that a global pandemic would awaken the part of me that yearns to be connected, to find meaning in loving and being loved. That part of me had been dormant for a while, subdued first by loss, then by depression.
I had no idea that, over the course of 2020 and 2021, I’d reconnect with many cherished friends, traveling near and far to see them just as soon as it was safe to do that. I would spend many special afternoons sitting on park benches with my mom, having profound conversations about things we’d never discussed before.
And how could I have known that, in the midst of all of the chaos and crisis, I’d fall in love, lose that love, and somehow stay open to feeling it again.
So much grief these past two years. So much loneliness. Yet for me, the pandemic was also a period of rebirth and starting over, this time with a special appreciation of how much is possible when I remain unafraid of living.
Throughout it all, this blog kept me connected and held in community. I’m forever grateful to those of you who were reading. May we step forward into gentler and more peaceful days together.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
A bright, blueberry banana smoothie in the late days of winter never hurt anyone.
Britta’s vegan stew would be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ll bet this brown butter caramelized kimchi is a flavor bomb.
These crispy vegan sweet potato patties look delightful.
Super wholesome peanut butter oat cookies for your next snack attack.
1. A beautiful essay about the cost of remembering and the cost of forgetting.
2. I thought that this essay likening the feeling of taking a Covid test to taking a pregnancy test was unexpected and moving.
3. A humorous, insightful look at nostalgia by writer Brendan Leonard, which reaches a hopeful note:
5. On today’s topic, the pandemic has left an epidemic of loneliness in its wake. Let’s look out for each other as best we can, yeah?
Rest up, everyone. I’ll be back soon.
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