After my string of sick days last week, I went back to work on Thursday and for a flex/half-day on Friday, and have since taken the last three days off: A full three-day weekend. My phone has been eerily quiet—no texts, no phone calls, no work crisis that requires my attention. I’ve done very little but ease back into the weights and fiddle around with video games and a little poetry journaling. Noe that I’ve had a little time to catch my breath, I realize that my foundation has been cracking for a long time. My hospital was still reeling from the strike in January when COVID-19 hit. I’ve been running non-stop since the beginning of the year, working almost every weekend, living on coffee, and, according to Mr. Typist, grinding my teeth like mad at night. Then there was the professional shock of a few weeks ago that I now realize sent me into a spiral of grief that I have been somewhat in denial about. I knew that I was due for a collapse at some point. Looking back, I’m not surprised that my body was made vulnerable to an opportunistic virus looking for a place to call home.
COVID-19 has exposed all kinds of vulnerabilities. On a micro level, It’s exposed our personal vulnerabilities and on a macro level, it’s exposed our institutional and national vulnerabilities. I have a tendency to neglect to take care of myself even in the best of times, and that was brought home to me in no uncertain terms. The exposure of that weakness made it clear that I need to eat, I need to do some mentally calming things, I need to let go of what I can’t control and I need to, God forbid, “listen to my body,” a phrase I detest. During this time of high stress, I immediately fell back into old coping mechanisms. This has given me an opportunity to shore up the weak points and work on strengthening them. I remember in the beginning when I first started working with my trainer at the gym, I would get frustrated to near tears when I would try to do something new and we would discover yet another weak area—gluts not strong enough to do a squat, shoulders not strong enough to do an over-head press, quads to weak to sustain a full lunge—but every time, those exposures were a gift. Without them, I wouldn’t have had awareness of the weaknesses and would never have addressed them. Now, I can do all of those things because I was able to strengthen those frail areas.
There is also a gift in such exposures on a macro level. I see the areas of weakness in my organization, some of which have been addressed very quickly and efficiently and some of which remain problematic. One of the things that has come up over and over again at the endless hospital COVID meetings is amazement at how quickly we’ve been able to move forward on things such as clinical trials, research, and virtual visits, that were initially projected to take years to develop. I also see the areas in which our state and our nation have succeeded and failed, and where we need to shore up. In all of the criticism and teeth-gnashing and obsession with the failures, I do not want us to lose sight of the miraculous things that we have accomplished as a nation during all of this. Nor do I want us to deny and ignore our susceptibilities. For good or for bad, the crisis has shone a brilliant light on all of it, and there is no more hiding.
I’m going to take this as an opportunity to patch up and reinforce those areas of my being that make me vulnerable—excessive anxiety over things I can’t control, lack of proper nutrition, not being assertive enough about making the new work flow more equitable, and trying to deny my feelings because I don’t believe that I have the right to them. I don’t know how well or quickly I will succeed at “fixing” these things, but I can at least recognize them and try to mitigate them now.
For this Memorial Day, enjoy this nice uplifting video throwback by Jewel. My act of self-care for the day is not caring if you laugh at me for un-ironically loving Jewel.