A pandemic that has affected everyone differently means everyone’s “new normal” is different as well.
COVID Catch-up is a weekly column featuring Lansing Journal journalist Carrie Steinweg’s personal experience with COVID-19 and things she learned from others who shared their experiences. This column is the final in the series, which started in January. Last week’s column is available here.
By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (June 30, 2021) – Earlier this year I started this COVID Catch-up column to share my experiences and relay different things I was observing as someone who had contracted the COVID-19 virus. This week marks the end of my eighth month since my first symptoms appeared. I’ve covered most of the topics I intended to cover and it seems a good time to wrap up this series.
Watching the pandemic evolve
As I finish out eight months of life after COVID, there was about equal time from the start of all the shutdowns to the time I got sick. It’s been about 16 months now since the pandemic took hold of this country.
Early on, things were so uncertain and really there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the virus and the different ways the country will recover. We seemed to go into it in a united way. We were all being given the same directive to stay home. Those who had essential jobs couldn’t stay home and we were so thankful for their bravery in putting themselves at risk.
Although the first eight months were spent mostly at home with a lingering fear of the virus, I was with my family and I was healthy. I was grateful to have them all at home with me. We had more meals together. We played some games and did some puzzles. We cleaned out closets. We watched some movies. We tried out new carry-out food. We had a gift of time together, a silver lining to it all.
The next eight months went in a completely opposite direction. Worries were much different and there were many days of just struggling to simply function. It was continued isolation but this time it was more because of not being well enough to be out and about. There were expressions of sympathy from others, but with no one else quite understanding what was going on. Time was still a gift, but quality of the time was so greatly diminished.
Normal may never be the same
There are major events that happen in our lives and in the world that are a defining line. There’s life as it was before it happened and life after. One example would be 9/11. It had such a major impact on the entire country that it was a marker to a huge shift in normalcy. Before 9/11, getting on a plane or driving across the border to Canada was a piece of cake. After 9/11, it was much more complicated. That’s just one example of how it affected those who weren’t directly impacted by one of the terrorist attacks or being family to someone who was.
We all have the shared experience of knowing life before the pandemic when we didn’t think twice about going out in public, confidently dined out, and went to large sporting events or concerts without great fear for our health. We’re still not out of the woods, but we’re moving to the other side where we can do these things again, but will do them differently or do them always with a little extra concern (and a little extra hand sanitizer), knowing that a dangerous virus could be lingering in the air or living on a surface we touch.
I have those shared experiences with everyone else. I also, along with a large number of others, have a life before having COVID-19 and life after. And even as I was in the hospital being treated for COVID pneumonia, I was hopeful that I’d get through it and would recover and be completely fine again in a fairly short amount of time. I had no idea what it would do to my body and how long it would go on and never imagined that it could be doing things to me that could be permanent. I’m absolutely not the same as I was before and I really long to be as energetic and optimistic as I once was. I have to accept a new normal that comes with a different version of myself — one that is still capable and ambitious, but sometimes needs a little more sleep, can’t smell the roses, (literally) and can’t juggle as many spinning plates.
I also realized that just sitting and waiting to get better wasn’t helping me. I put a lot more effort into being more healthy — changing my diet, increasing my water intake, getting more sleep and not feeling bad about resting more, getting more physical activity in, losing some weight, and adjusting my schedule to be more productive. It’s a lot of work, but I know that not putting in that work will mean not having the energy to do what I need to do. My new normal means I have to do a lot more work to feel almost as good as I did before.
Seeing a dim light at the end of a long tunnel
The pandemic is far from over. The virus is still making its way around and creating variants we aren’t prepared for. People are still getting sick — even some who’ve been vaccinated. Many, many people who have had the virus will have ongoing and perhaps lifelong health issues. We don’t know how long the protection from the virus will last and if it will start to wane next month, next year, or further down the road. We don’t know what the situation will be like come winter and if things will get worse before they get better.
The best we can do at this point is to live life on guard. Return to the normal things, but be more cautious about them. Cases have slowed. There are fewer deaths. We’re at the point that we can see a dim light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s still a ways to go to get there. And once we do emerge from the end, it may not shine as bright as it did before. We’ve all survived a pandemic that finally seems to be fading. Many have survived having the virus. Some are still merely trying to survive.
The Lansing Journal is very appreciative of Carrie Steinweg’s weekly columns, which readers have enjoyed for 23 weeks. Three of her most recent COVID Catch-up installments are included below. Click on Carrie’s name under the headline of this column to read more of her interesting, personal, and thought-provoking columns, as well as the articles she has written for The Lansing Journal.