Three Years Ago Today

Where were you on February 25, 2020? What was happening around you? What were you doing, planning, looking forward to, worried about?

What day did COVID change your life?

On New Year’s Eve, 2019, my niece declared that everybody was overreacting to the infection sweeping across Wuhan, China. It won’t be a big deal, she said. I specialize neither in infectious disease nor public health, but I knew then that what was coming would be a big. fucking. deal.

This morning, stepping out into the bright sun and crisp air at the end of another unusually mild Chicago winter, Daughter and I recalled 3 years ago. We had just spent a long weekend in Seattle, just for fun. Son had said then that he could see himself living there ‘after school,’ and lo, he ended up there for school. Little did we know then that COVID had already landed, right there, where we were.

Within weeks, whole organizations and governments mobilized and immobilized; life mutated irrevocably around us everywhere. COVID hit me in the face by cracking one of my friendships early on. The week of March 9, I begged off of a gathering, and my friend was angry. I respected and admired her, and loved her family–still do. She subsequently railed at the prospect of lockdown and social distancing, citing economic fallout, apparently dismissing my alarm at the risk to our healthcare system, and my own colleagues, if we deferred such drastic measures. It took me by surprise, floored me, and I was hurt. I wanted to talk more about it, talk through it. But these three years, every time we approach our differences here, she respectfully declines to continue. I respectfully agree. We hit a boundary in our friendship then, which I accept. I can engage with difference elsewhere; there is no shortage of opportunities. Over this time I believe I have both sharpened and softened my communication skills around disagreement and dissent, and I’m still grateful for every chance to practice, learn, and improve.

Facebook showed me what I posted three years ago today. I don’t know which leader moved me to profess my appreciation on social media, but I bet it was one of two, so I emailed them both today with the screen snip of the post. “…recalling 3 years ago, watching and waiting for the pandemic wave to hit us, standing in a state of novel awe and uncertainty.  I also remember feeling confident, though; I understood the medical and public implications and trusted my immediate professional and personal circles to think and act rationally and thoughtfully… Our organization has its challenges, both intrinsic and extrinsic.  Each day, though, I’m still convinced and proud that everybody’s doing their best for the greater good. So Happy Saturday, and thank you for you leadership. 🙂” Having led a small practice through the first 14 months of the COVID morass, I suspect any sincere expression of acknowledgement and appreciation, at anytime, even now, boosts any leader’s spirits. We are all still going through it, and we still need to hold one another up.

This is the 42nd post that appears on a “COVID” search of this blog. I process by writing. Reading back, I apparently felt more fear and anxiety at the outset than I may remember. Memory is complex! Today I recall vividly the acutely discordant and uncomfortable conversations with my friend, while minimizing the overall stress of the time and circumstances? How fascinating. We would all do well to ‘remember’ this paradox of recollection as we continue to navigate, negotiate, and collaborate hereafter.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Anna Quindlen includes this quote by Anais Nin in her book, Write For Your Life. Have you anything to review from three years ago–emails, letters, photos with captions, blog posts? What does any of it show you about your feelings, thoughts, actions, and relationships back then? How has your life evolved and transformed in the short and profound time since? How have your relationships moved? I’m gratified to take some time today to recall and reflect, and to have concrete evidence of myself to do it with.

Write on, my friends.