Starting March 30, 2020, I spent a week working in the hospital on a unit designated as COVID-19 free but on that day, it became apparent that we would not remain so. It became very noticeable how easily COVID-19 can be transmitted. Also, sheltering in place is only valid if people follow the rules. I wore my N-95 mask all day at work, but to protect people outside the hospital, I wear a cloth mask for walking around town and shopping. I have hit a milestone 1003 days of meditation since December 30, 2016. I have also hit 170 consecutive days since April 6, 2020. April 6 marked the first day after the end of my week on the COVID unit. I was exhausted, and I committed myself to dive into a daily mindfulness practice to regain my focus and perspective after an emotionally and mentally draining week marked by uncertainty, death, and sheer human suffering experienced by the patients and their loved ones.
This morning, I listened to the COVID playlist I created to wind down as I walked the 1.6 miles from the hospital to my home. I used music to keep me uplifted and resilient. Barbara Streisand’s Albums “Higher Ground” and “Walls” provided songs of inspiration. I rejoiced in the voice of Andra Day and her music “Rise Up” and tracks from her other albums. I also listened to Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross. I walked at least 10,000 steps each day. I did not carry my phone because of the need to use PPE and to prevent contamination. I had very few personal belongings with me.
I spent more time reading and learning about COVID-19. I also listened to Podcast on Social Justice and watched webinars on racism and the Pandemic. I posted articles and called my family. I wrote in my journal and created posts for my Blog. Then I realized the conferences I had planned to attend would be canceled and wondered what would happen. They switched to virtual platforms.
My work schedule changed each week, and then George Floyd was murdered. I watched the video and witnessed the very moment of his death, and my world plummeted into anger and the awareness of racism. I read more about racism and diversity, and then I knew that my world would never be the same again. My new normal involves wearing a mask all day and developing a virtual curriculum and seeing patients virtually and in-person. I will not be flying or eating out until next year if then. I am going to local farmer’s markets, food prepping and cooking at home.
Whatever is my new normal, the one constant is my meditation practice: one hundred seventy consecutive days and counting. So many lessons learned. I do not know what the next 40 days will bring; what the outcome of the election will be. The loss of a champion on the Supreme Court puts the fate of the Affordable Care Act in jeopardy. I can only hope that we will wake up, and at least the normal would be that racism, bigotry, and hate did not win.
One thousand three days and I faced so many challenges with calm and resilience. Looking forward to the next 1000 days.
To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is. Thích Nhất Hạnh