I am struggling to adapt to life after COVID. I don’t mean the pandemic as a whole; I know that’s not over yet, however much we wish it to be. I mean my life after contracting COVID. There are the physical changes: my heart feels like someone is squeezing it most days, I get winded easily, and COVID brain fog is no joke. I’m honestly not sure I could keep up with being a full-time marketer again.
Beyond the physical changes in my body, my world has changed. My entire adult life, I’ve worked multiple jobs. For 22 years, I’ve also been mom to three boys, which meant there was always a bevy of things that needed done for them. There’s always been an insane schedule to keep, always a to-do list a mile long. Like any good American, I’ve been busy, busy, busy.
And now, not.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a myriad of things to do as I rebuild my writing career, build up my speaking engagements, and tend to my freelance clients. There are kids to shuttle until we can afford another car or two.
But it’s not the same.
Thirteen months ago, if I drank too much coffee and had to make an extra trip to the restroom, someone would comment. My days were packed with back-to-back meetings and I ate lunch at my desk to keep from falling behind.
Now, if I choose to eat my lunch in silence with my computer tucked away and my puppy asleep at my feet, I can. I even go to the bathroom whenever I have to pee, and nobody cares. Well, except the dogs, who wait outside the door for me. If I’ve had a stressful week and decide I want to take Thursday as my day off, I do.
My days are my own again.
All of this is good, but I still can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m in trouble. I’m missing something. I’ve forgotten to do something. I should be busy, busy, busy. I think for so many Americans, 2020 showed us how much we used our busy schedules to mask our pain. To avoid dealing with things we’d rather not.
On the flip side of that, I have word counts I have to make each day if I’m going to keep up with my publication schedule. Clients to take care of. Speaking engagements to polish. Corporate classes to deliver. There’s a list a mile long of things I need to do to better market my books.
But my brain just won’t behave. I struggle to focus, to clear the cobwebs. I’m reading more and more from researchers and others who are experiencing COVID brain fog. It’s very real and it’s debilitating. I truly cannot describe how much so. The simplest task sometimes feels insurmountable.
Last newsletter, I made a stupid mistake. I was certain I’d updated a link that I had not. More than once, I catch myself typing the wrong word, even though I know that I know the correct one. Frequently, I stop mid-sentence, no longer able to remember what I was saying. Everything is harder now. Compounding that, I move slower. I think slower. I am tired.
And I think many of us are struggling with the complete lack of routine. I tried to keep up with it for a while, to dress each day and hold a schedule, but somewhere along the way I just kind of stopped. And now time is the surreal construct and I struggle to meet deadlines and not miss meetings.
The added difficulties have given me a whole new appreciation for my number two son and all he went through after his accident. What I’m dealing with isn’t even close to what he overcame, and he did it with such grace and tenacity that I am compelled to live up to the standard he set.
I’m hoping warmer weather and more time outside will help. I try keeping myself on a schedule and to set more realistic goals for each day, knowing how easily I get overwhelmed now.
Here’s the thing: In many ways, COVID freed me. I was not happy but saw no way out of my hamster wheel. Now I’m out. I have a clear vision of the life I want to build for myself as I move into this new and unfamiliar phase of life that is dictated by me and not by children’s needs. I also find I care less—not about the things that matter, but about the things that don’t. Something that would have stressed me out 13 months ago isn’t even a blip now.
I started this post last week, and then today, I got my first vaccine dose. I drove three hours round trip, but it was worth it. I feel like a weight has been lifted. My entire outlook is different already. I have hope that the end of this ordeal is near. Before I got the shot, I knew the seemingly endless nature of COVID was messing with my head, but I didn't realize just how much until it lifted.
As miserable as the last year has been in so many ways, I am a better person today than I was a year ago. I am better poised to build a happy future rather than continue to watch the years slip by as I’m bound by the tyranny of the urgent.
If only I can manage to adjust to my new world and shake loose the fog that’s lingering over my brain. It's all good.
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