The (not so) Typical New Year, Fresh Start Post

The emotional toll of COVID, but there's a silver lining in everything!

It’s the final week of 2021 (2020 Part II, really). As I do every year, I spend the week putting together some ideas for what I want to focus on in the new year. A chance to restart and reset, focusing on what’s most important to me. I’m not one to create massive goals for the year (I used to be), but I like the idea of a fresh start with a clear path forward. I like the energy and motivation that comes with a new year. I’m ready for 2022! Let’s do this!! 💪

Then comes New Years Eve. Omicron is running rampant in New York City, but we’ve isolated ourselves from the outside world due to family joining us to ring in the new year. My wife, Sarah, has a bit of a stuffy nose, but she also has bad allergies so most days she has a stuffy nose. Since we have guests, we want peace of mind as we all sit together in the same room drinking glass after glass of bubbly wine, so we decide to test. Sarah tests positive. 😱 What?! How? We’re vaxxed and boosted. We didn’t go anywhere. But Omicron didn’t give a shit. It decided this is how we’re starting 2022. A family of three, one of which too young to be vaccinated, in a small NYC apartment trying to figure out how to keep everyone safe in a world of unknowns.

This is all to make two points:

  1. Covid sucks. I’m not talking about the physical symptoms, I can’t speak to that since I didn’t end up getting it (yet). The emotional toll. The disruption. The separation and loneliness. The not knowing.

  2. There’s a silver lining in everything. This past week fucking sucked (did I mention that? 🤔) – there’s no sugar coating it, it was emotionally exhausting – but I came out of it with some thoughts coming into the new year.

Covid sucks. I’m not going to say my experience was worse than getting sick and going to the hospital, not trying to compare whatsoever, but there was nothing fun about this past week. Sarah and I have been married 13 years and have only slept apart a handful of times. Nighttime cuddles are honestly the best antidote for a stressful day. This week had a lot of stressful days. Each night we had to say goodnight and sleep apart. The hardest part, though, was trying to help our daughter, Sophie, understand what was happening. Trying to explain to her why she couldn’t go give mama a hug. In the morning, finding creative ways to respond to “where’s mama?” as we isolated ourselves in the bedroom. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for Sarah to refuse all of the hugs while Sophie screamed “hug mama, hug mama” over and over again. Also, the loneliness of it all. I remember back to the start of the pandemic… before vaccines… it was scary, but at least we had each other. This time it was just being isolated, ruminating about the unknown: “I’ll surely catch it. Then who will care for Sophie? What happens when Sophie catches it?”

There’s a silver lining in everything. Here’s my takeaway from all of this. Life is full of twists and turns, and it never quite works out the way you plan it to. This is a huge point of frustration for me in general. I love to have a plan and I often get frustrated when it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying I’m going to sit down and read for 30 minutes and then after 5, Sophie decides she neeeeeds something immediately. This week has forced me to live life in a very different way. Routines were out the window. Focus time blocks impossible. Even planning what to eat for lunch was difficult.

Ironically, the life area I have been wanting to focus on for 2022 is self compassion. Specifically, being more flexible. Serendipity. Letting go. Going with the flow. I’m always going to be the type of person who needs a plan. Notion dashboards to plan and reflect on my life, and crazy OCD stuff like logging my time in an app I built. I’ve come to the realization I’m not going to change that about myself, but I also want to approach it in a way that’s as self compassionate as possible (which is hard because often the perfectionist side of me works very much against the idea of self compassion). This week of being forced into the unknown, inability to control my environment, and tendency toward unhealthy rumination about the future has pushed me, ironically enough, to getting to a place where I can be comfortable with discomfort. I only wish it didn’t all come with the emotional cost of having Omicron show up to our front door.

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