I recently had a good (albeit unexpected) cry and figured out that I have been in an unremitting fear cycle for about 2-plus years. When the COVID pandemic first shut things down across the U.S, my family and I had just started a much-anticipated ski vacation. On the way to the resort, we heard that Vail and other Colorado resorts had just shut down. When we checked into our hotel in Montana, we mentioned the news to the front desk staff, who were equally surprised. “No, we have no plans to shut down,” they told us firmly.
The next morning, sitting at a breakfast buffet that defied plans for skiing and seemed aimed toward inducing a blissful food coma, we heard an announcement: “Today will be the last day of skiing at the resort. Breakfast will continue to be served over the next 7 days, and the hotel will also be closing at the end of the week.”
At first, I was confused and amazed. I was in a room packed with over 100 people, equally flabbergasted. Could this virus actually start to change my world?
Of course, we all have now experienced the emphatic “yes” to that question. For the most part, the world as I knew it has not existed for more than 2 years. Sometime between leaving the ski resort (as well as my half-baked idea to drive back to the East Coast in an RV; my family shot that down as not fun!) and the first Connecticut peak of COVID in April, I became scared.
The things that I have feared (and experienced):
10. All the COVID unknowns: I used to wipe everything down with a Clorox wipe, stopped that, then started again once Omicron hit
9. Being a bad writer: My first nonfiction book came out during COVID and, while initially I was afraid that people would read my book, it is now scary to me that people won’t read my book
8. Being a bad friend: I was defriended during COVID
7. Being a bad daughter: COVID is the great isolator
6. Being a bad sister: See Number 7
5. Being a bad wife: COVID has been tough on a marriage; mine for sure
4. Being a bad doctor: The healthcare system has been in crisis mode at different times during the pandemic, and I have definitely failed my patients at times
3. Being a bad parent: Especially now, screen time rules can be thrown out the window in favor of a little bit of peace, and the joy of hearing my son giggle with his friends online
2. Death from COVID or something else: Thankfully, still a “not yet”
1. Basically, failing: Failing to understand the world, i.e., COVID; failing at work, at home, socially; failing as a human being
Almost all of my fears actually seem “OK” — I can actually handle them! — because I’m writing this, and at this moment, I am still here. Facing my fears has made me realize that fear hasn’t stopped my experiencing all of the above (except Number 2). I am still here. My fears don’t have to hold me back. Seeing my fears laid out, I feel lighter than I have been since March 2020.
I’ve been tossing around in my head that maybe the only real “failure” in that list of fears is death. When I think of it this way, particularly during this protracted COVID pandemic, every day that I and my loved ones and those around me are here — I can count that day as success. Every day that we get through, no matter how messily, success.
In the words of Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
I do hope it is only death that can do this to me.
Christine J. Ko, MD, is a dermatopathologist.
This post appeared on KevinMD.