Hope

2020. What does that word…or number…mean to you? For me, it conjures up images of hospitals and nurses. Long lines at supermarkets and testing sites. Protests and violence. It also elicits several emotions for me. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Hope. That last one is always a welcome change of pace.

I go through this pattern with my emotions where I cycle between negative and positive emotions just like the rest of us. But with the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that is still in effect here, it feels like that cycle has broken, at least for now. There is so much anger and fear that I deal with and hope is fleeting. But, perhaps the hope is there; it’s just harder to get to. I have to make a conscious effort to reach it. To make sure it doesn’t escape out of my grasp. And so, here is why I have hope.

I am down 20lbs from my highest weight, ever. I say this as a point of pride and as a point of reflection. I am proud of the results for several reasons. The first and most prominent is that I am seeing a change in my body that is positive. I see more definition and less softness. I don’t look as bloated and my clothes are starting to fit me in a way that I feel flattered. That gives me hope.

Second, I have more energy and feel better. My back and my feet don’t ache when I walk unless I put a lot more effort in compared to where I was when I started. I think I am sleeping better. Because of this, I am continually motivated to eat healthier and limit my portions. I also only snack on fruit now and have essentially cut out all refined sugars from my diet. That gives me hope.

Third, I am seeing results from hard work. Most of my life was spent in pursuit of wanting fast or even instantaneous results. After two weeks, I would lose motivation and give up. I’m realizing that this is a marathon and you need to pace yourself. It’s ok to indulge on occasion. The key is to realize it is an indulgence and not something to have every day. Because of this cognitive shift in perception, I am changing for the better. And I can do it. That gives me hope.

I suppose the moral of this story is that you realize the type of person you are during the worst of times. And I’m realizing that I am a pretty cool guy who wants to make himself a better human.

A glimmer

So it’s now Day 9 of the Shelter-in-Place order. Compared to yesterday, I am feeling better though still unsettled. Whether it be work or my personal life, things just don’t seem normal. I am being bombarded with inane text messages and posts from family. Pictures of Trump or of dinner and other random things. I know they are trying to lighten the mood and that they are dealing with this in their own way. But, sometimes you just need to wall yourself off from all that.

I do happen to find it annoying when my phone and watch constantly ping. You look down and you have 30 messages in the span of 5 minutes. And yes, while you can change the notification and alert settings, there’s something deeper. Deeper than just the superficial annoyance of being reminded of the plastic and glass device on your wrist or in your pocket. There’s a deep sense of still not feeling ok. Since this whole virus has swept through the world and shut it down, I am finding myself increasingly detached from the world. This is the case for most of us. We are all practicing social distancing and to an extent isolation. And as we have each become an island, we are left to think. And this gets into the heart of something that I have struggled with my entire life. Depression.

Depression eats at you. It sucks away your will to do anything. It makes you into a shell of the person. An exterior that, if chiseled or shattered would reveal an abyss. The core of you is so distant that it feels like an echo… or a memory of what you once were. It’s a nefarious and pervasive invader in your life. You try to hide it as best you can. You force a smile or feign interest in a conversation or try to look at things of beauty. But, you feel as a fraudster does. Knowing that you can lie to others but you can’t lie to yourself. It’s the mental equivalent of skin cancer. You can hide it under layers, but it slowly eats you away. You feel it in your mind. It gnaws at you. Your brain feels like someone is slowly stretching it out, twisting it into perverse shapes, and then stretching it out further. And like hate, it’s smart. It knows the best time to strike. When you are alone and feeling helpless.

And that’s how I feel now. Helpless and alone. I don’t even have the opportunity to go out and be with family and friends in person because of the Shelther-in-Place order. I want to be clear, I am not complaining about what is going on. We all need to do our parts to stop this virus in its tracks. And while I can rest somewhat easily knowing that. And that gives me some strength. Sometimes, when I am in a depressive state, a small glimmer of hope is all I need to start getting back on track. The abyss becomes a pit, with a bottom. And I find myself present again with my mind and body in my surroundings. Sometimes it comes from the anticipation of something huge – a holiday or a vacation. And other times, it can be a simple “Thank you” and a smile from a stranger. That’s one of the other tricky things about depression. But, I think I’ve given it enough time.

Today, the sun came out. After several days of cold, dreary and wet weather, we have clear skies. I can even see a sliver of moon hovering over a building from my window. The air is cleaner than I have seen it in a long time. We can certainly “thank” COVID-19 for that. The sound of traffic both in the air and from the nearby freeway is a little less. There is a breeze and the air is brisk. And while the world still feels like it’s holding its breath, I can find peace in this moment. I will see another day. And perhaps, the glimmer of today will become a reality for tomorrow. It’s certainly worth sticking around for.

The view from our balcony taken this afternoon after the sun broke through the clouds. It’s not much, but it’s ours.

Day 8 of Shelter-in-Place

It seems like everything we are reading, hearing, watching and talking about revolves around COVID-19. Whether it’s family, friends, or colleagues in the virtual office, it’s the singular topic on all of our minds. For myself and my partner, we have been under a Shelter-in-Place order for the past 8 days. We live in California which was one of the first places in the US to have positive cases of the virus. If we are able to successfully flatten the curve, the Shelter-in-Place order may be lifted on April 7th. However, I think this will last longer. The virus is showing no signs of slowing down. To add to an already stressful time, we are also seeing people (both young and old) ignore social distancing. More on that later.

To say that this is a stressful time seems like the understatement of the year and decade. It might be the understatement of the century as well though we still have 80 years for something even more monumental to take the crown! I certainly have never seen anything like this. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a guy in his 30s so I appreciate that I am still young and have a lot more future (hopefully!). Prior to COVID-19, 9/11 was the biggest single event that I could remember. I remember when my father walked in telling me that the country was under attack. It was even more poignant since he grew up just outside NYC and lived/worked there for a number of years before migrating to California. I remember the streets being completely empty and the uncertainty of what had not yet happened. There were rumors that the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was a target among many others. And even though all the events happened on the other side of the country, the sense of fear, unease and total helplessness was palpable.

But, that was just a day. A day that transformed the US into something different. It was no longer the same country as it was on September 10, 2001. There are myriad things that changed. Increased airport security, the TSA, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq just to name a few. But, for me, my day to day life didn’t change. I still went to school, hung out with friends and procrastinated on homework until the night before. Family gatherings, while more tense, still happened. We still went on vacations to places. I was certainly more politically and geographically aware after September 11th but I was still pretty much living my life the way I always had.

COVID-19 is not just a day in 2020 to remember. My life, the life of my family and friends and colleagues have all been upended. The entire world has been put on pause, and as if that wasn’t hard enough to grasp, there is no end date. Sure, we are hearing about China (Wuhan in particular) lifting the lockdown orders and Chinese officials ordering the country to go back to work. Time and ultimately history will judge if that is correct. Hong Kong recently did the same thing and they have seen another uptick in cases. It’s been several months for Asia and it is still unclear whether or not the region is over the curve.

The West (most of what I am going to talk about relates to news in the US) is just starting to go through this. While it would be great to think that we will be over this by early April or even Easter, I am thinking this will easily go into May and maybe as far as June. I have no data to back that up and I don’t claim to be an expert. This is what my gut tells me. If it does go into the summer, then what does it mean about the country and our society? Could we have done more to stop the spread of this? Should we have taken this more seriously than we did initially? Again, watching how this unfolds across Asia compared to the West, or just the US, will probably be the only way we could draw a comparison. What I can say is that I am dismayed by the cavalier attitude that some people are showing. Even people close to me are making light of the Shelter-in-Place order. To me, it shows a clear lack of empathy and love towards others and the community at large. I have elderly family and friends. I am very worried about them. I am also angry that other people are not making the same sacrifices that so many of us are making to try and fight this.

All of this being said, the virus still felt a little distant. On the one hand, it’s an invisible enemy that does not discriminate who it infects. On the other, all the cases happening around us have been statistics reported on the news. Until today.

We received a notice from our apartment complex’s management that there is a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. Out of respect and law, their name and unit is not being released which I understand and appreciate because of the panic factor. Still, you have to wonder how safe you are. Each of our units has its own HVAC system, but, our unit faces a courtyard and the virus can survive in air for a little bit of time. Our maintenance and cleaning team has closed all public spaces and removed all furniture within the courtyard to prevent people from gathering. My parents and family are understandably concerned, and I am concerned. Knowing that the virus has become a “neighbor” changes things. Any tickle in your throat, any slight shiver, any small, minute, “off” thing is now making me wonder.

But with all of this, we have to still look on the bright side. I am feeling fine right now. I know that we will get through this crisis. It’s brought me closer to my family and to my partner. It’s making me take stock of what is really important in my life. I created this blog as a way to cope during this time. But I love to write as well. So, in a way, while I am coping, I am also doing what I enjoy. I am looking at this situation as an opportunity to do more self-discovery and to determine what I want to do with my life and career. After all, we only get this one life…you may as well make the most of it.

So, if you made this far, congratulations and thank you for reading. I know this post meandered but I needed to get some things off my chest. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Talk soon.