COVID-19 May Not Have Ruined My Lungs, But It Has Broken My Heart

In the last two weeks 69 people in my New York City zip code tested positive for the coronavirus. I wasn’t one of them. My antibody test results, which I received last week, show that I hadn’t contracted COVID-19 before then, either. None of my close friends or family members have been among the 216,000 New Yorkers stricken by the virus, let alone the 18,000 plus who have succumbed to it. I should feel better about this than I do.

I’m proud of my city. We have been New York tough: smart, united, disciplined and loving. For the first time since this hell began, no new COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the city over the last twenty-four hours. Let’s keep it that way!

I feel closer to my neighbors than ever before. We all wear masks, casual acquaintances ask after each other’s well-being while dog walking, apartment dwellers offer to shop for those more immunocompromised, my upstairs neighbors returning from Florida are strictly following the fourteen day quarantine regulations.

So far, this summer hasn’t been too hot, too muggy, too rainy. I’ve been able to get outside almost every day for long strolls in Riverside Park. I’m reluctant to go so far as to dine at one of the many restaurants offering curbside service, despite how charming many eateries have made these spaces. Sometimes, I feel almost as if I am in Europe, with the corner bodega bedecked with tiers of flowers and plants and the many vegetable and fruit stands peddling their wares street side, outdoor cafe life in full swing.

But this isn’t Europe. It’s Trump’s America. Lord knows when we will ever again be welcomed as tourists in Europe, or Asia or most anywhere else. I’ve been nagging my husband to renew his soon-to-expire passport for months, but now I wonder whether he should even bother.

Listening to Governor Cuomo give one of his signature updates this morning, I was at once heartened and immeasurably saddened by his tone of frustration, even anger at the failure of the federal government to take the lessons learned in New York and apply them to the rest of the country. I’m not the only one heartbroken by the fact that our collective pain hasn’t been redeemed by preventing a similar fate from happening elsewhere. And it threatens to stealthily return in the bodies of those who come here from places that haven’t done the things proven to keep people safe.

My world has shrunk. Not just because of “New York Pause” and the three months I spent virtually imprisoned in my apartment, but because now that I have the choice to move about more in the world, I either can’t or don’t want to. We haven’t even had an indoor get together with our family members yet, let alone strangers.

My family canceled our vacation out of state in early June once we knew that we would have to quarantine for the entire two weeks. We’ve rented a cabin in upstate New York instead, where we know that we will still be under the mandates set out by our governor.

The thought of traveling to a location that doesn’t observe social distancing, where people refuse to wear masks, where I might even be castigated for protecting myself, is just too anxiety-producing. My husband is regularly tested as part of his cancer treatment regimen. My daughter and son-in-law got tested in advance of our trip just to give us all peace of mind that none of us are asymptomatic.

I’ve heard people refer to the time before lockdown as “the before times.” I have a hard time imagining what “the after times” will look like. I’ve lost so much faith in my country’s government not to mention my fellow countrymen. My lifelong Quaker testimony to “look for that of God in every man” is being challenged by every viral video of a new Karen or Kyle. I cringe listening to Republican officials try to spin the unspinnable. I am angered that Dr. Fauci is being attacked in an effort to shift blame from the White House, that Roger Stone has been pardoned, that Breonna Taylor’s killers are still out free, that Trump won’t release his tax returns.

So much has been exposed in the last six months, that I wonder what it will take to cure the plagues of racism, callousness toward the less fortunate among us, police brutality, xenophobia, corruption and ineptitude that have ridden on the back of the pandemic. My heart is broken as I watch my country become a pariah state. I’m struggling to breathe, not from COVID-19, but from the exhaustion of staying positive in the face of the willful disregard of science, of history, of basic human decency and common sense that I see each day.

And then I remember my own Nana’s advice, the mantra that has saved me from despair so many times in the course of a long life: “This too shall pass.” Time to tackle my To Do list before going on vacation, time to email a few friends, time to bake some bread, time to get over myself, to buck up. “See you on the flip side,” as we used to say ;-).

30 thoughts on “COVID-19 May Not Have Ruined My Lungs, But It Has Broken My Heart”

  1. Will this pass? Empires crumble. The country is no worse off than many of us thought it would be after 3.5 years of Donald Trump. His culture war hasn’t turned into a shooting war yet, but with so many yahoos walking around my town carrying assault weapons, that’s only a matter of time. I’m a fatalistic dude with a large fairness streak. You reap what you sow. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch of people. I hope your get away rocks.

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    1. Michelle Goldberg in her NYT oped said it might not be clear when the American century began, but when it ended will be clear to historians. I totally agree. I’m not sorry that this empire is ending, but I am very sorry about how it is happening, as I fear we are being plunged into a very dark period.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We all will see one another on the flip side of this- not knowing when or what the flip side will look like. As Desmond Tutu has said- “May we go through hard times and not become hard, may we experience heart break but not be broken.”

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  3. I’ve already gotten to the point where I’m happy not having to leave my house. What am I going to be like by the time the stay home order is lifted? Agoraphobic, I fear.

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    1. I know! The psychological damage from this experience is something. I especially worry about people already suffering from anxiety disorders.

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  4. I’m in Arizona where the state took no lessons from New York. We are destined to repeat the problems that we would not recognize. At least more people are wearing masks — distancing. Maybe Americans can only learn things the hard way — and only one state at a time.

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    1. After Trump was elected I was convinced that the only way that people would turn on him was if they got personally hurt by his incompetence or malevolence. I never expected it to be from a pandemic, but here we are. I have repeated your comment about someone else’s freedom ending at your nose to many of my friends. Glad you are keeping it covered, and that more Arizonans are too. Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My complete sympathy for your rant. I agree throughout. Before the pandemic I had already been saying that the empire is collapsing. As appropriate as it is for a nation who has made the economy an idol to fall, it is extremely painful to experience.

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  6. I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. My life has not been very large since I retired 6 years ago — a decision I made. I was tired of the BIG BIG BIG world and wanted something different. But now it is — as far as people are concerned — the people who live in houses the line the alley. We’re an odd little village in a small town. I was wondering the other day if all the blocks have evolved into that kind of community, but I don’t know. In a place as remote as this, few people have gotten ill (450 with 11 deaths). This makes some people (the Trumpists) think everything should go back to normal because the “risk” is small. That kind of thinking blows me away. For the 11 people who died in the San Luis Valley the risk was too big. I can’t see this as a crapshoot which, it seems, many people seem to. And Trump fosters that kind of thinking. Some of the things I’ve heard him say absolutely stagger my mind.

    What I fear the most is that people will not turn out to vote in November.

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    1. My biggest fear is the people will turn out, but their votes will not be counted. Even blue states like mine had a huge number of mail in ballots disqualified for one reason or another. And in so many other places voter suppression is real. We are in dark times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes we are. Colorado has all mail in voting and it’s gone very well. But who knows. The variables are already large and then add evil to the mixture and… 😦

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  7. I’m glad people are behaving so well in your NYC neighborhood. Here in Astoria has been incredibly disappointing. For weeks I barely even went out because there were so many people on Ditmars Boulevard, it was astounding. Even at the height of the pandemic. Before things were officially reopened, they were already gathering outside of the bars/restaurants offering takeaway and turning it into a street party. Some wearing masks, many not, or pulling them down to drink and smoke. It was so disappointing. This: ” I’m struggling to breathe, not from COVID-19, but from the exhaustion of staying positive in the face of the willful disregard of science, of history, of basic human decency and common sense that I see each day” is so well said. I can’t believe how things have gone in the US during this time, it’s so disheartening. Thanks for this thoughtful and eloquent message!

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    1. The pandemic has revealed so much about the American crisis of empathy and character and resolve. It is so disappointing. Let’s hope that at least in NY we can persist. Even with compliance , in my neighborhood I barely left my apartment for three months. I fear things will not return to “normal” whatever that will be, for another year, alas.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same for me, I just barely left my apartment. I was lucky to already work at home, so there wasn’t as much of an adjustment, but I’d also just returned to NY after years abroad, so it was a kind of shock on top of the reverse culture shock and strangeness of returning, if that makes sense. I can’t begin to imagine what our new “normal” will look like but I’m just so disappointed in how so many people have behaved. That WaPo story you linked from the clerk in NC was an excellent read, but I feel heartbroken for her and how many others are having to go through it every single day.

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  8. I love the way you talk about your world but it is really about the US as a whole. Your blog is so important because the news waters things down but you call a spade a spade. If it wasn’t for people like you, the outside world may have no idea about the real state of America. It must be so hard to live there right now. Please never stop blogging! #notmypresident

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    1. Thank you so much for such an encouraging comment. Sometimes I feel as if I am talking into the void, always wondering if it matters what I am writing or thinking given how big the world is and how small my little piece of it is. Your validation made my day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Trish! Sometimes I come across an older post of mine and they are not all that different from what I am doing now. It’s just sad that maybe 4 people read it … When you want to blog regularly & gain followers sometimes it seems like a lot of work but I believe at the end of the day we always write for ourselves. Even if no one read it, maybe in a 100 years from now a blogger or two will end up in a museum?!? 😉

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