What’s now or what’s next?

Lots of articles and conversations about the decline of COVID. It may be a temporary decline, but we’ll take it, right? Thank God for vaccines and science.

Do you find yourself changed? I’m sure that depends on many things—where you live, if you got COVID and how bad it was for you, how introspective you are. I think many of us, though, walked unwittingly into this pandemic as one person and are walking out of it another.

I’m changed. Not just from having it and dealing with long-tail symptoms for—well, far too long. I’m changed from the many quiet days and nights, from observing how people I knew dealt with the whole situation from masks to social habits, from thinking about life in general.

I said to a friend over dinner the other night, “I knew 2022 was going to be a year of change. And they’ve begun, those changes. But more to come.” She asked me what and I mentioned my new job, as well as finally being able to exercise a bit more as I continue to aim for health beyond long-tail COVID symptoms. I also mentioned friends. While not wishing anyone ill, I’m trying not to fight the Universe’s clear messages on who belongs in my circle and who I need to move away from to make room for the new.

We get so used to our patterns and habits, don’t we? And yet COVID and the many hours it gave me to think allowed me to recognize that the habitual—while comforting—isn’t necessarily always healthy. A river flows and where it doesn’t, we see (and smell) putrid stagnation. Life is the same. It doesn’t mean a constantly changing cast of characters for most of us, but change is inevitable. And sometimes good, even when uncomfortable.

It appears I’m not alone in my ruminations. The New York Times’ Sunday Review ran an article on studies underway to decipher the difference in response to COVID by different immune systems. They’re linking it to genes, which is what I’ve suspected all along. I joked with the friend that brought COVID to me at the earliest stages of the U.S. pandemic that my heritage was at fault (I’m basically one huge recessive gene. Seriously, I don’t think I have a dominant one in the bunch. I had to marry a man with all dominant genes just to give my offspring a fighting chance. Sheesh, the things a girl will do for her kids.) By heritage, though, I meant my gene pool. My immunity has always been less than ideal. I’ll catch the cold or flu in a room where others get off scot-free.

Near the article, the NYT published quotes from readers on how they were feeling after two years of the pandemic. The responses were so wonderfully human and varied. One Montreal woman said, “My inner mother was reactivated and is ordering me about: Time for a bath. Get out of the jogging pants. Make a list of projects.” A New York man said: “The days that I can eat Taco Bell and not worry about how bad it is for me have come to an end.” An Oregon woman mused about re-entering the dating scene, saying she hadn’t lost hope for a better future. And a Pennsylvania woman said she now spends one week of every three in bed, floored by long COVID.”

 I must admit, that last one makes me nervous. I’m using all sorts of medical voodoo to continue to gain health and lost footing in the energy and vitality areas of my life. Not really voodoo, of course, but treatments that traditional medicine is not fully there on yet. Traditional medicine has been a waste during this period. It’s only the more experimental bits I’ve tried (under the supervision of doctors, of course) that have helped me.

In my humble opinion (it’s my blog, so why not), if you haven’t let the pandemic change you, think hard on that. And if it’s only changed you for the worse—you’re less tolerant or more depressed—fix it. Seriously. I’m not saying that from any moral high ground. I’m just being brutally honest. I’m still fighting to reduce inflammation, lose weight and be able to exercise regularly. That means eating humble pie on workouts and other things. But I’m not running away from the hard stuff. I’m moving through it.

Don’t fight having to dig deep on friendships. I have had to look seriously at who I want in my life. Those who rolled their eyes and complained about masks and posted incessantly on social media railing against precautions for the common good—well, they’re likely unfriended on social media and probably also in real life. I don’t wish them ill. I just don’t need that attitude in my life. If grandmothers in the Ukraine can pick up arms to fight for their families and freedom, you can wear a mask and be gracious about it. Just sayin’.

Don’t fight the urge to remake your space. Less stuff, less fluff. More substance, more joy. Beautiful or useful? Keep it. Neither? You probably don’t need it—and somebody else could probably use it.

Don’t fight the feeling that the clock is ticking. It is. I’m still trying to decide if I’m writing the Great American novel or if tiny joys in my every day are my new calling. Either way, I’ll commit when I know. I’m going to have to live on into that answer. But I don’t have forever—and neither do you.

Emily Dickinson wrote: “I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” We all should be right now. Big things should change us. Pandemics. Wars started by global bullies. (Every morning, the first thing I do is check on Zelensky. Before coffee, before brushing my teeth, before my feet hit the floor. You too?) Losing people we love. And of course, the good stuff. Discovering a new hobby. Reading books that truly change our perspective. Meeting someone who takes our breath away. That last one is a tall order but like the woman from Oregon, I try not to lose hope.

I used to focus heavily on what comes next. Almost incessantly. It takes a lot of energy—and life’s curveballs make it a dicey bet. During the pandemic, I had to master what’s now. Stay in the moment. Allow things to unfold rather than always trying to make them happen.

I must admit, I’m beginning to enjoy what’s now. Stay in the moment, friends. Let it unfold. I can’t wait to see (and hear) where it takes you.

46 Comments Add yours

  1. Cindy Sneller says:

    Hi Kristine – I loved this post. It really opened up my eyes and I realized that (thankfully) I am already doing some of those things. I have pulled away from those who are bullies and it’s hard when some of those folks are family. But, my husband always says “you can’t pick your family, but you can choose your attitude towards how you respond to them.” I’m still working on that. I also loved the Emily Dickinson quote. We should all be doing that. I want to wish you healing as well as you con’t to deal with long haul Covid. Continue your work, it is helpful to all of us who read your blog posts. Cindy

    1. candidkay says:

      Really kind words–thank you, Cindy! I would add to what your husband says that we can also pick our tribe. For many people, that’s not family but they might feel more like family because we chose them and they chose us.

      1. Cindy Sneller says:

        So true. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I love the Emily quote and that’s a little how I feel. My life has got smaller and I definitely hear that clock ticking, so I need to find a way to be whoever I am now 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you on the clock ticking. I think if the pandemic did anything for some of us, it made us aware that our time here is limited.

  3. Ally Bean says:

    Yes, yes. I agree that if you haven’t let the pandemic change you you’re doing it wrong. Life is about adapting to what is, so to deny that something as major as a pandemic has impacted you… well, I’d say you’re off your rocker. Denial is not admirable, it’s kind of crazy.

    1. candidkay says:

      Most of the people I know have allow themselves to be changed in one way or another. That’s encouraging to me.

  4. Love this and that Emily Dickinson quote is fire. I hope you are well and regain that energy. The pandemic, I feel, has zapped us all of energy.

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that Dickinson quote too😊. Thank you for the good wishes!

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    I didn’t realise you’d been hit so badly by Covid Kristine. Hope you continue to improve little by little. It hasn’t done your perceptive writing any harm – I read through this post more than once just for the enjoyment of reading a good piece of writing. Yes, please get on with the book 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you, Roy. As you know, that’s one of the nicest things you can say to a writer. I appreciate it and I’m glad you enjoyed this one!

  6. “I must admit, I’m beginning to enjoy what’s now.” Sweet!! I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with long effects of COVID, but love the gold you’re gleaning. The pandemic has definitely changed the world, and being in touch with several intuitives, I know it was supposed to. One of those massive events designed to shake us and wake us that’s also a whole lot of discomfort, pain, and grief.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. I truly appreciate them. And I truly do hope we continue to learn from this. Even if it’s not necessarily showing up in the collective, a lot of individual learning has to add up to something.

  7. KM Huber says:

    So far, I have managed not to get Covid but I am ever behind a mask and probably will stay that way. My immune system is not that suppressed but suppressed enough. We lost my brother-in-law to Covid. He was only 56.

    I “moved house (apartment)“ during the pandemic to a studio apartment that is very like tiny house living. If I add an item, something must go.

    I no longer drive. I have a room with a view.

    I began writing more in 2020, although not always for publication. I fell back in love with geology and for me, there’s a story in it. If it becomes a book, it will be the only story I ever wanted to write.

    I know no thing is forever but only now am I discovering what little time there can be between now and then.

    As always, your post is thoughtful, incisive and anything but brutal, although mindful certainly applies. Obviously, it spoke to me today. Thank you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh my goodness. You took this pandemic time and turned it into a crash course in delightful productivity – and it sounds like, hopefully, some joy in your new digs? I’m so glad. And I’m glad that you’re still being careful. I hope you are willfully ignoring anyone who gives you a look for still being masked up. We are all in different situations and the whole point is to learn to respect situations other than our own. Wishing you continued health and a wonderful 2022! Don’t be a stranger.

  8. Masha says:

    I feel that anyone who hasn’t been affected by this pandemic has to be a robot, all those who are declaring that covid is a conspiracy, are they freaking kidding me? I’ve been wearing a mask from the very beginning, I’m still wearing a mask and will continue to until I feel it’s safe for me to take it off, and not because some greedy politician who is looking for votes has declared no more masks needed. The one thing that’s changed for me, and maybe this is a bit vain, but LOL I stopped wearing makeup wearing a mask, I also haven’t been anyplace socially that I need to wear makeup, I don’t know if I even remember how to apply it LOL
    My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine
    I didn’t know you had gotten covid, it hits people in different ways. I know you’ll be fine, just need time. Sending you healing vibes, and love.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes, the no makeup is nice! I kept putting on lipstick, forgetting no one could see it:). Yes, I got COVID before they knew it was in the States–in Feb 2020. Vaccines have made all the difference!

      1. Masha says:

        Oh wow, my ex passed away April 2020 from it. Well take care, lots of love to you. xoxo

      2. candidkay says:

        I’m so sorry to hear that, Masha. I’m sure that couldn’t have been easy.

  9. srbottch says:

    Yes, stay in the moment. We didn’t get COVID (yet) but the entire process and all it’s rules wore on me. I know I’m a bit slower, stiffer and sore. Started exercising again. It ain’t easy. I wish you the best.

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you on the exercising! Sending you a virtual fist bump for keeping it up. I’m so glad that you didn’t get Covid and I hope that if you do, it is extremely mild. That’s definitely the way to get it versus how I got it in the beginning. Those vaccines work wonders.

      1. srbottch says:

        Thanks. I still wear my mask into the grocery store and COSTO (my two haunts…I’m so boring😂). Our 5 yr old grandkids, son and wife are visiting in April. First time together since Thanksgiving 2019. We’re still a bit nervous about it. I gave up my crossing guard job, which I loved, but close being around kids made me a bit nervous. I’m nearly 76 (I know, thank you…😉) with a compromised immune system, so I’m being extra careful. I’m so fed up with the whole business. So glad to know you’re doing okay. My older sister had a mild case in late Jan and she’s still feeling run down. But, in the bright side, we’re not in Ukraine. Those poor people and that miserable thug and his ego.

      2. candidkay says:

        Right? The Ukrainian people have been amazing–I pray for Zelensky daily. We could take a page out of their book.

      3. srbottch says:

        Sorry about going off. Exercise time, some stretching, rubber bands to ‘Graceland’. ‘Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes’ et al. Good rhythms for moving Later a mile+ walk (2x/day)

  10. Kathy says:

    I think this pandemic has changed so many of us. I am sorry to hear you’ve had covid and it has been challenging in the long-term. Hope you can fully gain back your stamina and strength. It was really hard for me to handle the attitudes of most of my extended family members, and I had to figure out how to be with them again. It was heartbreaking, but I do still want them in my life so it’s been a learning curve of how to be/act/share around them. None of it easy. Thanks for such a thoughtful piece.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I hear you on the dance with those who might have different views. It’s been eye-opening to say the least. And challenging. But I think that’s probably part of what we are all supposed to figure out. How to better respect and care for each other. Thanks for the kind words. It’s good to hear from you!

  11. I’m glad you’ve taken the “will to do better” route, Kristine. I have seen so many just give in to Rona and do the old “oh well” routine. That never works for anyone. Covid has changed my desire to be part of groups of humans. Life of the party and all of that. I find I’m now at peace in the quiet of my own skin. It took long enough but satisfaction with life no longer requires others to approve. I’m glad you are doing better. Keep growing.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, John. I must admit, it’s easier some days than others. As with anything. I understand wanting to be in the quiet of your own skin. Totally. I will say that the pandemic has brought out my inner introvert.

      1. Ha ha ha. Good way to put it. 😊

  12. So many thought-evoking points in this post, K. I didn’t know you had long COVID, and I’m sending you my best vibes for healing. My mother always reminded me “Everybody is dealing with something; be kind.” The last two years – and their impacts – have re-confirmed that for me. Thanks for sharing your post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Cynthia:). I suffered far less than many–but the fatigue really did a number on me. I still have to watch it–alcohol and sugar are not friendly normally but they really help COVID do its thing. So much better and working at continuing to get stronger each day:). My mother said something similar! I think we’ve talked about that. Wise words . . .

      1. Here’s to more and more healing, dear Kristine.

  13. I’ve become more inward-focused with brief outings into the world. And have used the time to clarify what is important to me. My life isn’t where I want it, but I have some plans and like you, I’m more focused on the now and simple joys. May you regain your health Kristine.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Brad! That’s a good way to put it–“brief outings into the world.” Here’s to your plans coming to fruition! And my health–well, it improves each day. I’m so much better–just trying to work at energy and stamina.

  14. Jane Fritz says:

    Kristine, I’ve been thinking about your COVID reflections for a day now. You’re right, these questions are important to reflect on. First of all, I’m sorry to hear that you contracted COVID and have had such a challenging recovery. I definitely agree with you that these strange times have provided distance from superficial or problematic friendships, although Trump had probably already got that ball rolling for many! One of the things that we learned was that there’s real value in being an introvert when society is suddenly forced into isolation.

    1. candidkay says:

      I was so thankful for the introvert in me, Jane! I hear you. Even so, it was a bit too much isolation even for us creative types, I think:). Yet, we’re through it! Hopefully all the wiser for it.

  15. Dale says:

    What a fabulous post, Kristine. I was lucky enough to not get COVID or, as I suspect, I did get it before it really started, December 2019 – or it was “just” a flu that knocked me out for a couple weeks.
    The pandammit has changed me. An effort is now required to go out and meet friends and do things. But not just by me, by them. Mind you, with everything closed for so long, what was the point. Everyone had their own way in dealing with it so it made for difficult adjustments. I became way more in than out. I’ve learned to be comfortable with myself. And less tolerable with those who incessantly spew about masks, truck convoys, war – and when I say spew, I mean spread bullshit. I’ve zero tolerance for it and spend my time hiding people’s posts or cutting them out completely. Social media is a double-edged sword, isn’t it?
    Ii suspect we would need a bottle of wine, comfy seats and hours to chat 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Learning to be comfortable with yourself sounds like a wonderful outcome. And I hear you on the zero tolerance. I mentioned that I had unfriended someone on social media to another friend. She looked surprised. And yet, I’m surprised that she has room for this person‘s negative energy in her life. If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that the energy that we do have should help move us somewhere positive or better.

      1. Dale says:

        I get it. Some people can just ignore it, others, not so much. When I scroll and it’s post after post of junk… ugh.

  16. markbialczak says:

    Yes, I agree, Kay. Covid drew a deep, dark line dividing so many components in my life. Who and what are on one side and the other? My thoughts and reactions will remain in my head and heart a long, long time.

    1. candidkay says:

      Here’s to creating positive change from that deep dark line. I do believe good will come out of the bad eventually.

  17. Karen Lang says:

    It has changed me on so many levels too. I slowed down to see more, be more and give more in each beautiful moment I am given. For this I am so grateful 🙏🏻🧡

    1. candidkay says:

      What a beautiful change😀! Especially since I think you were doing a phenomenal job even before the pandemic of all of these things.

  18. Miriam says:

    I think these past few years have changed everybody, whether they realise it or not. And truth be told, I don’t think we’ll ever go back to what we thought was normal. Because we now have a chance to create a new reality, one where we really know what matters, prioritising what’s important and bringing life back to the core of human values and deciding how we want to live. I’ll never take anything for granted again, the small things have become the big things. A very thought provoking post, thank you. Sending you lots of love. 🙏

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen to all of it. I agree also. This was a tragedy in many respects but also a huge opportunity to reinvent. And those that cling so tightly to the old hold themselves and the world back. We’ll not only be OK, we will hopefully be better.❤️

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