By Dr. Kaye Whitehead, Special to the AFRO
There are moments in your life that take your breath away. Moments when you have to pause for just a second because you are so overwhelmed that you cannot speak. I felt that way when I walked down the aisle to get married and when I held my son for the very first time. Moments where I could not speak, could not breathe. I was holding my breath trying to make that moment last forever. My Nana used to tell me that I had to learn how to hold on to those moments of joy to help me to get through the moments of sorrow and pain. I remember weeping when my nephew died, when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, and when my Nana, so overcome with pain and fatigue, could barely speak as I combed her hair. It was during those moments when I would remind myself that joy would come on the other side because this pain was temporary. I used to believe that until I met coronavirus. My days are now filled with uneasiness and anxiety. Like everyone else, I watched with concern and then with alarm, as coronavirus made its way across the country. I found myself vacillating between fear of the unknown and anger at the lies being told to us by our president. I felt helpless. I spoke to my mom and she said that maybe, it was time to accept that someone I love was going to get coronavirus. No matter how careful they were at that moment, no matter how they practiced social distancing or wore our face masks and gloves, they were going to be touched and changed by this virus and so was I.
I am no longer able to tell the difference between the days. I stay up late and sleep until my dreams turn into nightmares. I have the same routine: I take my temperature twice a day, load myself up with immune-boosting vitamins, and check in with my family. I always ask the same thing “You good?” which in the age of coronavirus means: do you have symptoms? Are you staying home? Are you feeling depressed? Do you have enough food and toiletries? You are not alone. We are in this together. I am still here. My husband and sons are still here. We do not have any symptoms. Get some fresh air (back yard only). Follow the news. Love yourself. Take a shower and get dressed. Wash your hands. Wear gloves when you leave the house. Disinfect your house daily. No outside shoes inside the house. Take deep breaths. Stretch. Sit on the porch. Stay away from people. Dance. Sing. Choose to survive. Read. Pray. Fight, because we are not done yet. I wait for them to respond while I whisper to myself, “Just accept it, someone I love will get coronavirus.” I know that it does not make sense, but somewhere in my heart I believe that if they text back and if everyone is ok then we will make it virus free one more day.
Early morning, right before the sun began to rise, my phone started ringing.When I answered, my heart dropped because it was a close friend who lives by herself in Harlem, NY. She was crying, wailing really. She told me that she probably had Covid-19 and she was calling to tell me good-bye. She said that as much as she has tried, she could not get tested. As she ticked through her symptoms, I went through the checklist in my head: dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, nausea. She sounded so tired. She said that living with the symptoms of Covid-19 without actually knowing whether you have it, was worse than knowing because every sneeze, every cough, every time it is difficult to swallow, feels like a death sentence. She said as bad as I think it is, it is worse. I sat on the couch listening to her. I cried with her and for her. I told her that she needed to fight to live, fight to get tested, fight to get to the other side of this.
Every morning I wake up and I sit quietly on the side of my bed. I take a few deep breaths as I listen to my body. I work hard to still the rising tide of anxiety as I remind myself that I am still here. I walk slowly through the house, checking on my family, and I remind myself that they are still here. I sit in the living room on the couch and I slowly begin to go through the messages on my phone. I have resigned myself to the fact that the next person I read who has coronavirus will be someone that I know, someone that I love, someone that I went to school with, someone in my sorority, someone from my church, someone that I once dated, someone I work with, someone who goes to school with my sons, or someone my husband knows or went to school with or once dated. I force myself to accept that the next person might be me. This reality makes me pray and cry; practice social distancing and breathe deeply. It makes me stop and try to remember the moments when I used to laugh. I try to remember the moments when life, as beautiful as it is, took my breath away. And when I get one of those memories, I hold on to it and then I slowly get back up, I throw my back to the wind, and I begin my day again.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @kayewhitehead) is the #Blackmommyactivist and an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland. Recently selected for the Essence Woke 100 List, she is the award-winning host of “Today With Dr. Kaye” on WEAA 88.9 FM. She lives in Baltimore City with her husband and their two sons.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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