It’s finally happened. No, I didn’t become a New York Times bestselling author. I have instead contracted COVID, after two years of dodging it like Neo in The Matrix.
But you know what I always say: when something bad happens to you, at least you’ll get a story out of it. And that’s what brings us to today’s post, my account with the virus, seven days in.
So sit back, put on your masks, and enjoy the lessons I’ve learned from this weird, weird week I’ve been having.
Perhaps my symptoms can comfort you
If you’re currently suffering from COVID and you’re just curious about what’s in store for you, perhaps this section will help alleviate your anxiety. Because as someone with compromised lungs (a hole and an infection when I was younger), boy can I relate to the unending what-ifs that inevitably follow the infection.
Does you coughing mean that the virus is taking over? Are you in the unlucky three percent? And how long will it be till you feel normal again?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers. And neither should you take medical advice from the internet. But, if you’re feeling fever, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, itchy, chills, brain fog, and general impending doom, then you’re not alone.
I’d felt all of that and more on day two alone. I never even knew I could feel so winded just lying down.
So yeah, I hope that you find solace in knowing how much things had sucked for me, because maybe that’s the exact thing you needed to hear so that you don’t catastrophise yourself into oblivion.
And maybe, by the time you’re done reading this piece, you’d find a lesson or two of your own as well. So let’s get on with it!
1. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth
Sure, we’ll start this thing with a Mike Tyson quote, because if there’s one thing I’m currently feeling, it’s that I got punched in the face by life itself.
Just the day before my sore throat, I had built myself to be a personal paragon of productivity. My days were filled with positive tasks from working out to meditating. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
I was the fittest I’d ever been, happiest I’d ever been, and the most proud of myself I’d ever been. Then I got sick and every habit I ever had just flew right out the window.
Can’t run when I’m sick. Can’t write either. Journalling? Nah. Eat healthy? Please.
Even my hobbies took a hit. Reading wasn’t fun anymore, and neither was gaming. Watching YouTube became a chore, and even the word ‘relax’ ceased to exist.
Sure, it’s easy to be Mister Productive when everything’s going your way, when your days turn out exactly as they should, and the only thing that qualifies as an emergency is that you forgot to stock up for meal prep.
But I’ve quickly learned that who you are when shit hits the fan is what really matters, and I’ve very quickly learned that I’m a wimp. A whiny, frail wimp.
2. All life is preparation
In relation to the above point, I’m also thankful to my past self for going on those runs when he didn’t feel like it, or pushing through those workouts when he was already winded, because boy did it help in dealing with the shortness of breath on COVID.
That separation between mind and body I’d practised during meditation? That came in real handy when the pain took over. Ditto all the good diet choices I’ve made that’s helped me nourish my body to date.
It’s not obvious when we’re in the thick of it, facing the mundanity of our days, but every decision we make plays a role in our future. Even the seemingly tiny decisions like practising gratitude can come in handy for the moments you least expect it.
Because heaven knows that gratitude was one of the driving forces that helped me get through the moments of gloom in quarantine.
Someone wise once said that life is pain, and once we accept that fact, we can then learn to weather ourselves to whatever life can throw at us. Maybe people—like David Goggins—who constantly put themselves through this rigour do have life figured out after all.
Of course, I still have much to learn in that regard.
3. Recreation isn’t all it’s jazzed up to be
I used to think that I’d enjoy having free time. Then I was given a week of nothing but time. I was free to pursue what I thought were recreational activities—sans leaving the house, and you know what I’ve learned?
Recreation means nothing if it’s not earned.
Sure, I can watch YouTube the entire day, binge on Netflix series, even play games till my fingers fuse with the mouse, but if my days weren’t spent bringing value in the world (and I mean this in a spiritual sense instead of the path of hustle culture), then I’d inevitably find myself restless and staring at the ceiling when it comes time to sleep.
It’s so weird how just one year ago, I’d treasure having the time to sip Mai Tais at the beach, but now, I see how it can be a fruitless pursuit if it’s not first preceded by valuable work.
You can put your pitchfork down, there. I see you, especially if you’re a sleep-deprived parent or if you work two jobs. But you see the difference here? You would have earned your right to relax. I haven’t.
Yet I have a sneaking suspicion that you’d quickly tire of all that free time once you get it.
4. You can’t compare yourself to others, sometimes not even to yourself
I’m sure you’ve heard that the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself.
That’s all fine and dandy when you want to measure progress, but what happens when life swoops in and hits the reset button with a disease or accident? Are you going to compare yourself to a healthier, younger you, then?
It’s been a week into COVID and I still can’t do ten push-ups in a row without seeing spots in my vision. I’ve worked so hard to consistently run ten kilometres per session, and now I can’t even walk to the bathroom without feeling winded.
I have to say that it’s a pretty discouraging feeling, especially seeing how fit I was just days ago.
And I might recover in the future, or I might end up getting long COVID, but whatever’s in the future should remain there, and so too does the past.
Since getting sick, I’ve learned to do the best I can with what I’ve been given for the day. Today I’m feeling much better than I did yesterday, so I might do twenty push-ups. Tomorrow I might do thirty. Or five.
What matters is that I do what I can for the day. The number of reps doesn’t matter, as long as I give it a hundred percent.
5. Remember what matters
Experiencing those brief moments of pain has certainly put things into perspective. Because once I’m back to normal, I’m definitely going to explore all the feelings I’ve yet to unpack, and that includes my disinterest in writing, as well as my newfound appreciation for family and friends.
And it’s not that I have a lot going on in my already-sparse life.
I guess that’s my biggest takeaway from this experience, that the things I thought were important could very well be a smokescreen, and that to me, very few things matter besides health and love.
Maybe the monks are onto something. Or maybe I’m still thinking weird from all this brain fog.
Either way, I hope the lessons you’ll have to learn this year remain COVID-free, because screw me if this is not the most annoying virus I’ve ever had to deal with.
But hey, at least I got a story out of it.
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