Sometimes my positive attitude is annoying to others. And, being human, there are times that I simply can’t find my positive outlook. However, most of the time, my family and friends appreciate that I know that there are always opportunities in whatever comes our way.
The pandemic of 2020 (and beyond, apparently) has taught me (or rather, is reminding me) of our own innate goodness. We are born being fully who we are; beautiful, creative, brilliant, and caring human beings. We benefit from knowing that about ourselves.
I believe we come here to this life to experience freedom and to feel joy, recognizing that the result of our lives is expansion. We have a choice to live happy and productive moments. When we understand that we are the creators of our own experiences – not victims of life’s crappy stuff, we feel good. There is nothing better than feeling good!
But what could be more challenging than living during a pandemic?
My husband and I arrived safely home in Maine after a shortened stay in our Florida home on April 1, 2020. We washed our hands for over twenty seconds after spraying the sanitizer we used to clean the (already sanitized) two hotel rooms where we stayed on our trip back to Maine. We had to ask ourselves, “Are we really home safely?”
My bed felt like heaven. The virus was ‘out there,’ lurking behind corners with its notable sinister intent. My bed was a place where I could actually take a break from being worried. Worry is the opposite of trust. It balances the other end of the stick of positivity. The truth is that everything will work out. My grip on that darn stick wasn’t where I wanted it. I was grasping it tightly at the negative end. I was feeling a lot of fear, and sleep was helpful.
My husband co-owns a popular fish market here in Portland, Maine. His father and brothers and he created a business that is often referred to as an icon in our city. His younger brother and my husband are the last ones left to run the business. They manage it well, supporting their 50 employees like they are family. That is what my father-in-law wanted most out of the business. A larger family to love and care for. 10 days into our 2-week quarantine, my husband was preparing to take the leap to go back into work.
I exercised when I got up (Why did I ever lack appreciation for my daily chance to stay healthy?). I carried the laundry up the stairs. When I got to the top step, I couldn’t breathe comfortably. Six days later, after several phone consultations with my doctor, my breathing had become so seriously compromised that my husband took me to the hospital.
I couldn’t say my full name when asked at the reception desk. On our way to the hospital we had stopped at our son’s house so I could wave goodbye to him—seriously, a mere wave?—while he stood full of dread on his porch. I said my goodbyes to my husband in the car at the hospital entrance, using my eyes to remind him that I loved him. At that moment, my husband couldn’t speak to me. Emotional and scared, he was forced to drop me off instead of accompanying me, and legitimately not knowing if he would see me again. We thought I had Covid and if so, it was a bad case, so my goodbyes were quite sincere and definitely understated.
When the eight doctors and nurses that met me in the ICU examination room began to do their thing, I felt some immediate relief. Even though they had on those frightening space suits I had seen health care workers wear on TV, I could see the faces of the people who quickly and solidly were becoming my new extended family. I loved them instantly. Every one of them.
The question I will always remember came from the doctor who seemed to be taking the lead in my care. “Have you ever had heart problems?” You would have thought that he told me I had won a billion dollars. “No,” I answered, almost gleeful with hope. I noted that I could talk a little again. My new family had already performed my first miracle. I loved them even more.
In the many days leading to my only hospital stay since the birth of my wonderful son (a positive experience if ever there was one), it never occurred to me that I could have anything but Covid. It seems that I was focused on the virus as if it were Enemy #1, and no other adversary counted. I think that’s how most of us were thinking.
In the end, I had a torn mitral valve. My Covid-19 test was negative, I was going to need open heart surgery, and I was delighted. My problem had a solution!
What end of the stick was I living? That old question comes to mind: is the glass half empty or half full? Is it possible that I had serious heart issues and yet still felt like I could fly? To feel such intense relief at such a serious diagnosis reassured me that my glass is always full, even in tough times, because I have the freedom to appreciate the upside of my situation.
The many health care workers who cared for me while I was hospitalized are with me every day in my newly repaired heart. I will love them forever. One young woman in particular held my hand when I was experiencing an a-fib attack two days before my operation. It scared me, and she noticed the tears on my cheeks while the doctor was tending to me.
“I know you want your family now,” she said with compassion. “Could I be your family today?” She already was. My relationship with her mattered. I trusted her. While waiting for the medication the doctor ordered to stop the a-fib, I meditated. The fluttering stopped when I got to the words in the mediation, “Your cells want you out of the way so they can make you well,” and I never needed the medication the doctor had ordered for me.
Almost a year later, I have returned to my real gym. Though I’m vaccinated, I wear a mask while I work out. I’m the only one there who does, but I feel comfortable. I wear my mask so I will feel good. It helps me sleep better at night. Some people clearly choose to hate masks. I cherish my masks because they work. Therefore, masks are rarely uncomfortable to me.
We are privileged in this country to have access to vaccinations that work, too. And they were developed so quickly! I am grateful for the brilliance of those whose mission has been to keep us healthy. Good health is a dominant force and health care researchers are among the instruments.
My husband has been back at work for a year. The day-to-day adaptations he and his crew have invented to provide seafood safely to our community is inspirational. They have worked together with class. He and his brother appreciate their faithful customers and loyal employees. In fact, many of their new processes are making them more efficient, and they’ve become a permanent part of their business.
Although my husband sometimes says managing people is the most challenging part of his job, I see his face light up with pride we run into customers who tell him that his crew is just the best – always respectful and kind. Their employees are proud of themselves too, especially during these difficult times.
I’m fortunate to have made many friends at the gym. One such friend’s mother passed away from Covid recently. Overwhelmed with grief, the most distressing part for her was thinking that her mother died alone. Although I have no doubt that her mother wanted her family with her as much as they wanted to be there, I assured my friend from my own experience. “Don’t be jealous,” I told her, “but your mother was with her new family and, of course, you were all with her too.” I was happy I had returned to the gym and was able to share my new awareness with my friend.
How incredible is it to love. It is even better than being loved. Both are what life is all about.
by Kathleen Alfiero