I just sneezed.
Am I sick?
And now my nose is runny. Should I go the urgent care? The ER? My son is sniffling. My wife coughed (she’s got the allergies). My daughter has a headache. Call the pediatrician. The ambulance. The hospital. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
To be clear, there’s an ever-growing list of things that exhaust me about this pandemic: wearing a mask; people who won’t wear a mask when around others; the refusal of large swaths of society to do just minimal things to help us get past this; the further intractable political polarization because of the pandemic; people who won’t wear a mask correctly; reading stories about people who spent a large part of the pandemic railing against all things vaccine and then begging for it when they’ve gotten terribly, horribly, deathlysick; the CDC’s inability — two years into a damn pandemic— to communicate effectively; oh, and people who don’t wear a mask correctly.
Despite that ever-growing list, it’s the everyday occurrences that truly exhaust me. Because these are the things I can both control (and can’t) and affect me most immediately. I remember the first time I felt just the tiniest bit sick back in April 2020. I think I’d sneezed a couple times, maybe a slight cough and felt warm for like 30 minutes.
I thought it was the end. I was preparing remarks, in my head, to say to each of my family members as they brought me into the hospital, sure I would never see or speak to them again. I mainlined some Airborne tablets and DayQuil and NyQuil for the rest of the day and night. I’m sure I was a nervous wreck … and then I felt better.
And whilst all those other things on my list are big deals and important, the couple minutes of panic caused by the possible onset or presence of a symptom just absolutely starts my mind moving with a million questions and outcomes.
When someone in my family sneezes, I’m asking if they’re all right almost immediately. If someone near me coughs and isn’t wearing a mask, they’re getting the deathiest death glare in the history of death glares. When a student is in my classroom continually sucking up snot, I’m internally crying to the heavens: “Why are you at school and not at home?”
Somehow, through two years of this, Covid has mostly missed my family. My son was quarantined due to close contact with a positive classmate in January 2021 twice in a row (he went back to school for a single day between quarantines) … but blessedly that’s been our closest brush with the virus in our immediate family.
I think the thing that has affected me most is just the constant state of worrying, which as a parent and husband, is something I should be used to. But the other things I worry about as a parent—did my daughter do her homework, did my son make the team, is my wife having a good day at work— somehow feel within my control. Whether or not enough tiny virus particles are making a home in my family’s bodies seems less so. It’s what makes it feel like these last two years feel like two decades. There are times when someone asks me to recall a thing that happened a couple weeks ago and it feels like it was YEARS ago.
While I’m hopeful, as I would hope most of the rest of us are, for the end of this pandemic and the end of disease and nearly unprecedented death, I’m mostly hopeful my—and our— lives can go back to a time when a simple sneeze, a passing cough or a bit of lethargy didn’t have my neres frayed to the point where they’re not even nerves anymore.