Am I the only one struggling?


Can I be honest?

 

I remember exactly where I was when Elvis died. I was thirteen years old, and I didn’t have a strong opinion on Elvis, but in 1977 his death was a huge deal. For a moment, the world stopped as people mourned and memorialized the legend. I clearly remember where I was the morning of September 11, 2001. Who doesn’t? I was working at Deaconess Hospital hosting an educational forum for health care professionals. The horrifying news moved quickly through the event despite the fact that few of us had cell phones and social media was a thing of the future. By the end of the afternoon, we sat stunned and shocked quickly dispersing to our families’ seeking answers and comfort. My family consisted of husband #2 and on this day, I confirmed he was not a comforting and loving partner. That night I cried myself to sleep on the couch. I had never felt so alone.

 

The world has endured many horrible tragedies. Our ancestors and their ancestors have lived through countless devastating experiences like war, the Spanish flu, the Holocaust, and the great and awful Depression. The pain and suffering of the human race is not a new phenomenon. Unlike other historical tragedies, the COVID-19 pandemic was much more sinister and sneaky. It infiltrated our lives slowly in late 2019 when the media began sharing news about clusters of patients in Wuhan China who were experiencing shortness of breath. It was alarming but not frightening. I unfortunately had become immune to the tragedies unfolding at a distance. I watched with concern and empathy, but I arrogantly assumed this would never impact my life in small town Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I had way too much confidence in my belief that my world was stable. Boy was I wrong.

 

In early March 2019, Pablo and I began wondering. Should we cancel our weekend trip to Paducah, Kentucky? The rumble of news about COVID was becoming a little more alarming and it seemed evident that something was brewing, and it could be serious. It felt like waiting for a hurricane to hit land. We watched and waited. Ron White was performing on March 7th, and I had recently become obsessed with him and his comedy. I had ignored his blue-collar popularity in early 2000 but now I was a super fan. I wasn’t one to cancel fun for any reason and Ron hadn’t notified me that the show was cancelled, so we hit the road for a weekend getaway. Paducah may not sound thrilling, but we had been living in Cape Girardeau for four years, so any escape was a treat. The Carson Center in Paducah is a fantastic venue for a show. The town is quaint and convenient with a few good local spots to eat. Ron did not disappoint and after the show I heard a rumor he was heading to Doe’s Eat Place, a local favorite. I informed Pablo, he could join me or go back to the room, but I was determined to run into Ron at the bar. Naturally, Pablo joined me because he couldn’t risk me running off with the famous funny man. Secretly, he was having as much fun as me. We hustled over and I snatched two seats at the bar, nosily listening to rumors from the locals who whispered he was on the way. I was perched at the bar with a vodka and my handsome husband when his tour bus pulled up in front. I was as excited as a kid in a candy story when he finally got off the bus with his dog Mustard and his entourage. I ran outside with the crowd to get a glimpse as he entered a private room in the back to enjoy a quite meal and a drink. I was a novice and shy stalker, so I let him have his privacy and reluctantly went back to the Holiday Inn. The party was over but what a memorable night! Little did I know how memorable it was.

 

How could we have known that would be our last hurrah? Two weeks later the world came to a screeching halt. I was flabbergasted. The news became my drug as I clung to every update unfolding on the television. I could not wrap my mind around what was happening, but I quickly understood that everything I had believed in was shattered. I had no confidence in the future and realized we were not exempt from catastrophe. We don’t get to watch this from afar, with pity and sadness that the world was suffering dramatically. We were smack dab in the middle of a damn Pandemic.

 

I had just started a new job with a national home care company. I quickly transitioned from marketing and public relations to supporting a COVID task force. My role became helping home care agencies decipher the daily, rapidly changing, and confusing CDC guidelines for managing exposure, and providing care to vulnerable aging adults. The people that I treasured the most were dying alone in nursing homes. Images of families touching and peering at loved ones through windows pierced my heart like an arrow. Those left at home were desperate for care but afraid to allow anyone in, and many were simply alone with families dispersed across the continent. How could anyone make sense of this? How could this happen?

 

They gyms were closed so Pablo and I took to the lonely streets of Cape Girardeau to walk and share our fears. We speculated for hours about all the numerous possibilities of what was going to happen next. Businesses were closed and doors were boarded shut, as we walked like zombies through an apocalypse. Time wore on and we adapted. Friday night became driveway dance party night. We blasted our favorite YouTube videos and started our happy hour at six. Our neighbors were in their late seventies, and they would peer out their windows laughing. Lois would shout to Ken “Come look, they are dancing in the driveway again” she would exclaim. They enjoyed the noise and the laughter. Occasionally we would have a happy hour across the driveway, but they were vulnerable to the disease, so we were cautious. Nights like this made things seem ordinary. There was comfort in that. Weekend workouts were wall sit and plank challenges in the basement. We took long walks through the city that was never vibrant but now was eerie and calm. Saturday was movie night and scrabble competitions. I looked forward to my weekly potato skins that I made from scratch. They were well worth the time, which was something we had plenty of. Slowly we began forming a routine, creating normalcy out of chaos. Creating calm out of fear and waiting for this thing to end.

 

Day after day, month after month the endless drum of our life went on. It didn’t resemble the life I had known but I found comfort in the routine. I needed routine to manage the uncertainty and fear. There was drama and death. Misinformation and divide. There was hope and survival, but mostly it was uncharted territory for everyone. We simply went on with life despite the fact that nearly everything we treasured was gone. Hugs and handholding. Birthdays and anniversaries. Concerts and fancy dinners at tiny restaurants. Business meetings were moved to Zoom, and people forgot how to comb their hair and wear pants. Children had virtual school. Family gatherings and even funerals ceased to exist.

 

The return to life was so gradual that I’m not even sure when it occurred. There were glimpses of life between the dull cracks that COVID had formed but this was often replaced with another urgent spike or a new variant. It was an emotional rollercoaster ride through hell. I missed dining out the most and remember the first brief openings to civilization requiring masks and distance. I found those nights out more depressing than hopeful, but we did what we could, with what we had. I slowly pulled myself away for the drama of the media and began trying to better understand the science and the truth. Lines were blurred and swords were drawn. The actuality of our world appears totally up for interpretation depending on your personal point of view and maybe your political beliefs. The only truth I am certain of is that our world has changed forever.

 

Two years later, my mask is in a drawer, and I feel a deep gnawing in my soul. Something isn’t right. I feel like I’m tilted on an axis, holding on for dear life. Tears are resting patiently behind my eyes ready to drop at a hat. The crisis is not behind us, and we are not really through it. So where does that leave us? Doors have opened, planes are flying. I am back in my hometown of Cincinnati and recently found our home sweet home despite the lunacy of the real estate market. Everyone is rushing on, Moving forward trying to grasp life but beneath the surface there are potholes. Big, fat deep holes that hold the trauma of our loss. The hidden pain that no one seems to talk about. What the hell just happened and where am I?

 

I don’t recognize this new world, but I am happy that I survived. I did not die of COVID, addiction, depression, or loneliness. But many people did. We are living through history. One day historians will write about 2020, the pandemic and the turmoil that followed and how it changed the trajectory of our world. I am not going to wait for that day to look back and reflect upon the horror of these last two years. I have eyes wide open at this very moment observing, remembering, and reflecting.

 

Can I be honest? I am struggling with the trauma of our reality and it’s so much more than just COVID Maybe COVID ignited the vast and rapid changes we see today that have created divide and what seems like a descent of our democracy. I don’t know, but to me if feels like the world has changed overnight. I empathize with everyone who has lost so much and who is suffering. I feel your pain and I am also working through it.

 

That’s my story.

I would love to hear yours.

 


And…. laughter is the best medicine so check out



Adventures with April & Pablo



. I think you’ll enjoy our COVID adventures in Cape.






Originally Published on https://www.aprilibarra.com/

April Ibarra Chief Aging Officer

I am a Gerontologist and fierce advocate for aging well. With over 25 years’ experience in health care my passion is partnering with organizations to collaborate on ways to enhance the lives of older adults and those who care for them. I am a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and Dementia Support Group Facilitator. I partner with organizations to develop programs, education, and resources to support their mission and enhance their brand with aging consumers.

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