As I reflect on 2021 for myself and others, we’ve all used different coping skills to get ourselves here today. Whether that is taking up a new hobby at home, finding a new friend at work to confide in, some much-needed self-care, whatever that might look like, you name it, we’ve all done our thing to get through.
Some of us denied the year’s existence at all, some of us locked ourselves inside with all means in an attempt to steer clear of what was seemingly inevitable, and what we began to create is this “me” being here and “Covid-19” being there.
It was many people’s way to protect ourselves from the prospect of catching the dreaded Covid-19.
The thing about Covid though is that before these last few weeks, it was always over “there” – not here – we took solace in telling ourselves “We are okay because it’s not here, it’s only over there”. Distant from us, away from us, not in our own physical home.
Covid was only what happened to the person on the news, or the friend of a friend of a friend, or the guy down the street, or that long distance person you’d lost contact with.
Covid was never here – it was “there”.
That was the survival mechanism. Telling myself it was OK because it wasn’t close by. It wasn’t meddling around in my own backyard; it was somewhere else, not to be seen right in front of me.
Emotionally, that comforting thought made sense. It let me sleep at night, it kept the anxiety at bay. But, intellectually, that comfort statement was flawed, because the hard truth was and is that we never really knew who had it or where it was, and it has been here the whole time.
It made me feel better though knowing it wasn’t on my doorstep, just yet.
But then, yesterday afternoon, right before we were only a couple days away from the freedom of a Christmas break, finally getting close to the respite that would allow us to finally escape what was a difficult 2021, came rolling in the news that my partner’s close colleague was covid-positive… and that he was a close contact, needing to isolate for 7 days only a couple days before Christmas.
Now, as it happened, I let myself process the emotions as my partner locked himself away in isolation. I processed the news, accepting the reality that my partner is most likely going to come back with a positive test result as well, and then very likely, me next.
Covid was here. It was no longer “there”. It has finally arrived on my doorstep, saying “hey, I told you I was around”.
I could no longer use the comfort blanket that it was somewhere else, which was keeping my emotions an inch away from being exposed.
But, as I processed my emotions, as the condolences ran through from around us, I surprised myself that I wasn’t as afraid of it as I thought I would be.
Although I am sad that my partner is locked away in our spare bedroom in isolation during what was meant to be a festive time of year, it became somewhat relieving to know it was finally here.
It is no longer something to be feared or something to be catastrophised. It is in my home, and it is just another bag of laundry that needs to be dealt with.
As I sat on a video call with my partner from the living room while he locked himself away in a room only metres away, I felt sad that my partner and I won’t be together for Christmas Day, despite being so close, I won’t be able to physically see him.
I felt sad that we have had to cancel our trip back to his regional hometown to see his family for the first time since the end of last year.
I felt sad that he doesn’t get to enjoy the feeling of a warm tasty Christmas meal with the laughter and camaraderie of your family surrounding you with bad bonbon jokes, which I got to enjoy only last weekend with my own family.
But I am also no longer afraid of what “could be”. Covid-19 finally arrived, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
Because, even if Covid-19 wasn’t the present we asked for this Christmas, it is the present that we got.
And, quite frankly, it’s alarmingly comforting to know it’s no longer lurking around the corner but is here to greet us and say “Hey, Merry Christmas, you don’t have to fear me anymore”.
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