HOW FIVE WEEKS HAS CHANGED US FOREVER
Five weeks ago on March 14, I arrived back in New York City, from a trip to Washington, DC. I marvel not only at how life has changed in a month, but also how much I have changed. Two weeks on the road is a lot for me. I work for myself, so every trip is an investment expense. What did I care about most then? Getting everything done that was on my “to do list”. Always long, the list includes securing and completing interviews for my upcoming book about super connectors; moving forward with conversations about publishing; continuing to build a community for myself in New York; and, fulfilling varied work and social obligations. I believe strongly in what I am doing, and even though there are challenges, I never see obstacles as insurmountable. So when I began that travel in late February/early March, there was no foreshadowing of what was to come that had the potential to derail me. The first half of the travel was an every other month trip to Texas. Top priority is always seeing my daughter, a graduating senior at TCU, and then cramming in a gazillion other meetings, meals, and events. That included clearing my annual cancer screening, making a presentation to the board of a local non-profit, and attending a 2,000 person formal charity event to benefit Cook Children's Hospital.
In none of those settings was there an inkling of conversation about the coronavirus, and its power to take down life as we knew it. After the Texas trip, I came home on March 5th, repacked, and left for DC on March 8th. Then came clues of what was to follow.
Traffic was so light on my way to the airport in NYC, I was checked in and at the gate two hours early.
I was upgraded to first class (NEVER happens) because my flight was less than half full.
Both LaGuardia and Reagan airports were eerily quiet.
Upon check-in at my hotel in DC, the bellman revealed the building was practically empty.
An event I was to attend at the Kennedy Center cancelled.
My first night’s dinner at a notoriously “in demand” restaurant was overrun with wait staff, but few patrons.
A board meeting I attended on Friday, March 13th, was interrupted by the President announcing a national state of emergency.
Returning to New York was a surreal experience. Even though it was daytime when my plane landed, the airport was deserted. No stores were open, just one baggage carousel was operational, and only two other lonely bags besides mine went round and round with no passengers in sight to claim them. Three ride services were no shows before an Uber finally arrived to take me home. I was his only fare of the day. He had waited five hours for it.
After that lonely trip back to my apartment, I felt lucky to be home. But also off-kilter. Even then, I didn’t fully realize that the relative security of being back in a familiar place would be taken away.
THE NYC CORONAVIRUS EXPERIENCE
I have often thought that the place I most wanted to be three years ago is the place that is the most difficult TO be during the pandemic. Not only does New York City have more cases and deaths than anywhere in the United States, living conditions in Manhattan present a unique challenge.
The residential density in apartment buildings and shared spaces magnifies the danger of virus transmission. With confined and tiny square footages, little green space or fresh air, and huge numbers of people trying to survive in high rise buildings where even getting the mail is high risk, the struggle is unlike anywhere else. I live a block from one of the biggest hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. Sirens scream day and night. A makeshift morgue truck is parked in a nearby neighborhood. Exhausted health care workers in scrubs walk the streets at the end of their shifts. There is no break from the news, the sense of impending danger, or the reality of New York City's dire circumstances.
It would be easy to feel like a statistic. As a cancer survivor, I am compromised. As a Boomer, I have age risk. As a New Yorker, I am at the epicenter.
FACING THE FEAR
Perhaps nothing causes panic more than loss of control. In the last month, we are unified in experiencing more uncertainty, shock, and frustration than ever in our lives.
Through it all, we also are learning what we are made of. What has changed me is the recognition that I actually DO have control in two areas:
I can stay connected with the people I love.
I can alter my version of the future by controlling my thinking.
As with everything, it is our attitude that drives our thoughts. Never more than now, this is true to face down the fear. I choose to be positive. I choose not to dwell on the "what if’s."
I choose to live in the present.
One of the most moving events to occur since New York City became a hotspot for Covid reoccurs nightly. Promptly at 7 PM, doors and windows fling open in neighborhoods all across the city as residents cheer for two minutes to encourage essential workers. Clapping, horn honking, pot banging, and hooting and hollering are all loud and sustained. Where I live, in a corridor of hospitals on the east side, the show of support is a groundswell of emotions as the entire community comes together. The video I took from my 20th floor apartment balcony still gives me goosebumps every time I replay it. I am encouraged and hopeful that so many care so much.
Each of us is having a unique reaction and experience with the coronavirus pandemic. I continued to be moved by the kindness and courage all around me. How are YOU feeling? How have YOU changed? How will YOU change? What have you learned about yourself? I would love to hear from you about any of the following:
Your greatest surprise during this time
Your biggest discovery about yourself
The most meaningful connection you’ve experienced
Remember that Covid-19 can’t cancel connecting. I am fascinated to be working on a book about connection at a time when the world most needs it. Let me know how I can support you. You are valuable in my life, and I always want to add value to yours. We will get through it together.