Tunnels and Lights

February 3, 2021 at 11:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I have been living apart from Jay and Andrew since early June. The doctors who manage my sarcoidosis determined early on that my risk factors for Covid-19 were too high for me to be at home without both my husband and my teenager in total lockdown.

In six days I am planning to return home to them.

I’ve had the immense good fortune to get vaccinated. In late December I received a dose of the Moderna vaccine that would otherwise have gone to waste. Two weeks after getting my second dose, I should have as much immunity as this vaccine provides.

When I got the call to come in for my first shot, I was test driving a new car with Jay. We were both wearing N-95s because that’s the way we roll. I broke down that evening back in my apartment alone and finally maskless. I felt such relief. An end was in sight! I had followed the rules, kept myself alive, and now it felt like fate was smiling down on me. I imagined coming home with no anxiety.

Life is always more complicated than we want it to be. There is often light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still trudging in that tunnel towards it. Since getting my first dose of the vaccine, frightening new Covid variants have emerged. These might make my vaccine less effective. I pestered my doctor by email about whether I’d really and truly be safe from Covid, two weeks after I had both vaccines on board. I kept getting the same answer. A resounding “probably.” Should a Covid variant elude the full protection of the vaccine, he thinks I will most likely get a less severe form of the disease.

That is enough for me. My lease on my apartment expires at the end of this month. I want to share a home with my husband and my son again. I want to sit at the same table and eat dinner with them. I want to walk through the door without making sure my mask is pinched down on the bridge of my nose. I want to see Andrew’s full face. I want to hug them, and not turn my head away as I do. I want to hold onto them and not let go.

It’s hard to back down once you’ve taken extreme measures. I had to take extreme measures. But it’s time. At first I thought I’d step out of the tunnel into the hot sun of mid-day. On further reflection, I look around and see that even if I have reduced my risk, not everyone has been so lucky. I’m afraid for the world, as rich countries keep all vaccines for themselves and the richest in the rich countries get a disproportionate share of these vaccines. I know that Covid will do what viruses do—keep on mutating to stay alive. And after a year of watching, I’m confident the world is going to keep pretending Covid is done with us, again and again, despite all evidence to the contrary. What I’m heading towards seems more like a candle and less like the sun.

But there is light and I am moving towards it. One foot in front of the other. This is how I’ve lived with sarcoidosis for nearly 17 years now. Keep moving. It’s how I’ve spent the past 8 months apart from my family. I don’t go fast. I plod. But I move. It’s isn’t always pretty, but there can be a kind of grace in picking up your feet and shuffling ahead.

I oscillate between emotions. I am giddy like a kid coming home from a very long and lonely summer camp. I am anxious about letting my guard down. I am excited to catch up with Jay and Andrew. This separation has been more than twice the length of my longest hospitalization. I get to go home! I’m sad so many are not vaccinated and worry about all those who are vulnerable to these more contagious variants and haven’t lucked out like I did with the vaccine. I don’t have words to express the gratitude I feel. But I also worry about Covid variants and wonder if I’ll be back in my own apartment in the next few months if the vaccines can’t hold the line. But I can cook dinner and eat it with my family. I can fall asleep next to my husband. I zig and I zag like a pinball finding its way to the end of its run.

I remind myself that I can do this, that I have been doing this for so many years—live with uncertainty, live with risk, live on the precipice we are all perched on.

I’m keeping myself pointed at that light. It flickers. It flares. It dims. But I know where I’m headed.

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