It’s almost my birthday. I still love birthdays, and I’m not a woman who shies away from admitting how long I’ve been on this planet. What makes this 51st birthday unique is that it also serves as the one-year anniversary since I’ve been homebound.
I remember my doctor asking me if I really had to go. I had called to tell her I’d be traveling to Key West for my 50th birthday with several friends, and in light of a coronavirus outbreak looming over the United States, wondered what precautions I should take. I honestly didn’t expect that response, and when I confirmed I would be going, she suggested I take two weeks’ worth of medication in case of a quarantine. I hung up surprised by the advice and determined to follow through with my plans.
I was naive then, as we all were, and am thankful I survived the trip. Barely missing an shutdown of out-of-state travel, I haven’t left my house since arriving home from the airport. That’s barely an exaggeration. The only place I have gone is to pick up or drop off my son from his other mother’s and grandmother’s homes, which are both in the same suburb as mine. No grocery store, no restaurant, no dentist or oil change appointments, I have done what has been necessary to stay healthy as a kidney transplant recipient.
I am hopeful we are finally starting the upward trajectory from all this. I know there are stories of variants and the possibility something will loom that will defy the current vaccines on the market. But I am also an optimist and know we will get beyond this pandemic eventually, regardless of any hiccups along the way. If there is anything that I have decided to change beyond COVID-19, it’s the people I surround myself with. I find I can no longer tolerate the complainers, those who only want to look for what is wrong in the world and chew and spew their fears to anyone who will listen. There may be bad news, but there is also good news that has come from this experience, and appreciating the lessons learned is where my focus will lie.
The images of our new president’s administration, from the Valentine’s Day lawn messages to the candlelight memorial for the victims of the pandemic to two dogs running around the White House, has been refreshing. What a glorious reversal from his predecessor, who was the source of so much negativity and fear even before the virus. I have friends who want to continue to nitpick the former President while others want to revel in the positive energy currently being injected into the American culture. You can guess who I’d rather spend my time with.
I should have died in my 20s, and without medical technology I would have. The same can be said now, as we are on the cusp of all receiving the vaccine in the months to come. So, I am not frustrated or resentful for spending my birthday solo this go around. I am alive to see 51 years and likely many more, and if this year-long reflection didn’t make me come out of this tragedy with a new appreciation for those birthdays, I’m afraid nothing would have. I wonder if others can say the same.