It's A COVIDful Life
The day before Christmas Eve started like you’d expect it to – a lot of anxiously awaiting for my Amazon packages to come in and rough but heartfelt wrapping of gifts. That was until my head began to hurt. Nothing a simple nap couldn’t fix, right?
But waking up didn't cure the headache. No, my skull was still pounding and now my nose felt…stuck. I knew this feeling too well. It happened before, at the beginning of 2020. I went to my local testing center to be sure…all booked up into the new year. I tried to go to a pharmacy, double-masked and freshly sanitized, but they were sold out of at-home tests. What could I do? Luckily, my sister had an extra at-home test from her pre-Christmas dinner self-screening. It told me what I already knew but wished I didn’t. I had COVID. Again.
I was careful. I wore my mask, I stayed away from anyone I didn’t need to be around, I stayed home most of the time for over a year. I didn’t touch my eyes or mouth without washing them. I was careful. But being careful only does so much when others aren’t.
I spent most of that night crying. As well as the next night, although half of those tears were from watching Encanto on Disney+. And then it was Christmas…and I was still stuck in my room. My brother came to my doorway with my gifts and I handed mine, masks covering our faces. I was fine with it, I don’t think my face was truly expressing any Christmas cheer and I didn’t want to ruin their day.
The only way I connected with family this year was through FaceTime and trust me, it’s not the same joy you see spread over a child’s face through a screen. It’s more shallow and fleeting. A snapshot on a screen that you didn’t even truly see, a lens did and distorted it back to you through the airwaves. Like a recording of a memory that you didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing in the first place. There’s a momentary lag as the message is sent and even though the person you’re talking to is right upstairs and only a door separates you, it feels so much further.
To make matters worse, when I was brought Christmas dinner in various containers, I couldn’t taste a single bite. A beautifully cooked steak, homemade mashed potatoes, and gravy, roasted Brussel sprouts, a plate of fresh Christmas cookies. It all tasted like ash in my mouth. Well no, ash has taste. It was like air. It was emptiness incarnate and it was all I could feel for the entire day.
Christmas is for the kids, isn’t it? Well, that’s not entirely true. Christmas presents are for the kids, but the day itself is for family. For connecting and spending the end of the year together before another one rolls around and the chaos starts once again. It’s a time for reflection and gratitude for all we’ve gotten through. And these last few years, we’ve all gotten through a lot.
While I may not have been able to connect with family this year, my lonely hours did leave plenty of time for reflection. And as Christmas day came to a close, I was filled with certain happiness I hadn’t felt before. Because yes, I was alone on Christmas. And yes, I couldn’t see my family’s joy as they opened the presents I bought them. And yes, I didn’t even have the simple pleasure of a delicious meal to make my Christmas happy. But you know what I did have? My health.
The worst symptom of my experience with COVID was a loss of taste. Do you know how blessed that makes me? I survived. That’s something not everyone got to say this year. Not everyone even made it to Christmas and out of all those that did, not everyone will have another. As the new year dawns over us, I plan on taking that gratitude with me wherever I go. Not everyone has the absolute honor of spending another Christmas with their family and I intend to spend the next 365 days planning on a way to make it better than ever before. For those who can’t.
Morgan Galvez is a freelance writer and editor with a BA in English (with a concentration in writing, rhetoric, and publication) from the College of Charleston. She is currently building her freelancing career through positions at Brainfuse and Fiverr.