With or Without Me

“You know what, it’s not your life, it’s life. Life is bigger than you, if you can imagine that. Life isn’t something that you possess, it’s something that you take part in and witness.” – Louis C.K.

The pandemic impacted everyone. It didn’t matter if you were rich, poor, or what race you were, everyone at least paused to think about what would happen if they got sick. I was eight months pregnant when we went into lockdown the first time. Besides working full time from home and raising a two-year-old, I had to go through the mental and literal process of deciding what would happen with my stuff, my children, and my family should I die. I had uncomfortable discussions with my husband about how he would carry on should something happen to me or the baby or both.

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My doctor discussed difficult decisions based on the shortage of blood and point blank told me that if I were to start to bleed out, there would be little she could do. We opted for me to take extra iron to prevent bleeding and we hoped for the best while we prepared for the worst. While most of my weekly check ins with the doctor were done virtually, there was fear in the air. My doctor at one point said she would be there for me even if she had to come in an astronaut suit. That visual still makes me smile to this day.

In the week before my scheduled c-section, I practiced negative visualization daily and walked every worst-case scenario I could think of out in its entirety which always brought me to the same end; life will continue, with or without me.

The actual experience was terrifying but brief. A little over twenty-four hours after my daughter was born via planned c-section, I was released from the hospital to recover at home. This was in stark contrast to the five plus days I was in the hospital with my son, but I was grateful to go home and be with my family. My husband was waiting anxiously to get to know his beautiful daughter whom he had only briefly met following the c-section.

In hindsight, the lockdown came at the perfect time as we were so exhausted from caring for our new baby and toddler that we wouldn’t have had time to go out into the world much anyways. But as time passed and the veil of covid started to lift, we witnessed something peculiar, life had stopped for everyone.

The meditative and comforting thought of life continuing with or without me was challenged. For many people, businesses, and even pets, life as they knew it just stopped once lockdown began and since everyone anticipated the lockdown to be shorter than it was, there was a collective feeling of being stuck.

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The zoom calls with friends became shorter and shorter and nothing new was really happening to anyone. Work took on a larger role because at least it was something to do. Time became twisted and people’s growth became stunted. Fear drove some people to madness and others into isolation. Society fractured under the pressure of self-preservation. There was a feeling that everyone was out for themselves.

Then like life always does, it found a way. Society found new hobbies to pursue, and growth was accelerated as gratitude for life became the fuel for innovation. People left their jobs in pursuit of something that fit their ethics or wallets better and families emerged from the shadows to show off their newest members.

The idea that we are merely witnesses to this thing called life, and that life itself has never been something we possess but rather something we are lucky enough to be able to participate in, is something I would like to keep in the forefront of my mind.

The pandemic has given me new appreciation for the time we have on this earth and made me more aware of how I spend this time. It has also made clear that what we do matters. While we all have much less control than we’d like to admit, we do have control over how we chose to navigate through life with our attitudes. Once we can learn to view our role in the world as unique but fleeting, our perspectives shift, and we become better equipped to live a lifetime each day.

Today, I will remember that life is something I get to participate in and that it will continue with or without me. When I have moments of doubt or fear, I will reflect on my feelings and ask if they are the right size, given how much bigger life is than me.

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