No COVID-19 Detected, or Reconciling Regret

This is the story of how I learned not to under-react and that there’s no such thing as overreacting to this pandemic. Or it’s the story of reconciled regrets. You decide.

I woke Sunday with a slight cough, sore throat, and aches. I mentioned it to my sister in an “I hate COVID times” sort of way. She said, be tested. We chatted a bit more before I realized she was serious. My sister is a doctor and one of the smartest women I know. She is the one who said, you cannot overreact with this.

So I scheduled a test for Monday afternoon, the first available. Then I sat masked on my bed and watched my masked husband transform our bedroom into an isolation chamber for me. He shut the door and I had a bed, a small fridge with ice and water, snacks, a bathroom, and a makeshift desk.

Under other circumstances I would have been gleeful for a couple days to myself. But on Sunday I felt crummy all over.

Monday I went for the test, which isn’t bad. Very quick. And then I returned to work at my makeshift desk in my bedroom.

I’ve gotten decent at compartmentalizing. There are certain thoughts I do not entertain. I do not dwell on worst case scenarios as I once did and I do not practice for the worst moments of a life that I may never have. Not any more. I simply disallow my brain from going into the dark.

I had one moment of morbid notion. It happened Sunday night. I was preparing for bed and it occurred to me that the thing I had to regret should I die was that I had spent so very much time chasing a dream. Without ever catching it.

No particular emotion accompanied that thought. But the thought itself has nested. Do I regret the last thirteen years since ShyJot became a thing? Do I regret the time before that when I wrote in the margins of life? No.

I regret not being better at being a creative. I regret not pursuing the payoff as if it never mattered. I regret not capturing the dream I harbored for a certain kind of creative life.

And I regret all the opportunities my family lost because I was dream-missing.

This afternoon I received the text message with a link to my results. I entered my information. Nervous at the thought of more days of isolation or worse, getting my loved ones sick, I wondered if it might be better not to know.

And I hit enter. No COVID-19 detected.

The result didn’t mean I was well; it meant I wasn’t in danger of falling more ill. It didn’t mean I could go anywhere and do anything; it meant I could rejoin my family beyond my bedroom door. It didn’t mean I overreacted; it meant I followed a path.

Tonight a sore head and throat keep me awake. I shake loose all this debris and look for patterns. Here’s what I see.

Sometimes you have to call “It”. You have to chase down a possibility that’s too risky not to, like with COVID-19. You have to chase down answers to problems like how to isolate one of a family of five. You have to claim as your own the responsibility of being it — the actor, the do-er, the instigator and continue-er, the change agent, the conduit, the one to make things happen.

The same is true of anything in life that matters. Parenting, spousing, relationshipping of any kind. Career and culture and cause. The fact remains that if I never called myself “It” and chased a creative live, then I never would have become who I am today. It’s not better not to know.

There is not a life without regret if you’re doing it right. I’m convinced of this. Because living is making choices and choices beget beauty and chaos and ruin and triumph and mediocrity and life and regret.

How do I reconcile regretting spending the last twenty some odd years chasing a creative life with my choice to continue the chase? I accept that regret is a byproduct of any choice and I prefer these regrets to others. I still call “It.”

My Election 2020: The In-Between

I lie awake at 3:50 am on the morning of an American presidential election.

The cynic in me strongly fears the hate to come in the next 24 hours and beyond. But I have this tiny kernel of hope. And it’s not based on a candidate but on the thousands of voters that threaded through a parking lot on Saturday.

Early voting was open at two locations, and my husband and I chose one Saturday. Delayed by a bad car battery, we got to the polling place about thirty minutes after voting opened. We began on a sidewalk. Beside the main thoroughfare. Not even in the parking lot.

If you’ve ever read this site, you know I am an anxious person. There was not a single moment in that line when I felt worried about violence. Reflecting afterward, I thought maybe I should have been more on guard. Maybe.

The line snaked into the parking lot of a big building and paraded around two sides and a bit more before turning on its heel and winding all the way around the building. People chatted. Some for each candidate. But they kept their voices conversational. Dogs and toddlers endlessly entertained the masses. And people greeted acquaintances as the line doubled back.

Some dragged chairs along. Others, blankets or books or children. One in a pair would sometimes disappear only to re-emerge with fast food sustenance. People held the line for bathroom breakers.

I chatted about the Yankees with a man whose political beliefs couldn’t be further from my own. I know this because he spent a good while quietly spiraling into rhetoric with another voter directly behind me.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That was how long we walked that line to cast our votes. And it was not miserable. It was not hostile. Indeed, it was frequently adorable, humorous, and celebratory without ever being openly for or against anyone.

Last Monday through Sunday, our home had power loss due to an ice storm. We weren’t alone. Many in that line were struggling with all manner of private hardships. The stressors of race (particularly for people of color), election, pandemic, and economy were all present.

From what I’ve read in the press, we should have been balanced on a blade. We should have been at fisticuffs and throats. We should have had guns cocked and been ready to loot.

Herein I find my hope for this election. Not in dire warnings or free press or a candidate. Certainly not in polls. But in the America in between. In there between left and right, between policies and politics, between caricatures of opposing vagaries—that’s where the ideals of America still live.

For places and people who experience violence today—and I know it could be any of us—you have my heart. But maybe the in-between will conquer, as it does, quietly, unobtrusively, without a fuss. Maybe the in-between will not only be the backbone of America today but its very flesh. One can hope.