Meredith Carroll: COVID-19: A 1.5-star review
By the time COVID-19 came for me, it played out with much less theatricality than I expected based on the many reviews I had read. The anxiety of anticipating COVID ultimately may prove to have contained more drama than the actual virus I suffered. Overall I give it one-and-a-half out of five stars and would not recommend it except for the fact that I can finally stop wondering if I will get it, and also because ostensibly I am brimming with antibodies (2022’s must-have accessory).
Waiting around to get COVID reminded me of the suitcase of dread that I quietly lugged all over for the few years leading up to my 30th birthday. I made a mental checklist of achievements to be fulfilled in advance, and then one day, whether I was ready or not, it happened, I survived, and moved on. (I survived turning 30, that is; no decision has been made so far by the COVID-19 terrorist cells that continue holding my senses of taste and smell hostage. I imagine they’re organizing a straw poll about whether to dig in or move on.)
Who knows how I would have fared had I gotten sick at the beginning of the pandemic. A couple of years into this thing, though, I am armed with three vaccine doses, an abundance of ethically hoarded Clorox wipes, and a PhD in avoiding all live human contact. I cannot forget to thank God for giving me omicron (I assume) instead of delta or one of the other earlier variants. I’m not an especially religious person, but my spiritual outlook changed years ago when I was a very new mom and remarked to an acquaintance about my delight in having an easy baby and she replied, “God only gives you what you can handle.” Obviously God knows me well.
There was so much time to speculate about how I’d react when it eventually came to pass that I tested positive for COVID-19. I braced myself for the stages of grief to hit hard: denial that this was really it; anger at the armchair scientists and amateur infectious disease experts arguing nonsensically against bona fide scientists and actual infectious disease experts; bargaining to not have it at the same time as my kids; depression that it happened to me (after all, doesn’t COVID know who I am?). I expected a diagnosis would automatically trigger feverish dreams set in a wet market and narrated by Donald Trump saying, “One day, like a miracle, it will disappear,” on a continuous loop. The inevitability of it all sapped me.
However, last week I got COVID-19 for real and surprised myself by jumping directly to the acceptance stage. The PCR test result page showed the word DETECTED highlighted in red at the top, I alerted my husband (downstairs) via text, and then promptly turned the wheel over to HBO Max. I had spent 22 months preparing for this and I was ready.
To be sure, COVID-19 was not the vacation that the planned C-section with my second daughter was (say what you want until insurance pays for you to spend three nights in a plush, private room with prime Aspen views — without your preschooler — while someone else cooks you good food, clears and cleans.) But my bout with COVID-19 also hasn’t been a death sentence, or, frankly, all that miserable (minus those two nights I woke up at 3 a.m. and never went back to sleep for fear that something worse than a cough was attempting to overtake me).
Like a kid with the skill, not luck, to repeatedly win at musical chairs, I may or may not have felt increasingly special for being among the last ones standing without COVID-19. On the flip side, I definitely felt increasingly vulnerable that I managed to remain COVID-free for as long as I did. At a few particularly low moments I might have even had a tinge that I was missing out on something. It turns out the COVID club has grown so large and stayed relevant for so long that I had trouble remembering that getting a ticket and gaining acceptance was not, in fact, a goal.
More at MeredithCarroll.com and on Twitter @MCCarroll.