“Sometimes," said the horse
"Sometimes what?" asked the boy.
"Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.”
― Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse
2020 has been a year. In the United States, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our lives: how we work, who we see, what we do. Our day-to-day rhythms. Our leisure time. Our emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.
For the millions of Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19, the virus has meant different things: for some, barely a headache. For others, reckoning. But when the going gets tough, we rise. As the year winds down, friends of EleVen who have fought COVID-19 share lessons learned from their year of reaching for resilience and pushing through their most challenging moments.
On keeping your head in the game
“Oh, I had my moments. There were moments I was very, very nervous.” Stefanie Davidoff, a tennis coach based in New York, recalls. “I [tried] to think: this is just a temporary time in what will be a long process. It will just take time just like everything else takes time.. and patience. I watched a lot of bad Netflix. You know when you're sick and you have a high fever and you’re like, ‘I just have to get through the night?’ That’s basically what it was.”
Kristen Salomon, a New York-based acupuncturist, credits deep breathing exercises and a meditation practice for helping her during her COVID-19 recovery in the spring. “Having a mindfulness practice to be able to have some time where you turn off the news and listen to music and you just focus on your breathing, clear your mind, try to settle yourself… It's what helped me stay positive and grounded. I also have a dog which [was] incredibly helpful.”
On willing your body to fight
“For me, it was about authorizing my body to rest.” shared Lily Bosch, who caught COVID-19 in Wilmington, North Carolina in June 2020. “I needed my body to be able to fight. I was juicing, taking manuka honey, ginger, eating those superfoods.”
Davidoff recalls the extreme exhaustion that accompanied her fight with COVID-19. “I got out of bed and you brush your teeth and whatever, I figured ‘I’m gonna fold this laundry today’ and I was sweating like I had just run a mile or two. I said ‘I can’t do this’ and I needed to just lay down on the couch for the rest of the day. For me, sitting on the couch all day was not the norm. Not working out even one day was not the norm. I have never not worked out, and then I went five weeks without moving. I was in survival mode.”
On being vulnerable
Andre Libnic, a college student and tennis athlete at Babson College, recalls worrying if COVID-19 would forever sideline him from his sport. “I started thinking a lot about my tennis. I started watching my past matches, remembering how amazing it was competing and having your teammates there, clapping for you. I started thinking, ‘wow, when is the next time I’m gonna play tennis?,’ When I had shortness of breath, I started thinking, honestly, ‘when is the next time I am going to be able to pick up a tennis racket?’ I was really scared.”
Salomon recalls thinking similarly worrying thoughts during her nights alone. “I had two really bad nights, two really sketchy nights where I thought OK, I don’t think I’m gonna make it through, but I just stayed awake, tried to keep myself awake.” She shared. “I live about two miles from Columbia Presbyterian. For almost a month, it was pretty much nonstop ambulances, you just heard siren after siren, sometimes two or three at a time. I just thought OK, I’m going to keep myself calm, try to meditate, try to focus on my breathing.I kept myself awake just to push through the night and know that I would be OK.”
On helping others
For Salomon, the pandemic hasn’t just been about keeping herself safe, but also her patients. As an acupuncturist, she provides not only physical relief for clients, but also emotional solace. “What I keep telling my patients is: it’s a good time to practice how to adapt. We all like to plan, but then life happens. I don’t know what’s going to happen in a month. I can only control what I control for myself, do my part, and whatever is going to happen, happens. I just have to continue to roll with that. Try to not put pressure on yourself for what you can’t control.”
The desperate, secluded feeling of isolation made a lasting impact on Libnic. When he was sick over the summer, he quarantined by himself in a family apartment while he rode through the fever, shortness of breath, and exhaustion brought on by COVID-19. “I think most importantly, keep in contact with people. That’s what I’ve learned during this virus, it’s really important to text your friends and stuff because you never know how lonely they’re feeling as well or if the quarantine isn’t going well for them.”
On finding the positives
“I started reading books!” Libcic smiles and points off-camera, referencing titles nearby. “I read Harry Potter for the first time. Also, Thinking Fast and Slow which someone recommended to me. That one prepared me a little bit for my internship.”
“That’s the good thing about this, you don’t have to see the people you don’t want to see. I like who I like.” Davidoff smiles, thinking about the ways life is different now than in years prior. “But if life could go back to [being] not-so-hazardous, that would be nice.”
Written By Emily K. Schwartz