100 Days of COVID-19: On Writing and Breathing

Today marks 100 days since I felt my first COVID-19 symptoms, back on March 17.


To mark the occasion, my essay, "I’ve Been Sick with COVID-19 for Over Three Months. Here's What You Should Know,” is featured in today's HuffPost. It is a fitting bookend to the essay I wrote for them in March,"My Teen Daughter Is Sick but Can't Get the Coronavirus Test. That's Simply Not Okay,"at a time when I was scrambling for information and answers. More than three months later, I have some wisdom to share, based on living for so long with this novel coronavirus.


Throughout my COVID-19 journey, I have made our story public (not only in publications but also via public posts on Facebook). Information has been scarce at times, and this virus is terrifying. But the more we know about it, the better equipped we all are to stay safe and to understand on a human level what it feels like to live with COVID.

I have improved significantly since the most difficult stretch of my illness, which spanned from late March through much of May; I go for short daily walks in my neighborhood, I am tending the plants in my garden, and I am rehabbing my lungs. I still have a ways to go, for my lungs still burn and I am often short of breath, but I will get there. It will just take time, as I am among the ranks of the "long haul COVID fighters."


As I work to recover, I am learning new ways to operate in my changed body and in this changed world. My essay "Breathing Lessons: Some Thoughts on Moving Forward during the COVID-19 Pandemic, published in May in Noteworthy: The Journal Blog, is my optimistic take that we can do so with determination, innovation and creativity.



Before I sign off, I want to share some of my COVID poetry. As you may know, April is National Poetry Month, and it is my custom to write a poem each day of the month. Though I was at my most sick in April, I was determined to meet the challenge this year and set my experience into words. And I did it: in April I wrote 30 poems in 30 days.


Most of these are still living on my laptop, but three of my COVID poems have been published: "Breathless" and "Fool's Gold" in The New Verse News, and "The Safety Within" in Halfway Down the Stairs.


Another poem published in April, in Stirring: A Literary Collection, though written last year, is eerily attuned to my mood this spring: I made this recording of "Of Grace and Silence" for National Poetry Month.


In April, I was also invited to participate in Art House Productions' exciting Jersey City Community Poem, on the theme of Life in the Pandemic and Beyond: Quarantine, Devastation, and Hope for the Future. The finished video, "Just Breathe," is an extraordinary record of this time in one of the nation's hardest hit areas, a compilation of work by 42 poets from New Jersey (participating poets and community leaders read others' work in the video). My piece is included as Day Eight

Isolation, Apart

This unyielding wall of isolation

divides us for safety


me from you,

you from me.

My viral load in quarantine.

Your essential risk in circulation.


Two separate terrors

experienced alone, alone.


As for my other COVID poems, I will be returning to those in the coming months, and sending them off to find good homes. And I'll continue writing my COVID story, because it is not over yet.


Stay safe and be well my friends,

Ann


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