“Does this make you feel any sort of way?” I was asked, an inquisitive look flashing across the doctor's face. “Sometimes being diagnosed with something can be,” she paused, debating her next word choices. “Affirming?” I asked her. I looked around the well decorated room trying to formulate my thoughts. The velvet couch that I was sitting on irritated me and almost made me feel like I needed to itch every part of my body. The psychiatrist's many degrees were displayed across the cream walls, held up by matte black picture frames. The room felt stuffy. No book was out of place and no painting was not curated so that it matched perfectly to the room. The perfection strangled me and soothed me at the same time. While sitting there listening to her talk, I had managed to peel off all of my nail polish that I had recently gotten painted, green flakes of paint piling in my hands. I thought being diagnosed with a mental disorder that I had known that I had for many years would be affirming. Instead, it filled me with a sense of dread. Sleepless nights now had a reason. Hands washed over and over again now had an explanation. You would think that would have given me some peace, but instead only one word flashed across my mind, over and over. Crazy. Two long months later, Covid-19 entered the United States. Every night, I sat on the couch with my family, listening to various politicians discuss scientific topics they knew nothing about. Every so often, a case notification would flash across my phone, informing me that someone in my country, state, or city had been recently infected by Covid-19. Buildings were shut down and restaurants started to change their ways to accommodate the new ways of life. Irrational fears once only held by me were now prevalent in the public. People started washing their hands an abnormal amount of times and wore gloves while walking their dogs. In a way, it made me feel less alone. It became hard to come up with new things to do everyday. Like many other people, I tried new workout videos and watched TV that I had never seen before. I deep cleaned every area of my house and read mystery novels in my bed while listening to the rain. I had online classes but they were a joke; none of my teachers had any experience teaching online and it was impossible to focus in the confines of my room. We tried to distract ourselves with board game nights and themed dinners, but it was hard to ignore how the seasons flashed before our eyes and we were still stuck in our houses. Like everyone around me, I slowly started to lose it. It became tiring to do things that were once considered relaxing and all the time left alone with my thoughts allowed anxiety to sneak past my senses. Like many other people around me, I was scared to leave the house for various reasons; I didn't want to infect my father who was a doctor and was needed on the front lines or my mother who was still trying to navigate ways to teach her students from her desk. It became hard to decipher what thoughts were rational and which thoughts were not. Eventually, I became tired of trying to control the ever-present anxiety that had once made me feel so alone. A few months later, my family was in the car driving to Pennsylvania. We had packed the car with all the things we thought we would need; blankets were piled in the back, toys rolled around in the trunk, and excitement filled the car with happiness that we hadn't felt since pre-pandemic. We reached our destination, my brother and I practically falling out of the car running to the door. As I stepped in, outfitted with an N95 mask, I was greeted with wonderful little bundles of fur nipping on my shoelaces. I knelt down as eight little puppies ran around with no control over their own limbs, tripping and falling over each other. Many seconds later, they started to tire and settled down, snuggling with each other while falling asleep. However, one puppy could not handle her excitement and was still climbing all over me, nuzzling her head into my hair while trying to chew on my earring. At that moment I knew that I hadn't come here, to this little house in Pennsylvania, to choose a puppy. The puppy had already chosen me. Flash forward two years later, and my pandemic puppy was one of the best things that ever happened to me. She forced our family to go on walks in the neighborhood and interact with people from afar. She brought happiness to our lives that we didn't know we needed. At the time I didn't know that it was possible for a dog to bring me so much joy. Now I know that by adopting her, we didn't just save her life, we saved mine.
My first reaction to the pandemic on March 12, 2020--after securing toilet paper and hand sanitizer--was to help my family and the nonprofits I was working with weather the storm. “It's only for two weeks,” everyone said. “It's going to be so much longer than that,” I said. “And, the effects will last for years.” Turns out, the pandemic itself was going to last for years. By nature, I'm a planner. I like to have a strategy. Even if crazy things happen, if you have a plan, you can pivot. The early days of the pandemic drove me to my computer. I made lists. I'm a big list-maker. I already had a solid plan in place for the nonprofits before the pandemic hit, so I wasn't worried about that. If they stayed the course and remained proactive, they would be fine. Becoming reactive would have been a disaster. At home, my parents had recently moved in with me after selling their house. They have never been worriers or list makers or planners. While my kitchen pantry upstairs was prepped with at least two weeks of food that we could survive on, theirs was bare. Up until COVID-19, my prepping was in anticipation of a blizzard or power outage, not a global pandemic. Did my parents have canned goods? No. They picked up fast food or did take out every day for nearly every meal. Did they have a supply of toilet paper and paper towels? No. Were they worried? No. I was. At my computer, I had lists of what we needed to do to get ahead of this crisis. I had never pre-ordered and picked up groceries before but in our new contactless world, it was heaven-sent. Of course, I went right to Amazon to order masks, gloves, disinfectant, and later, when I became really COVID-savvy, a digital, no contact thermometer and a pulse oximeter. And then, the world froze. No one was going in to work anymore. The stores were empty and the shelves were bare. I no longer had to think of excuses to get out of my over-committed weekends. Suddenly, there were no plans. I had everything I needed. My lovable dog, Toby, was by my side every day. I saw my masked niece and family in socially distanced gatherings from ten feet away in driveways and on decks. My friends and I Zoomed. My neighbors group texted and did porch drop-offs of freshly baked bread and goodies. I signed up for online yoga, painting classes, interesting virtual tours of fascinating places in the world, read books, cleaned my house, and watched YouTube videos on how to cut my own hair, which was not my best idea. I used to cherish days when I didn't have to drive to work, saving me sometimes two or more hours of commute time. I always wondered what I would do with extra time. Would I exercise and eat right? (The answer to that is a resounding “no”.) Writing has always been something I've enjoyed. Sometimes, if something bad happened in my life, I would imagine a story inspired by the true events. Only, I'd make it twisty. If someone was a jerk to me, well a character inspired by that person might find themselves killed off in the story, involved in a ridiculous crime, or on the receiving end of sweet karma. Or I would see something happen in real life--maybe a near-miss car accident, or someone buying a winning lottery ticket after they changed places in line, or a stray cat whose eyes told me that he had an interesting story--and I would imagine and wonder “what would happen if” and then I'd write a story about it. I never did anything with the stories and most times they went unfinished. Just the act of writing was therapeutic. I'd always said that if I had the time, I would write. Not just for work, but for fun. Write just for me. Suddenly, the pandemic gave me time--all the time in the world. I was out of excuses. So I started to write. I found a short story contest to enter. Normally, I'm a pretty competitive person. I like to win. But in this case, I was well aware that I was a novice. Knowing this was my first try, I didn't have my usual high expectations or hopes of winning. I was looking at it as a learning experience. I would see if there was any feedback--if they said, “Don't give up your day job” or “Nice effort, try again.” And then came the phone call. My story was chosen for publication in an anthology. It didn't win one of the cash prizes or earn a judges' award, but that was alright. I was going to be a published author! I know I will continue working in the nonprofit field because, after thirty years, it's part of who I am. But now, part of me is an author too. I have a plan. I can see myself, in my retirement years, sitting at my antique desk in front of a big window overlooking the ocean or a tranquil lake with a beautiful sunset in the distance writing--who knows maybe even finishing a book. But I'll be doing the thing I didn't know I could do until the world temporarily closed.
Introduction The corona virus has influenced everyone, and this is the story of how I took on the virus head on and won. I am an essential grocery store worker, and I have been working just about everyday since the pandemic bean. People must eat to survive and keep the economy going so I must constantly work. This is the full story of how I conquered my fear of death and the corona virus. The Miracle That Saved My Life By the Grace of God, a miracle has changed my life from certain death, to a life of victory and courage. Some truly miraculous stories have emerged from the pandemic, and this is my story. I am a cashier at the Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania Price Chopper Supermarket and I am living through a miracle at the store. When the pandemic hit in March 2020. our sales volume and my work hours skyrocketed. As a senior citizen, I was sure the pandemic would kill me as hundreds of customers were breathing on me and in the beginning, there were no masks or protection. It is a miracle that after all this time, I have not been infected with the corona virus, and my teammates and customers are experiencing the same miracle. Only one of my teammates got the corona virus and he got it at home from his family. I do not believe any of our thousands of customers got the virus at the store. We have experienced maximum exposure and risk and yet miraculously no one has been infected with the corona virus while in the store! Price Chopper never closed up and we never had an outbreak or even a single store relate infection! Essential Workers Grocery store workers were classified as essential workers during the pandemic. The U. S. Department of Homeland Security categorized the protection and continued operation of the food and agricultural industry and related transportation activities as "Critical Infrastructure" under the COVID-19 emergence conditions. In the President's Corona Virus Guidelines for America, the White House emphasizes that food industry sector workers should continue to work and stated: "If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule." Price Chopper provided a letter so I could travel during the economic shut down. The letter stated that I work in the supermarket industry and must travel to and from work, regardless of the time of day. It is essential to the nation's food supply that I be permitted to travel to and from my job and be exempt from local restrictions, such as shelter-in-place orders, when reporting to, returning from, or performing any of my work functions. My Decision To Keep Working As a senior citizen I could have refused to work because of the obvious health risks. I decided to keep working, and I learned to overcome my fear of death during the Corona Virus Pandemic. When the pandemic hit, I came face to face with my fear of death, and I had some important decisions to make. I trust in Jesus Christ for my Salvation, so it was logical that I would keep working. In the beginning, it was very dangerous, as there were no protections and hundreds of customers were breathing on me. I was sure that I would get the virus and it would kill me. The supermarket I work for was determined to serve its customers and community. I shared my employers objectives and decided to continue working on the Front Lines. It was the right decision, as I have not been infected with the virus and none of my teammates or customers got the virus at the store! While so many institutions have suffered through outbreaks of the pandemic, we have not. As a senior citizen, I believe I should take the risks before my younger teammates, those with health issues or children, and those who are victims of discrimination. Moreover, I wanted to serve my customers, and I was willing to die for a legacy and a testimony of serving my customers, the people I love. I was really surprised that when I made this decision, I was free from my natural fear of death and willing to accept the consequences of my decision. I am taking the same risks even today. Cautious But Not Fearful I am amazed at my teammates courage in facing the pandemic, as they proceed cautiously but without fear. My teammates continued commitment to safety guidelines is the best defense against the corona virus. Conclusion A miracle is a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. There is no scientific explanation for Price Chopper's success while staying open for business during the pandemic. The store served its customers and community, and by the Grace Of God, its teammates were given the miracle of good health while working in dangerous circumstances environment. For the latest on fighting COVID 19, please watch the following video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1I_cCsaomU
The lock down had barely been lifted when people scampered on the road making the most of the time because no one knew when the state will be shut again. We heard about the terrible virus and we had so much confidence that before it gets to our country, it would be burned up by the heat in this part of the world, little did we know. It had come, the government declared a 2 weeks lock down leaving the masses stranded, almost hopeless and begging to survive. Soon the ban was lifted, only to be followed by a routine of work hours and a curfew of 8 pm- 6 am daily followed suit. This routine made life miserable for me but we could not object to it cause it was for our good. It was Friday, few minutes to 04: 00 pm, I had informed my colleagues that I would leave 2 hours after closure since I still had a pile of work yet to be done, I usually stay later than others compiling daily- monthly reports, thus I was left alone with my boss. I had nearly finished when I heard a knock on the door, it was my boss who came to inform me that he was going, I did not want to be left alone, I quickly shut down my system and followed him out. It was already late and he was not heading my direction. I bade him farewell hoping to see him the next week, I wish I had known what laid in store for me. Hurrying down the street, heading for the junction, I had to use the footbridge in order to get a cab that will go my way. A 100 meters to the bridge, I sighted a causally dressed young lady, she seemed to be waiting for someone, more so a stranger who needed direction, but I thought to myself, any sensible stranger would not wait on a lonely path just to ask for directions, my instinct gave a warning beep, run! I heard my heart tell me. Approaching the bridge, she took out her phone as if to call someone, she called out: "sister, please excuse me" i did not wait to hear what other information she had for me, I obeyed my instinct and took to my heels. She came after me, slowly and slowly, I ran as fast as I could up the bridge's stairs, straight and down again, my heartbeat, as loud as a gong. Racing down the stairs on the opposite lane, I flagged down a cab and hopped in without asking questions, I screamed "drive! We zoomed off and I felt at peace. A few meters into our journey, I noticed funny movements in the car, the driver kept using the rear mirror to look at me, his hair was braided, he had tattoos and a piercing on his nose, "okay I can overlook that" I said to myself, a nursing mother was in the front seat with her child, the lady by my side had an unkempt skin, she seemed to be uncomfortable, scared and all of that and a huge fair man by her side, making a total of 4 persons. I still did not feel anything was wrong in this cab, not until the lady beside me took out a spray from her bag and spoke in low tones, she told the man she just wanted to know what the spray scented like. I sat by the door, all the windows were partly down, I am allergic to harsh smell, so I wound the glass down, the driver wound it up from his seat, I did not know why I didn't oppose to this strange act. In split of seconds, she sprayed what she had towards me, I gave her a questionable look as to asking why she did that? I covered my nose, but luck was not on my side this time, even with my nose mask on, I had inhaled a good dose of it, instead of choking, I felt dizzy, that was when it dawned on me, I've been kidnapped, I screamed out loud: "from fry pan to fire, oh no! Just then did the same lady who seemed uncomfortable and scared asked of my name; "my name is Blue" I stammered, tears pouring from my eyes into my nose mask, "wow, I'm red then" they burst out laughing. She snatched my bag and started ransacking it, she said: "this babe is poor babe oh! she no get anything, what do we do? She pulled out something from my bag and threw it back with so much speed, she blurted: "eeww, disgusting fellow", just then did I realize she had taken out my handkerchief that was drenched in mucus from catarrh which I suffered through out the week. At every point where it seemed like I would sleep off, she gave me a slap to concentrate. She took out my wallet and found 2 expired debit cards, an expired university identity card, a few passports and just the complete amount of money to take me home. She took out my umbrella, then my ballerina shoes and she exclaimed; "did something die in your shoes, why do they smell so awful", I still couldn't say a word, I was so terrified. They dropped me at a junction I never knew, and carted away with my umbrella( I loved that umbrella so much). Sucked up in fear, I found another cab, this time I assessed the driver to the point he said; "madam, are you going or not? I sat all cuddled up at the back seat, wishing I could teleport myself from the car to the arms of my mama. I got home terrified, dizzy and uncoordinated. My sister mailed my boss asking for a week leave, he gave two, in his words: "let her quarantine herself".
My bourbon and Valium induced coma ended as I opened my eyes in the wee hours of the day to the perching of various birds I stir in distain. I flung my black coils out of my face cursing at the fact that my drunken self-had not worn my headscarf. The last thing I needed was a tangled afro. I had cried myself to sleep yet another night. My husband remained undisturbed with his hands around me. My guess is he had watched me do it but said nothing. What more could he say, all the ‘time heals all wounds',' and ‘she's in a better place now ‘had gotten old. All he could do now was watch and wait and stoke up on the bourbon. Yes, this was unbecoming of me. The ‘together one' but what can I say, grief hits unexpectedly. Which is strange to say considering I had seen the death take the one I loved. I got up and took on the role assigned to me at birth. That of girl, woman, nurturer of all. I lay the table as I have done in the last thousand days or so with each cup and plate ever so delicately placed. Uncertain and afraid waiting to be wiped out. A feeling I had become all too familiar with. Hand sanitizer had been my weapon, a shield and painful reminder of the constant cloud that had hung above me. I reminisced back to simpler times, filled with merriness and certainty, before the contagion times. When brunch filled our days and trash talk was our pass time. The only healthy adult relationship other than my husband had come to an end. I was lost, unable to move paralyzed by shock at first. Unable to process the fact that I would never call her again. In the weeks to follow I read and reread all our emails, ever text, every detail of every picture glued to my mind. Because forgetting them would somehow forget her. Auto piloting my way through classes, through my meetings, numbing myself with the various sleeping pills. It was a cold June day, 4 months since her death and the splashes of water did but slap harder as my trance like state continued. Washing this automobile filled me with memories of a time when this car was our chariot, transporting us to different adventures in hopes of an escape from our newly found motherhood straight out of college. Two women hot boxing in a minivan in hopes of desperately reclaiming our youth. Blasting outdated tunes and singing along like we were seventeen again. Trying to escape the mundanity of their married lives and the high paced gear life had drove them in. My heart had grown weary, tired of tears, my eyes would permanently remember the memories of this sadness. My mind would replay the pain with each earring I found that was hers. Each borrowed sweater stuffed in my closet, always had a spare because I forgot mine, because Lord knows she was my twin flame. I watched the bacon sizzle. Feet still bare and wet, hair now a frizzled mess, clothes still dump yet vastly unaware while watching my offspring laugh. Their toothless smiles as they smothered each other in syrup. Their little nappy pigtails leaping in joy just as they did in love. Uninhibited by the current situation. I was once them I thought to myself. The two of them had each other like we did. Gifted by birth unlike us gifted by the chance encounter of a period mishap. Present yet unaware,'' You are still alive, your children are healthy, your husband and other best friend is still alive'' I had constantly told myself in the beginning in hopes of jilting my spirits awake. But she had not steered clear of the sadness. She wanted to cling to the sadness as much as I did, there was no use in fighting. Giving in took less energy, less fight. Each masked grocery run had screamed imposter with every feigned smile and polite pleasantry. Each sunrise I wondered why I awoke, while my saliva had not betrayed me at night and gagged me into death because at least then I would be with her. I sat with my two children, staring into the window while my mug steamed on. I longed for my mother who had passed two decades ago. For her comforting bosom and her reassuring scone scent. Would they sit together, would they meet each other? I wondered on, pondering at what they would talk about. Mother would definitely have brought some semblance of sense. All I know is I never wouldn't have bared to watch her die too from the glass divide, while she was hooked up to oxygen. Not allowed to touch her one more time as she slipped away. Unable to throw myself on her casket in a hazmat suit at her funeral, watching as her body was cast into a pit like a mere recycled can. The smell of sizzled burnt bacon filled the air. ‘'Fire!'' my children exclaimed in panic as my adrenaline kicked in and grabbed the fire extinguisher. With it gone left a pitch black mark on the kitchen cabinet. In that moment it dawned me that life was for the living. My husband had slept through most of that and had joined us after the episode elapsed. ‘'What's smells charred Hun and what's for breakfast?'' he asked. ‘'Eggs and bacon.'' I replied.