I avoided covid for two years. Until now. Here is what I learned.

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(Monique Wray for the Washington Post)
(Monique Wray for the Washington Post)

The editorial schedule for this column, where I write essays three weeks before publication, forces me to try to anticipate the future. Not just any future, however. But yours. The hope is that what I decide to write today exists at the intersection of evergreen and relevance that will make it interesting enough, 21 days from now, that you will want to read it.

Today is a little different, however. Because I currently have covid. But I’m confident that by the time you read this it will have left my system. And this essay talks about what I learned by having it. So I write this in the past tense. Which means I predict my future here too.

Anyway, I managed to avoid covid for the first two years of the pandemic. But then I tested positive and fell ill at the end of April. Here is what I learned:

1. Two years ago, I was cleaning takeout and grocery orders with Clorox wipes on my front porch before bringing them home. And then once I moved them to a kitchen counter and then from the counter to a shelf or the refrigerator, I cloroxed each surface.

Today it is considered a theater of hygiene. We now know enough about the virus to understand that incessant Cloroxing prevents the spread like how pumps prevent snow. But then there was so much unknown, so much (justified) fear, that the theatrical felt practical.

Getting covid was scary. There’s no point in pretending it wasn’t. I’m fit enough to play basketball three times a week with guys half my age. But I’m also 43 with an autoimmune disease and live with two unvaccinated infectious disease carriers called “children.” It’s less scary now, though, than it would have been in May 2020. And not just because I’m vaccinated. But because of the oximeter I bought after reading Mara Gay’s heartbreaking essay on contracting the virus, it’s been an anxiety-relieving machine making sure my oxygen levels were good. And because of what we now know about treatment – ​​what drugs to take, what activities to avoid, how much sleep to sleep – knowledge that just wasn’t as available two years ago.

I have been worried about covid for a long time, which still exists in this unknown nebula. But the worry (which I have now) is manageable. Terror (which I had then) is not.

2. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that after two years without covid I thought this just wasn’t going to happen. Like maybe I was lucky enough to have natural immunity. Or maybe two years of hypervigilance, masking everywhere, eating in a covered restaurant exactly Once since March 2020, bought me immunity. Like points accrued from paying your credit card bill early. Like, I had a psychosomatic shield against it.

I was (obviously) wrong. But it’s still a nice thought to have. Makes me feel like a wizard.

3. My virus was considered mild. “Sweet” is a funny word. Sweet connotes worldly. Insignificant. Soft. But my mouth still hasn’t forgiven me for the time I spent at that restaurant where I tried the “sweet” sauce, only to learn that “sweet” meant “incinerate your esophagus so that it flows down to your feet”.

Getting covid was scary. There’s no point in pretending it wasn’t.

I’ve had worse congestion, worse headaches, worse fevers, worse coughs, worse sore throats, and worse bouts of fatigue. But what made this sweetness so disconcerting was that I had these symptoms all at once. I felt like I had five different mild viruses. As if seasonal allergies and mono had a baby. It also felt like (big sigh) a box of chocolates, with a new surprise every few hours. (“Oh, I guess we’re done coughing dryly today?” “Why are my sheets soaked?” “Wait… is it vertigo?” “I didn’t know we were playing ‘Is that gas or diarrhoea?’ Game! “)

4. My whole house tested positive, so we quarantined for a week. There were times, however, when I would sit on my front porch for some fresh air, and some neighbors, dog walkers, and other passers-by would try to talk to me. I learned to be more tolerant of small talk. I no longer consider it the ingrown nail of social discourse. But, for obvious reasons, I wasn’t in the mood, and most people read my body language and kept moving.

One person didn’t, however, and stopped to carry on a conversation, even as I stood, backed up to my door, and kept my mouth shut. And then, halfway through the question, I turned around, opened my door and walked in without saying a word.

What I mean is, if you’re a fan of the Irish release, but sometimes feel uncomfortable doing it, if you get covid, you can do it guilt free!

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