Sounds of the Pandemic

Sounds of the pandemic

My senses are heightened by the sounds of the pandemic. I’m on high alert. The intensity of it all literally throttles me.

I can only compare it to what an overstimulated infant might feel. To an infant, the world must seem huge, and comparatively, they are so small. Not just small but helplessly tiny.

Nothing seems to bring peace or calm during over stimulation, including the things that always bring peace or calm during over stimulation. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have times of acceptance. I know we will come through this and we will find our new normal, but the sounds of the pandemic, all of them, are what cause me the most anxiety.

I hear the sirens of the pandemic.

They’re loud and as alarming as they’re intended to be. My heart races. I imagine a human being gasping for breath as Covid- 19 disables their ability to fill their lungs. A team of first responders is rushing them to the nearest emergency room, as they risk their own lives to save another. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear a lonely broken child scream in pain.

Fear. Terror. The violence of ongoing attacks from the person who is intended to protect them. The child no one can see during the pandemic. The child who hides alone in the space of their attacker. The rageful animal who dominates them with angry words and physical torture. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the anguish of a lonely elderly woman.

She is frightened and alone. She is compromised and imprisoned. She relies on her community to bring supplies, and she is grateful for the relationships she’s built that remind people to check on her. Her neighbor, Elise is not so fortunate. Elise’s husband of 52 years was her provider until Covid- 19 took his life 2 weeks ago. And now, shattered and alone, she waits to join him. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the frustration of a man who can not go to work during the pandemic.

His is paid hourly and his check feeds and houses his family of 6. He is angry. He knows his worth and how well he can provide, but is literally stuck. Unemployment is slow coming and he spends his days fighting with his computer. He is kicked off line each time he tries to submit for benefits and he is worried about when the first check will arrive. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear an overwhelmed mom beating herself up.

She is working from home. She has virtual meetings and workflows to maintain. Deadlines have not changed and she must continue to meet them. She is keeping her family’s spirits up, food shopping, coordinating meals, cleaning the house, staying up on the laundry AND homeschooling the kids. She is struggling. Badly. She feels like a failure and she compares herself to others. She always falls short… She calls herself names; ugly ones, ones that sting, the kind that impact self-esteem and negatively last for an entire lifetime. She mentally beats herself up and drinks more wine than she wants to admit. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the heartbreak of losing a loved one due to the pandemic.

Both parents within a week of one another. An uncle, and 2 cousins. A lifelong friend. A brother. A grandmother. A wife. A husband. A lover. A child… The pain is forever. The loss is tremendous. The physical pain of loss. The emotional exhaustion and defeat of loss. The need to touch, kiss and speak one last time. The devastation… I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the cheer of the people as they applaud the heroes of the pandemic.

The gratitude roars from the streets of New York at 7pm and 7am each day. Hospital shift changes prompt New Yorkers to open their windows and thank healthcare workers for their service. It is a sign of unity. A sign of appreciation. A sign that we are alive and well and have not lost touch with humanity. The hearts are pure and the voices are loud. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the outcry of a doctor who has lost another patient.

She is furious. She feels defeated. She can not believe how powerless she is. She cries. Not just for the patient who has passed, but for all of humankind. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the grief stricken voices of the black community.

The black community who once again is on the broken side of the system. Who is suffering the largest loss of all demographics, and whose voices are proven right again and again through statistics that don’t lie. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the fear instilled in a person as they prepare to birth their baby during the pandemic.

A person bringing a child into a world with a faceless enemy destined to destroy it. A person who is alone. A person begging for their partner’s supportive embrace. A person who must journey through an unknown process during a time of increased unknown. A person whose fear is clear and with good reason. A person terrified to usher in the next generation. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

I hear the sadness of postpartum (and new baby) loneliness.

Welcoming a baby amidst a pandemic. Alone. Isolated. Without the expression of in-person joy. Without the flow of loving, helpful, visitors. New grandparents forever missing the opportunity to hold their infant legacy in their arms. Quiet sadness. Depression. Anxiety. I can’t unhear this. I won’t allow myself the privilege.

The sound of my own guilt.

My frustration with the circumstances that put 6 feet of distance between my children and I is followed by the recognition of my own privilege. I have food. I am financially stable. I am safe from abuse. I am healthy. And I am riddled with guilt… I have the privilege of these things and I do not take them for granted.

The sounds of the pandemic can only be relieved by the sounds of love an laughter.

The sounds that reassure us. The sounds that affirm us. The sounds that bring us joy and lessen our pain.

I want to invite you to say yes to that phone call from a friend. To answer the text message. To brush your hair, get dressed and say yes to that video call.

I promise that you’ll feel better, even if just for a moment.

Seeing other people, at a 6 foot distance, or through a computer screen is connection. The voice on the other end of the phone is connection. Answering that text message, and saying, “I’m struggling”, is connection.

Now, more than ever, humans need connection.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay connected.

Randy Patterson, ProDoula CEO