A Shadow of my Former Self

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I’ve been having a challenging time sorting out my soup of emotions experienced during this pandemic. Sitting squarely in America’s epicenter, New York City, the empty streets in my FiDi neighborhood are punctuated by the ambulances racing towards New York Presbyterian hospital’s “Trinity” outpost. My news-addiction, stoked by the earlier impeachment proceedings, is full blown as MSNBC plays day and night. I fixate on the ticker of Covid-19 cases and deaths, in America and worldwide.

A large part of me is still in shock at the speed and magnitude of this epidemic in America. I’m beginning to “know of” people who perished with the virus and have a number of friends and acquaintances who’ve tested positive for the virus or are awaiting results. To be honest, I am upset with the ineptitude of the federal government in the laggardly response to testing and preparation and routinely feel disappointment with the President’s management of the outbreak.  But, I am proud of Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo of their leadership in addressing this dire situation. Despite having lived through the 9-11 attacks on New York, this is the first time that I have actually embraced the idea that I am a New Yorker. 

I am doing better than some others in terms of my degree of fear about catching the disease. I am careful, but not to the point of obsession. I wear protective garments when I go out of the apartment, take my temperature a couple times a day, and for the most part have been at home for a few weeks, without interruption. But I do have fleeting moments thinking, “What if I pass all alone here? Are my affairs (and housekeeping) in order when the first responders find me?”

I’m worried about my family members back home and very anxious about the impact—both immediate and in the longer term—that this crisis will have on our economy and my/our ability to make ends meet. Despite the anxiety, I feel lethargic and confused. 

In multiple iterations, the way I see myself in the world has been altered by this crisis. My work as a Celebrant has fallen away, at least for now. This is how I’ve identified myself for more than a decade. Who am I, if I am not conducting ceremonies? 

The young housemates that I cherished have been called back home, mostly to Europe, and I miss their energy and inquisitive natures greatly. This was one area of my life, in the last couple of years, where I had some opportunity to mentor, I think. Friends and companions that I would see in person are only available via social media or on the phone. (The level of my personal upkeep, most especially my mane, means that video chats are off the table.)  

It is as if a good deal of the scaffolding of my life has been stripped away. Who am I without the points of reference and identification that I richly enjoyed, “before”? 

I was thinking about a scene from the movie adaptation of Joe Klein’s book Primary Colors, the fictional take on Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. In the movie John Travolta plays “Governor Stanton.” Towards the end of the movie Kathy Bates character “Libby Holden” (based on the real life Betsey Wright, longtime Clinton advisor & campaign strategist) says to “Henry” (the George Stephanopoulos character of the film) something along these lines, “You see that moon up in the sky?…that’s me. Beautiful, huh? But it’s only reflected light. It needs the sun’s light to be illuminated. Governor and Mrs. Stanton are my sun.”   

I have always wondered about my light—to what degree is it a reflection of externalities (people, credentials, roles) and to what extent it is from within? This pandemic is providing unyielding insights. 

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