I Have Covid
Being positive sucks
Thankfully, I am home. I’ve been here for five days, and It’s fairly warm today. I’m sitting on my bed with the windows open, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and I just went on a walk to the lake with my parents. We’re having Chipotle for dinner and last night my mom and I watched six episodes of Gilmore Girls.
My last days in London were full of anxiety. Cases were rising and I had to test negative to get on my flight, so I isolated as much as I could before traveling. I was double-masked the whole time. I kissed my parents when I landed in the early Tuesday hours, relieved that I had made it through the worst part. I planned to see all my friends and family, hand out Christmas gifts, get my booster shot, do a big shop at Trader Joe’s. Then, I tested positive on Thursday morning.
I think the hardest part was that I was convinced I had reached the end of the tunnel. It’s the end of the year, and I made it back home after my first four months alone abroad. I wanted to show everyone how much I’ve grown. After two years, I felt like I finally had both feet on the ground, and suddenly something came and completely knocked me over. It’s almost embarrassing to be weakened again.
And I know I’m not alone. In many ways, those of us with Omicron are the lucky ones — we have little symptoms if any, and vaccinations mean we are as protected as we can be. I’m thankful I’m able to self-isolate at home with my family, halfway across the world from where I would’ve been. I could write a million at leasts, but it’ll still hurt. There is still a loud, ticking countdown above my head, with how many days until January 7 in my recent Google searches. But, as we must do with everything out of our control, we just have to let the waves carry us back to shore. In the end, constantly trying to kick against it will be exhausting.
This week, we lost the great Joan Didion, who said to the Bard College graduating class of 1987:
What I want to tell you today is not to move into that world where you're alone with yourself and your mantra and your fitness program or whatever it is that you might use to try to control the world by closing it out. I want to tell you just to live in the mess. Throw yourself out into the convulsions of the world. I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't believe progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm telling you to live in it.
I’ve been struck with a much-needed reality check these last few days. I felt like I had finally made it over a big hill, calves aching, only to find that there’s another one in front of me. But I’ve barely made it to a quarter of my life. There will be so many hills. Maybe a few mountains. The sinking feeling will probably never fade — and that’s okay — but I should recognize that eventually, my calves won’t ache as much. I joked with my dad that maybe I should buy some hiking boots. Anyway, the world is messy. Life is messy. Charlotte Brontë wrote in Jane Eyre: When full of flowers they would doubtless look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January, all was wintry blight and brown decay. I’m not saying to romanticize the ugly, because sometimes you just can’t. But spring always looks more beautiful at the end of a dark winter. That’s what I’m saying. Hugging my family and friends, whenever I can, will feel extra good now. The best I can do for now is to focus on that feeling and unplug that ticking clock above my head.
I made the mistake of believing that reading poetry and writing and going on walks will solve everything for me. And it did help, but I can only control so much. I think taking back control of our lives can also mean learning to let go of the things we can’t control. That first day I tested positive, I was so angry. I did everything. I did the 4 AM remote classes last year, I did the big move abroad, I always masked and washed my hands. Why did this have to happen now? Where did I even catch this? Something has invaded my body. I’m not who I was two weeks ago. Why couldn’t I return home as my best self? I could ask so many questions, but I won’t ever find the answers. And that is no one’s fault. It’s just the way the world works.
Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet:
Do not now strive to uncover answers: they cannot be given to you because you have not been able to live them. And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now.
I’m asymptomatic and feeling fine. I’m hoping to test negative in a few days and return to the active state of being home, but if I don’t, I’ll figure it out. I’m trying not to mourn the time lost. To those who are isolating this holiday season — I am sending you all my love and well wishes. Even though it’s been two years, it doesn’t mean it sucks any less. The only thing we can do is to put our hands up and look forward. We’ll face the new year with bright eyes, and we’ll be brave. Like we always have.
“There is a gold light in certain old paintings” by Donald Justice: One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good / The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar.
What I Enjoyed This Week
Joan Didion’s essay “Self Respect”. This is one of those pieces of writing that will stay with me forever. She died the day I tested positive for Covid, and I read this essay. It completely obliterated all of my self-pitying. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home. God, she was so brilliant. Rest in peace.
“Be Careful Darkness” by Erica Jong. Tuesday was the longest night of the year, which we Iranians celebrate as Shab e Yalda. We celebrate it as the night the sun overtakes the moon, as the days finally become longer. I have always looked at January and February as the dreariest months, and I’m not looking forward to returning to London as the sun hibernates behind grey clouds. But I think we tend to forget that, despite the dreariness, the light has won. We are light / pushing aside / the darkness / as we move.
This article. Made me smile.
Other Wonderful Things
I love the taste of something I’ve missed. My mom’s gheymeh, a Persian stew. Jalepeño Cheddar Cheetos. Honest honey green tea. Whole Foods’ apple tart. Jinya’s Spicy Creamy Vegan ramen (something in me awoke again after that one). Trader Joe’s hash browns.
My favorite holiday movie is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Its charming, grainy imperfections and its quiet plot reflect what the holiday season means to me — slowing down and finding something to love. The soundtrack is just as wonderful. I’ve been loving this song lately.
I just have to give a shoutout to my best friend who gave me the most meaningful gift — she put my newsletters into a little book and gave it to me for Christmas. It is unreal to hold them in my hands. C, I love you!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you for reading, and an extra thank you for all the love this past year. I hope you are enjoying this newsletter as much as I’m enjoying writing it. I feel so lucky to have a meaningful space where I can both listen and be listened to, and I am always grateful. See you in 2022!