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I hate shopping. 

Spending money has never been something that has given me joy — in fact, quite the opposite. But getting a good deal on a purchase that I deem necessary has always given me a lot of satisfaction. 

So when I found a sale on N95 masks from an American company that tests, proves and documents their efficacy right on the order page, that adrenaline rush towards a good deal bubbled up inside me propelling me on towards a purchase.

I loaded the items into my online cart. But just as I was pulling out my debit card to enter the numbers into my computer, the inner conflict began.  At the risk of sounding like I am overdramatizing this event, in fairness to myself, I was preparing to purchase 300 N95 masks at a great price. 

I didn’t know if I was a great shopper, prepared, or insane for purchasing 300 N95 masks. I’m not sure if it was the amount of masks or the money or both, but this purchase exposed some root causes of a looming fatigue I had been feeling since the fall. 

I realized that the conflict that rose within me had a little bit to do with the purchase and a lot a bit to do with this pandemic fatigue that had been slowly churning like a wave in the ocean which has the appearance of tsunami from my perspective on the shore.

Since the pandemic started, we’ve reconstructed our lives to center ourselves more at home and our local community. In truth, we needed to do that anyway because my daughter’s needs have increased as her abilities have decreased with more bleeding and swelling in her brain. 

Our lives are mostly better for the changes we have made. But it’s still been very hard on everyone. 

Dealing with a pandemic while managing chronic and emergent needs of a life-threatening disease is not easy. Jo’s had numerous interventions, diagnostic tests, hospitalizations and three brain surgeries since the pandemic began. The neurosurgeon described Jo’s last scan before Christmas as “scary” and now we are looking into experimental treatments while trying to meet with additional doctors over video calls. 

Chronic illness doesn’t stop even for a pandemic. 

This fall, I was feeling very hopeful on the COVID front. We used blood tests to confirm antibody levels for COVID to help guide our decisions on the timing of vaccine boosters. Given waning antibody levels, we decided with our doctors to get the booster before the holidays. 

After the booster, I was feeling pretty comfortable making plans for the holidays. We celebrated my husband’s birthday with a small surprise party, had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends and joyfully started our preparations for Christmas.

We hosted activities for my daughter and other people with disabilities in our home and in the community.  The last one was just a week before Christmas. With each activity we participated in, I felt this growing discomfort as COVID numbers started rising around us. 

Friends and aides who work with my daughter were all being affected by COVID. We stopped all visits with friends and family. Shortly after Christmas, a close friend of my daughter, who also has serious risks and disabilities was hospitalized for COVID. Despite an underlying cancer diagnosis, she recovered well and was discharged and back to her daily activities at home and in the community. Her experience inspired us to greater hope and confidence in the efficacy of the vaccines to minimize the effects of COVID — even in immunocompromised individuals.

Our young friend’s experience and clinical data now show that those who are vaccinated and boosted have faired better even against the mutations with a shorter course of infection and with less serious effects. It’s given me some confidence that if  COVID hits closer to home, our natural and boosted immunity will rise to the challenge for health. 

However, CCM3, the genetic mutation that causes frequent bleeds in my daughter’s brain is considered a comorbidity for and a higher risk for COVID-19. 

So we recognize that we still have great cause for diligence to keep my daughter healthy and safe. 

Before I clicked  the purchase button on the case of 300 N95 masks, I closed my computer and reached out to a close friend to talk. Aunt Lisa is a nurse who now sees COVID-positive patients most every day. She’s Jo’s godmother, so she knows every detail of Jo’s medical history. The Lord knew when we asked her and her husband (also a nurse) to be Jo’s godparents that Johanna needed nurses by her side for life.  

She listened and heard my concerns as I rambled on about pandemic fatigue, frustration over masks and vaccine debates, caregiver exhaustion and the day-to-day fear I face that one day, my daughter may suffer a bleed in her brain that leads to her death. 

I told her about my impending mask purchase and gave all my reasons why I thought we need an ample supply of N95 masks in her our home for our family, the aides and visitors. I went over how to re-use and store the masks. Aunt Lisa agreed and told me all I needed to do that night was to purchase the masks and get some sleep. 

I have supports in my life to handle stress, beginning with the discipline of daily prayer and journaling and also including counseling, good friends and family and exercise in the great outdoors. 

I have also discovered that goat therapy and talking to chickens helps relieve stress, too. There’s just something about holding conversations with clucking chickens and bleating goats that sets the world aright. 

And watching the sun set over the farms and the Long Island Sound settles every angst in my soul. 

But no matter how many routines and therapeutic supports we have in our lives, I still return to the simplicity of the Serenity Prayer. I first read a version of the prayer when my Dad quit drinking and joined Alcoholics Anonymous when I was quite young.

Someone gave him a beautiful print of the prayer and he hung it on the wall of the kitchen in plain sight for all to read. I imagine it contributed to his lifelong dedication to remain sober.

I didn’t really understand the power of this simple prayer until I started reading and trying to implement the Al-Anon principles into my own journey of recovery. 

If your life has never been affected by addictions, be thankful. 

Still, we all need to recover from something and right now, most of us need to find ways to recover from the trauma and exhaustion of pandemic fatigue. We need to realize that, although we may not be able to control this pandemic, we can control our response to the stress and do the next right thing to find serenity.

This week, I needed more sleep, less sugar and caffeine, more time outdoors —and to order that case of N95 masks. I found serenity in these simple solutions and in surrendering it all to God.

Serenity comes by surrendering to God, accepting what we can’t change and having the courage to change the things we can.

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did,

this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it;

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to Your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr

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Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen