V.com weekend vote: A year into this pandemic, how are you feeling?

February 27, 2021, 9:52 PM · As we near the year anniversary of The Day Everything Shut Down, I thought it would be nice to check in with how everyone is feeling. While the initial "quarantine" may have felt at first like a time for rest and catching up, navigating the long-term limitations of various lockdowns, cancellations and travel restrictions also has been exhausting. And throughout this long year, many people have suffered tremendously -- with job losses, financial setbacks, illness and the death of loved ones.

At this juncture, what are you thoughts? I invite you to participate in the vote, and below that I'll tell you my story. In the comments, I invite you to tell me yours.

masked Laurie

For me, the anniversary of when this all started was earlier his month - the day a year ago when I became very ill. I'd had a low-grade cough, which doctors had assured me was a garden-variety cold and past the point of being contagious. The night before, I'd just played what was to be my last set of concerts for a very long time, with the Pasadena Symphony. But on this morning, I awakened with a temperature of 104 degrees and all the typical symptoms of the flu. Despite all the talk of the new "coronavirus," and despite the fact that I'd had a flu shot the previous fall, I assumed I likely had the flu. It was Sunday, and I figured I'd see on Monday if I could get some Tamiflu.

As the day went on, I started finding it difficult to breathe and I became very afraid. I made the decision to cancel all my lessons for the entire next week - something I don't think I've ever done. I knew I was going to be sick for a while. Around dinner time I was downright panicked. I begged my husband Robert to take me to the Kaiser Urgent Care - he was sick too, but not as sick as I was.

Once there, we saw signs, "If you've been to Wuhan, China, you might have coronavirus." I rolled my eyes. As if a virus would contain itself to a single city. No, I hadn't been to Wuhan, China. Though - hmm. We live in a part of Los Angeles with a very heavy Chinese population, well-connected to the mainland. The parents of my Chinese students had been urgently warning for weeks, "Do NOT go to any Chinese stores, restaurants, stay away! I am not even getting my hair cut!" At the time, that seemed liked an overreaction - even a little racist.

When the doctor saw me, the first thing she asked was, "Have you recently travelled to Wuhan, China?" Ah, no. Which meant I would not be tested for coronavirus. But also, to my surprise, she declined to test me for the flu. "The test is not really that important," she said, "I'm going do diagnose you with flu, based on symptoms." She gave me a prescription for Tamiflu and sent me home.

I got the Tamiflu and immediately took it. Mentally, I felt much better. Physically, I could not get my temperature below 100 degrees, despite taking round-the-clock ibuprofen followed by Tylenol, every four hours. I took the Tamiflu as directed, but it took three very long days for the fever to break - it tenaciously stayed above 100 degrees. During those days, I could not eat. I felt so weak that I could barely walk around the bed. But I was sure the Tamiflu would work.

I briefly called my mother to let her know I was sick. "I'm just lying here breathing, that's all I can do," I said.

"Do you have the coronavirus?" she said. "I think you do."

"No, definitely not," I said with absolute certainty. "If I had the coronavirus, I'd be on the news."

When the fever broke, I did the thing I'd been wanting to do, I just went to sleep. When I finally could get around, it was Friday, my birthday. I wanted to go somewhere and breathe. I went to the Huntington Gardens, which just a few blocks from where we live, and sat. I felt like I was looking out of a fishbowl, but was so happy to just be.

I also had an epiphany: About this virus, it's wasn't just coming, it was here, and it was real. Everything was going to shut down. None of my gigs were going to happen. That week I got out my sewing machine and started making masks.

I don't know if I had the flu, or if I had COVID, and I never will. If I had it, I certainly don't want it again, and I don't want anyone else to get it. I'll wait my turn for the vaccine, and then tentatively work back to normalcy along with everyone else.

Am I wiped out, or rested an ready to go? If I'm honest, I'm pretty wiped out - it's been a heck of a year. I have continued to teach, and I love doing so and am so happy to work with my students every week. But I have not played in an orchestra for a year. I have not played with my quartet friends. When I play with my students over Zoom, they hear me, but I do not hear them. I miss the musical connection very deeply.

But I do think I see a light at the end of this tunnel, if we can all just wait it out a little while longer. When that light gets a little bigger, a little nearer, I think I'll feel the surge of motivation.

Replies

February 28, 2021 at 06:25 AM · For me, the pandemic has actually been almost irrelevant to my musical life, because my ability to play has been limited for unrelated reasons.

When the pandemic started, the cancellation of orchestral concerts was almost a bit of a relief, because I was planning to take a month off from playing in order to rest a chronic shoulder injury, and the pandemic took away the need to decide which concert I would skip. I took my break, resumed practicing in late spring, and during the summer started asking other musicians about interest in playing socially-distanced chamber music in a park. And then that became a moot point when I got rear-ended on a freeway offramp and was completely unable to play for months due to whiplash. The lack of a 2020-21 orchestra season has been moot for the same reason.

Now that I'm back to playing and can practice half an hour at a time, I've started taking viola lessons, mostly focused on injury rehab for now. Of course I've had to take lessons online, but I think I would have gone online anyway because of a lack of local options. For years I've been trying to find a local teacher who 1) accepts adult students, 2) can teach advanced viola repertoire, and 3) has evening or weekend openings, with no success. I've found every combination of two of the three, but never all three. I had already decided months before the pandemic started that I was going to look online for my next teacher.

February 28, 2021 at 06:38 AM · The first 6 months or so were fine for me. I was enduring a very stressful first year as a classroom teacher and going online helped me get a handle on things. I had more time to practice and I started memorizing unaccompanied Bach and playing it on the Balcony. I’m naturally an introvert and I found that I enjoyed online teaching. I missed orchestra but I thought it would come back in the fall. I have continued to take online lessons and that too has been a blessing for me. I can fit them in more frequently and easily without the commute. But in the past few months I’ve gotten impatient and also lonely. My Facebook practice group is lovely but I want to play orchestra and chamber music with others again. I’m wondering how much of the group is still going to be there when we can get together again. I taught a whole neuroscience class online and it’s already over without my having met my students in person at all. I haven’t seen my senior citizen parents in almost 2 years. CA starts vaccinating teachers on Monday and I have my appointment scheduled. I’m ready for this to be over now.

February 28, 2021 at 08:47 AM · Being an introvert I'm not experiencing the anxiety and stress of social distancing that some of the extroverts in my life are and have been reaching out to check on them and see how THEY are doing for change. I miss performing the most but I have had time to address some issues in my technique that have been on my mind and to take on some musical projects that I've been wanting to do. I've also had time to reflect on the type of freelancing I've been doing for a good part of the past decade and realizing a lot of it has been geared more towards getting that check and not so much about musical satisfaction/integrity or art,and in the process letting myself be underappreciated as a musician and violinist. Not gigging right now because of Covid has given me the opportunity to rethink my path moving foward and what my motivations are artistically so I guess I'm in the rested and ready minority.

February 28, 2021 at 03:16 PM · Wow Laurie, what a story!

I picked both. Physically I've enjoyed the slower pace, but mentally I'm wore out. I think I am more exhausted of seeing all the divisions and confusion over virus realted issues. Get tested-tests were almost impossible to get. It's political-it's not political. Stay home-it's bad for your mental health and will ruin the economy. Masks don't work-masks are mandatory to slow the spread. Friends becoming enemies. Everyone's opinion is the right one and worth fighting for regardless of where it came from and what the consequences are...it can go on and on.

I have tried my best to stay in compliance with our state and local guidelines, but mentally, at this point, I'm just exhausted.

February 28, 2021 at 05:19 PM · I was doing pretty well, but hit a wall emotionally about a month ago, and I've been trying to get my practice back on track, as I haven't much wanted to practice. Other forms of self-care have taken precedence, but the practice is starting to come back.

February 28, 2021 at 08:27 PM · I'm wiped out. I've taught three different courses since last February all with videos that I have to prepare for my students, including a lab course where I had to videotape myself performing all the experiments. I've linked an example below. But it's not only the labor, but the fact that the labor involves an unbelievable number of mouse clicks, and this has put a great deal of strain on my shoulder. I'm trying to do some exercises and stretches for it, but it's pretty painful. Also the plain fact is that the stress that is felt by the students rubs off on faculty members. We are sensitive to the fear and worry about illness and the loss of career-critical opportunities. I really can't wait to return to ordinary classroom teaching. I have to teach online again in the summer, but in the fall I will hopefully be teaching my lab course in person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mnm9AIXglvs

I recommend viewing at 1.25x or 1.5x because I have to speak slowly to avoid making a great many mistakes. The reason my voice is distorted in the lab demo portion is because I had to put a lot of gain on the headset mic and use a lot of noise reduction in the software due to the background noise in the lab (ventilation and a vacuum pump that I can't turn off).

Very good Two Set Violin video on mental health quite recently published:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFhSHlNvZlQ

February 28, 2021 at 09:16 PM · Getting instruments fixed is a problem, places are in lockdown and traveling on public transport is not a good idea. I've always wanted to play keyboard so I got a plastic electronic thing mail order and for now play that instead of violin. Overall for me things have been much better, the unemployment office has stopped trying to make my life a misery, they have other things to think about.

February 28, 2021 at 10:23 PM · Geez Laurie, what an ordeal. Glad you recovered. I am ready to go. As a retired person and full-time slacker, my life this year has not been that bad, other than shoulder issues which continue to limit my ability to play and have for the past 18 months. Hopefully, I can resolve those soon, and with my second shot due on Wednesday, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and it does not appear to be a freight train coming in my direction, as we used to say).

PS You look really enigmatic in your mask.

February 28, 2021 at 11:07 PM · My life hasn't changed all that much in the last year other than finding a really great teacher and I'm practicing again. I was devastated when my previous teacher didn't work out. I am home most of the time because of an illness that doesn't seem to want to go away and the drug treatment makes me unable to drive some days. But I am content. I am glad I am retired. My luthier has his shop open by appointment so in October I was feeling well enough to drive there and try out violins and I bought a new one. I'll go bow shopping one day soon.

February 28, 2021 at 11:35 PM · I'm still bummed that I can't perform as much as I'd like to but I'm keeping myself busy with other stuff and I hope to have more fun when the pandemic is over.

February 28, 2021 at 11:36 PM · I whole-heartedly agree with Laurie's experience. Except for teaching, which I don't do, I'd allocate 75% for "wiped out", and 25% for "rested" etc. I make a point of doing something on the violin every day, even if it's only 10 minutes or so of scales, paying as much attention as I can to posture, intonation, and sound quality - that's pretty well Suzuki basics!

Being primarily an orchestral player I don't have much in the way of solo music to work on, and I haven't the faintest idea what will be on the menu when orchestral rehearsals start (hopefully within the next 6 months) but thankfully there is my Irish and English folk music repertoire to fall back on to keep the old engine turning over.

I think things would be a lot worse if it wasn't for this forum to log on to every day!

March 1, 2021 at 12:39 AM · One year ago, I attended a Bluegrass festival in Kirkland, Washington, one week before the announcement of an outbreak of Covid-19 at a nursing home in that city. I'd been surrounded with hundreds of other people, in hallways, and rooms. When I got back to Portland, and announced where I'd been in a fiddle class, others scooted their chairs away from me.

Fortunately I didn't carry the virus, and since then I've been social isolated from others. I haven't seen my children or grandchildren for over 16 months, or my friends in over 13 months. Life in limbo has been curiously challenging to say the least. I take my violin lessons via Skype, and I still have yet to master wearing a mask without fogging up my glasses to such an extent that I can't see very much.

And yet, I'm doing well.

Early into this entire experience, I considered all of this as a sabbatical from life. I look to Bob Dylan after his 1966 motorcycle accident and Sonny Rollins when he decided to quit performing for a couple of years. Dylan stopped all public appearances and focused on just playing music with his friends. Rollins played music for hours on a bridge in New York City for himself and anyone who wants to listen. I've elected to practice for some elusive future performance.

I've also learned to let things go, and enjoy what I have.

I'll do my lessons, practice my songs, and -with any luck - I'll get my vaccine shots soon. I mean, it is what it is, and that's that. xo

March 1, 2021 at 01:25 AM · I forgot to mention that I gave a few patio concerts for the neighbors. They appreciate everything. I even got a hamburger at a cookout!

March 2, 2021 at 12:50 PM · What a story, Laurie! Glad you made it out in one piece. I had a similar experience in February of last year, when a bronchitis that I had largely ignored suddenly got worse to the point that I had to hyperventilate every few minutes just to get oxygen. The last night before treatment I was afraid to fall asleep and not wake up. My cough could be heard in surrounding condos.

But it quickly departed with antibiotics, so it wasn't Covid, although it could have been Covid-enhanced: no one checked because it wasn't yet a household name.

My first city lockdown was total, and 6 weeks. Even now I am sure I bear the scars of it, because although I am not a super-social person, taking a walk to buy a newspaper gave the ditinct impression of being in Chernobyl after the reactor disaster. No people, no cars, armed police at checkpoints, insects buzzing, the sun shining, entirely indifferent to our plight.

I got the feeling that whatever plans we made, projects we embarked upon, and certainties we harbored could all be brushed into oblivion by a microscopic enemy that doesn't even have a brain. It gave me a new dimension to our existence, once with which I am not sure I am comfortable.

March 2, 2021 at 03:08 PM · The next step for the agencies is to figure out how to vaccinate people who have already had COVID. But of course then you have to test for that. But in some places like the US and perhaps Italy too, it's probably a lot of people.

March 3, 2021 at 09:07 AM · Paul, we can easily get tests here. In my business we have a medical consultant, and upon request he sent a person to test all of us in situ Pharmacies here do it on a routine basis.

The issue of vaccines is something else. Here in Europe AstraZeneca vaccines are piling up because a lot of people thing it is inferior to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or the new single-jab J&J.

March 5, 2021 at 10:38 PM · I just voted late, both. Musically, things changed, no more in person play or rehearsals, all my lessons (I take not give) moved online and I have given up, likely permanently my once per month "master class" lessons with a retired concertmaster/soloist that I was doing (he is in his 90s). On the other hand, my job did not stop as I am in property management and my property had to stay open and operational throughout the shutdowns for my essential service tenants to operate.

So I have spent the year working alternate weeks from home, continuing to practice, take lessons online, and playing for my own pleasure.

My wife and I volunteered and participated in one of the successful vaccine trials. With the vaccines in distribution, they unblinded the participants and vaccinated the placebo group, she had gotten lucky and was in the vaccine arm, I had gotten the placebo and so have only just recently been vaccinated.

Oh and we just had a streamed Recital program! Prerecorded performances streamed on youtube.

March 5, 2021 at 10:39 PM · @Laurie, you can get an antibody test at most pharmacies, you can check if you did in probably have Covid or the Flu last year.

March 7, 2021 at 12:54 AM · I voted "Rested and ready to go," which most nearly describes my situation -- although my daily routine barely changed during the shutdowns. When I went into business for myself in 1996, a lot of people didn't have internet and email; so if the pandemic had struck back then, it would have been harder to keep operations going with all the shutdowns and social-distancing. But I discontinued in-person customer interaction years ago and have long done everything by phone and email. I get more done that way. Yet I can definitely comprehend the disruption and disappointment -- not to mention financial hardship -- people in the performing arts, hospitality, and travel industries have faced.

Besides the biz and music practice, working out is another big part of my life. Area gyms shut down here for 3 months, March 17-June 17, 2020. During that time, I found online instructional videos, more than I could begin to count, on the subject of staying fit at home. While my adopted state of Alabama has very much reopened, we still have a statewide mask order; but there are exceptions to it -- e.g., when working out. Fitness pros advise AGAINST wearing a mask during workouts, because the mask reduces oxygen intake -- the very situation you don't want to risk during heavy exertion.

I do almost all shopping online -- nothing new with me -- except for early Saturday morning visits to Walmart each week and occasional afternoon stops at CVS. So not much need for a mask.

No chamber music get-togethers planned, but the music practice goes on. It won't be long before I can resume evening sessions in the garage, which has the reverb I like. Fortunately it's warm enough here, around the 34th parallel, to play out there about 8 months each year.

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