We are grateful to Northside Hospital for being there for their community during this difficult time and for the days to come as we emerge from this pandemic.
“How Are You?”
Such a mundane question — a polite but somewhat rhetorical opening to a conversation. We asked but hardly listened to the answer because it was always something like “fine,” “okay” or “good” until last year when it became a loaded question which often had a heartbreaking response. It became an essential question for checking in with people because we were living through a pandemic that stopped us all, almost overnight, in our tracks.
Everyone we knew, including ourselves, was changed by the last year — what we lived through had a profound effect on us.
I found it very hard that there was no one to turn to for advice who had been through this before. No one could reassure us that everything would ultimately be okay. There was no one to comfort us, or to tell us what to do or to listen to our fears and struggles. The entire scenario was a new one for everyone and no one was sure how it would all turn out.
So, we kept our emotions in check as we moms often do and we held on. When we would find a minute to check in with one another, it was about how things were going, not about how we were doing. We did not talk about that, but it turns out that that is what we needed most.
I worried about complaining when I knew others who had it so much worse. We did our best to carry on. We spent a lot more time outdoors — riding the Greenway and walking The BeltLine — grateful for all the greenspace within our city.
We longed for what we were missing — not just the big stuff but also the little things — going to a Braves games, eating at The Varsity, visiting the Aquarium or the World of Coke, seeing a concert at Chastain, and all the other “normal” things we used to do.
We were grateful to be able to wander around the Botanical Gardens, Centennial Olympic Park and the Atlanta Zoo, but wondered when would it be safe to stroll through the High Museum of Art or watch a performance at The Fox again?
Most of us, as women, carry the heavier load of the “invisible labor,” tending to everyone else’s needs, making lists, scheduling, juggling, comforting, cheering up, and emotionally supporting everyone around us. Sometimes we feel guilty when we take time for ourselves and practice “self-care,” but this last year has forced us to share this work with those around us because we just could no longer “do it all.”
We dried our own tears and everyone’s around us — not because we’re martyrs but because we are mothers, grandmothers, women, sisters, aunts, daughters and warriors. But even warriors need to rest so we took a collective deep breath and with nowhere to go and nowhere to be, we slowed everything down.
So many things were cancelled or postponed — even necessary medical procedures and medical tests. I was supposed to have a routine mammogram in April but of course everything was closed. So, when Northside reopened for medical testing, I was conflicted…what was the greater risk — going to a medical center where there could be COVID lurking or not getting this life saving test?
I put it off and tried not to think about it for months. When I finally called to schedule it, Northside told me about all the precautions they were taking to keep people safe. Reassured, I went on December 31st (the first step of many to get back out into the world).
The extremes of this past year are mind blowing and yet, here we are. How do we begin to process all that we went through — we can’t just put it behind us or sweep it under the carpet?
We need to understand it, share it and validate for ourselves and others that we are not alone and we are going to be okay. This is what the experts tell us: we need to talk about it.
One expert, Dr. Michele Voeltz, a board-certified physician in internal medicine, cardiology and interventional cardiology at Northside Hospital and mother of six, offered this helpful context for all of us as we slowly make our way out into the new world.
We’ve all lost things, jobs, people, family and we need to acknowledge that. But, on the other side, not everything that came out of Covid was bad. As a family, we spent a lot of time together over the year. A lot of time we normally don’t have. The past year has taught me to enjoy that time. It’s important to remember to not overschedule and to be in the moment.
I’m keeping her gratitude and perspective in mind as I navigate my own re-entry. I’m also giving myself a break by embracing the fact that we all need help sometimes and now more than ever, there are resources available to us (many are free) — the first step is to acknowledge our needs and then seek the help we deserve. It’s time to take care of ourselves. Time to make that hair or nail appointment, grab coffee with a friend or go to dinner and eat inside!
Life is best when we have things to look forward to — we lost that during the pandemic but now it’s okay to hope again! Hartsfield-Jackson is bustling again — we’re making plans, getting out and going places! It’s wonderful to be out and about and to see our beloved city in action once more.
Now when we ask, “How are you?” we really mean it. We listen attentively to the answer, and we respond with compassion and love that only comes with having survived something as epic as a pandemic. And, as we’re coming to the other side of it, it’s critically important that we talk about it openly and honestly. #TalkAboutIt
Interested in learning more? Join us for a Grown & Flown Facebook Live with Dr. Michele Voeltz, a board-certified physician in internal medicine, cardiology and interventional cardiology at Northside Hospital on July 13 @ 7:00 PM ET to find support and to talk about how we can take care of ourselves and each other.
Dr. Michele D. Voeltz, MD, FACC (Fellow in the American College of Cardiology) is a board-certified physician in internal medicine, cardiology and interventional cardiology. She specializes in complex coronary intervention, multi-vessel stenting and mechanical circulatory support. Her clinical interests are in cardio-obstetrics, heart disease in pregnancy and women’s health. Dr. Voeltz has six children, a number of whom were adopted through foster care.
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