I am one of those people who wears rose colored glasses the majority of the time. I like to see the beauty and the love in everything and everyone. But this sometimes gets me in trouble, because the pessimist in me focuses on the positive rather than thinking of all the details of the worst case scenario. I do overthink, and over prepare, and in the case of traveling during a global pandemic I did just that— N95 masks, sanitizer, wipes, glasses. But I think it’s hard to really go deep into the worst case scenario, that requires most of us to face the reality of what we fear the most but most of us would rather avoid that and just hope for the best.
I was lucky enough to have an empty house to quarantine in when I arrived— thanks to my tía and tío who spent a month there and left before I arrived. The first few days I was excited just to be back in the rancho. But then the loneliness got to me. It had been 7 days, and on that Friday I began feeling funky, like I didn’t have energy for anything. It’s hard to experience losing all of your energy when doing nothing because there’s literally nothing to do— no TV, no Wi-Fi, limited internet (with my two bars of service). So even when I tried catching friends on the phone for a quick call, most were busy.
With no distractions my mind was high on anxiety. I was thinking of worst possible scenarios of contracting COVID, so much so that I started regretting my decision of coming to Mexico in the first place. I had a thermometer and my temperature went up by one degree a possible normal body temperature variation, but with my paranoia, my lack of energy, and my asthma I was thinking of the worst case scenario. The next morning when I woke up my temperature was back to normal, but as I kept checking through out the day it kept going back up by one to two degrees. When I ate breakfast that morning I was nauseous and didn’t even enjoy the food I had been enjoying for days, I was feeling dizzy and tired, add that to my asthma symptoms— which are often induced by anxiety. I tried to calm myself down, because I had similar symptoms while in Phoenix. When I got tested then, I was negative for COVID-19. In all reality, I think I had anemia or I was dehydrated, which mixed with asthma gave me a COVID scare. I never did go to the doctor to figure out what was up with me in Phoenix, and in that moment I regretted it. Could these be the similar symptoms I had in Phoenix, or could this be COVID because I traveled?
This was the part I didn’t think through, the emotions of the worst case scenario. If I was feeling 100% this would have been the day I was planning to visit my abuelos. Because I was feeling weird I committed to following through the 14 days of quarantine and I even looked up a place to get tested before I visited my abuelos. I was even considering going back to the states, I knew I didn’t want to be the one who selfishly brought COVID to the rancho. This was hoping for the best, because I also have asthma, and although I have it under control I wondered if I got COVID would I even survive? But this is what an anxiety spiral feels like, I had thought of all of these scenarios before, but feeling through the emotion was what was different.
Thankfully, I was just grateful to have the privilege of a full empty house, and I did manage to drive into the city to get tested. In the time I waited for my results I remembered to go back to the lessons I had first learned when I was living in México to try to ease my anxiety. I decided to go back to a Primero Dios, mentality. God willing I will be fine, God willing this is part of the emotional rollercoaster of de-stressing from an American lifestyle (and the trauma of COVID). God willing I will see my abuelos soon. I was so fearful that I even started praying the rosary. It had been years since I had last prayed the rosary and it was a spiritual practice that I avoided, but in those moments I decided to pray, not for me but for my family to refocus my thoughts in something other than myself. And this shift helped me. That last week of quarantine was an emotional rollercoaster, full of doubt, fear, sadness, loneliness, stress, but also prayer, hope, surrender, and somewhere in between all of those emotions was a shred of peace. I also remembered to reach out to those who care about me, so with the support of my family and friends I started to feel more at ease. Part of the reason quarantine is so hard, is the lack of social interaction. In these days I remembered the power of meditation, prayer, reading and writing.
Thankfully I got the results back the day before I went to see my abuelos, they were NEGATIVE! But it still didn’t ease all of my stress, when I first saw my abuelos I wore a mask and it took me about a week to feel comfortable in the house without a mask. I was also too scared to hug them, and to hug anybody. The pandemic has been a traumatic experience for most of us, especially with the mishandling of it in the U.S. But what I realized here is that although there is fear here too, people also stick with Primero Dios mentality. God Willing, we won’t get it.They’re cautious and as careful as they know how to be, but they also recognize the uncertainty in what they can’t control. Someone told me in conversation that “we should have compassion for those who do have it, specially because they don’t know they’re spreading it. Primero Dios, it won’t happen to us, but let’s be compassionate.” Which was nice to hear given all the social shaming that has been going on in the U.S. It’s been moments like this, when people see your humanity before seeing you as a host of a virus that makes me realize why I love México so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I also recognize the disparity and lack of resources and scientific knowledge— I mean I had to pay $200 American dollars to get tested at a private clinic, and I fully understand that if the ranchos in México were hit as badly as the cities in the U.S, it would be a major tragedy, but I try to take ease in that as humans we are doing the best we can with the circumstances we were given. I understand that most people without a college education and basic knowledge of biology or access to the internet might not understand what an asymptomatic incubation period is, or even a clear understanding of all the statistics and percentages being shared in the media— that’s where compassion comes in. I’m grateful, that the pueblos near the ranchos only have a handful of cases, and I try to stay as updated as possible. And for the first time ever in traveling to the rancho, I bought travel insurance to cover medical expenses, just in case. Again, I see the privilege in this. But I also recognize that in a few months, all of the contracted field workers will be flying back to the rancho, and many of them won’t have the privilege of having an empty house to quarantine in. So I also learned to have compassion for myself, I’m not the only one flying into the rancho.
When we take risks like this in life, we often believe in our minds that our body is strong enough to handle it, and our bodies are strong. But in this situation we never know. We often don’t consider the bodily and emotional pain of going through something like this— should we have to really deal with it. I remember last year I had a kidney infection that took me to the ER. I remember the pain the fever, I remember the tears, and I even remember calling out for my mom as if I was still a little girl. I experienced the same emotions just for the fear of the unknown. I panicked, I cried, I spent hours worrying. It was the darkest place I could have gone in my mind and I was experiencing it all alone. These are the things we easily forget when we make risky decisions.
With that, I have been asked is it safe to travel? Is it worth the risk? I think that is a personal question everyone has to ask them selves. It took months for me to decide to go through with this. For me, knowing that my abuelos live alone, and can barely take care of themselves, and that they have not seen their immediate family since the pandemic, and the small selfish part of me that knows I prefer the rancho pace of life and being surrounded by family, the risk was worth it for me. I mean I hadn’t physically seen or hugged anyone in my family in 4 months! At the end of the day, I decided what was best for me and my family. These were my circumstance and my situation, and it will be different for everyone.