One Sunrise At a Time

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sunriseMarch 6, 2020: I was standing in an airline terminal watching the sun rise over Queens, NY. Throngs of people surrounded me. Women dressed in bachelorette party gear. Student athletes with their last names and numbers emblazoned on their jackets. A few men in army fatigues. And a terminal away, I spied a woman with a 50 and Fabulous tiara.

It was my 38th birthday, and I was about to fly to Nashville to attend my sorority sister’s wedding. I was excited to check out a new city and reunite with my college girlfriends. I wasn’t fazed by the few masked and rubber-gloved passengers. If the airport televisions were reporting news on COVID, I wasn’t listening. I had a travel pack of Clorox wipes in my purse, which was the extent of my precaution.

I was ready to start living my best life at 38. This was going to be my year to start letting go of all the stress I carried. Alas, my stress-free days as a 38-year-old lasted that one weekend in Nashville.

Over the past year, time has lost its meaning. Days have melded into months of hunkering down, mask-wearing, remote learning, and working. It is near impossible to distinguish one day from the rest as they repeat in the same fashion.

And yet, within this fugue of days, there is a positive refrain that sings, COVID has given us so much more time.

Time together.
Time to help each other.
Time to take stock of what really matters.

Personally, the simultaneous stretching and erasure of time this past year left me more anxious than appreciative. I recognize how lucky I am, and yet there was a constant heaviness I felt.

As much as I tried to stay grounded in gratitude for all that my family and I had, my mind drifted to worrying about all the individual and collective trauma brought on by this pandemic.

I worried for my students and their mental and emotional health, being deprived of time together with their friends. I worried about students who now needed to shoulder so many more responsibilities to help their families financially and physically survive.

I worried about my friends in healthcare and all they had to witness as they helped their patients. I worried about my friends’ own health and that of their family members.

The more I took stock of what really mattered, the more stressed I became. I simply could not compartmentalize the gift of time.

On March 6, 2021, I will be 39. Although I jokingly refer to 2021 as 2020 2.0, I do not want my mind to stay stuck in the rut of blended days.

I want to see each day as distinct. I want to take each day as it comes. I want to welcome each sunrise with a smile (I’m much more of a sunset girl, so flipping the narrative on how I see nature will be a good starting point). I want to celebrate each day.

When I think about how I want to better own my days and celebrate the small victories, my mind strangely flashes back to being a mother during the newborn stage.

While there was a repetitive quality to the days tending to a tiny human, I was alert and happy each day. (I know how lucky I am to never have experienced any degree of postpartum depression or anxiety.) No matter how little sleep I got or how unkempt I may have looked, I felt recharged each day. Each day involved a good deal of trial and error, and yet, I felt proud of what I discovered as a success or a flop.

During the newborn stage, I took each day as it came because I knew they were limited. I knew I would only be on maternity leave for a finite number of days. I knew the baby would only be so little and needy for a fleeting period of time. Each day home was to be treasured. Each day, I was learning to trust myself more. I wrapped myself and my baby in a bubble of joy.

Sadly, I needed a pandemic to remind me how time escapes and controls us. Happy birthday to all of us who have survived this past year.

May each day of this new year bring us more clarity than confusion and much, much more happiness. Tomorrow, the sun will rise, and I’ll be there to bask in its rays.

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Maria F. is a high school English teacher who naturally finds herself reflecting upon the beautiful struggles that accompany the routine and randomness of each day as a working mommy. She relies upon humor and some sort of chocolate or frozen treat as survival tactics. She and her husband live in East Norwalk with their three kids, Abbie (born 2012), Charlie (born 2014), and Phoebe (born 2018). You can find Maria F. driving in her beloved dream car, a minivan, listening to audiobooks during her commute or singing along to Kidz Bop as she shuttles her little humans around town.

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