My chocolate bar

When I was a child I was chattering all the time. In fact, as the story goes, I only stopped rattling when someone gave me a chocolate bar. Getting older, this hasn’t changed a lot. Until recently, my friend asked me a genuine question.  ‘Why don’t we hear you anymore? Did COVID-19 make you silent? Or is it because of the mouth mask we can’t hear you right now?’ she asked. I didn’t know what to say and immediately confirmed the observation of my worried friend. The girl who only used to be silent when she got a bar of chocolate lost her voice. What happened? Did I lose my voice? Was I fading away? Or was I overwhelmed by COVID-19-tiredness.

In the beginning of the pandemic I certainly got silent. Silent because of the fear that I felt as an intensive care specialist. The fear for the unknown disease. The fear for not being capable to handle this crisis. The fear for bringing this virus into my family and putting them into danger. The fear for making hard ethical decisions, much harder than in non-COVIDtimes. The fear of losing my professional vibes and my human warmth.

I also got silent because of the gratitude I felt. Gratitude for being able to work as the rest of the world was forced to stay at home. Gratitude for being able to take of critical ill patients in there most vulnerable condition, to do the job I was trained for and really love. I felt grateful of being part of a professional team of healthcare workers who all had the same purpose and that was (and still is) ‘all together against COVID-19’. I felt grateful because of the spontaneous leadership I saw among many people, the spontaneous solidarity in the society.

Numbness also got me silent. I consciously kept an emotional distance from my patients, which is normally as who I am. All patients in the ICU had COVID-19 and therefore were by definition much more vulnerable and isolated. For weeks or even months, they were ‘prisoned’ in a hospital bed, without a perspective, with our team as their nearest family. I tried not to connect with their situation. Numbness remained.

Of course, I also got silent because I felt tired. Not only because of the workload and the chronic stress, but mainly because of the impossibility to recharge my energy. An extravert person and a lockdown situation are not a good combination. I really missed (and still miss) the lightness and happiness in the world, the laughs and talks about non-COVID subjects, the spontaneous encounters and of course the dancing, music, parties ….

I got silent because I lost my focus in the Eisenhower matrix. The Eisenhower matrix which makes a difference between important tasks and urgent tasks. In COVID-times I could only focus on what’s urgent (and not always important).  I was daily trying to stop heated or chaotic situations, surviving from one day to another. I couldn’t focus on the most important square of the Eisenhower matrix, the important and not urgent square. The square that stands for connecting with new people, listening to new ideas and visions, setting long term goals and making things happen as an entrepreneur. The square that makes you grow as a human being!

So instead of keeping my voice this one question opened my eyes so I can to make them shine again! Or maybe I just have to SAY no to the chocolate bar ;-)?

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