Jennifer Burden, the founder of World Moms Network, asked me to share my family’s COVID-19 story from India. I have been reluctant because our hearts go out to so many I know, who have lost family and friends near and dear to them in India and across the world, from COVID-19. I hope our story can help paint the picture of how the virus is affecting the daily life of families of health workers, around the world, to our global readers. So, with that intention, I tell my story…
My husband and I are so different, we come from different cultures and languages within India, however, one of the few things that bind us together is our love for travel. We had planned to spend our 15th wedding anniversary somewhere trekking up a mountain or looking at art pieces in a museum. Thankfully, we have similar tastes in the type of travel we do, and so that is one thing less to quarrel about in our lives!
Instead of celebrating our anniversary in some far off exotic location, we knew that we would celebrate our love and togetherness from the quarantined confines of our home, as times were now difficult and different. And that was okay too.
BUT – Today I dreaded waking up to our wedding anniversary.
You see, my husband is a frontline healthcare worker, a pulmonologist, and is involved in the treatment of patients in the COVID-19 ward in the hospital where he serves. He is in contact with hundreds of COVID-19 positive patients every single day. Several days before our anniversary he was down with a high-grade fever. Slowly this took a worrisome enough turn, for him to call up the technician to come home to test him. Thus, the whole day of our 15th wedding anniversary was spent waiting in prayerful anticipation. Well, to cut the long story of the day short, he turned out to be positive for COVID-19. This was definitely not the anniversary we were expecting, and we were now worried.
Most healthcare workers have been facing enormous challenges – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They see in the eyes and hearts of patients, so much loneliness, pain, and fear, that, that in itself drains them out completely. It can be very overwhelming and many times the doctors and nurses die hundreds of deaths inside, as they let a life go.
As his wife, I seek to understand, yet, sometimes I do not. At times, I can sympathize. Other times I get frustrated, caught up in my own other problems or worries.
We have missed him at times when he used to come home very late, long after my son and I had fallen asleep. At other times, I have learned to stay indifferent. I remember, once when we were on our honeymoon, he received a call from one of his patients. I don’t always have him to myself. Being married to a healthcare worker has been a very enlightening journey, living with him and his profession for the past 15 years.
At times, he indicates that he understands and explains patiently how he cannot make more time for us. At other times, he is full of his own joys or sorrows of work.
In the midst of such a life, where I did not know when he would be back home for the day, things had only worsened in the past 8 months. Being part of the first responders in the fight against the coronavirus, I cheer for him.
Every night our family wait, patiently. I say, ‘patiently’, because, the hardest part of this COVID-19 pandemic was always to constantly wonder when my husband was going to contract it. I never doubted that he wouldn’t contract it. After all, his whole day, more than 12 hours, was spent with people who had contracted it. I just prayed and hoped that at least he would be asymptomatic or he would recover very quickly.
Now, that worry was gone. He was COVID-19 positive, and I knew how the next fortnight was going to be. All of the regular COVID-19-words now stared at my face – quarantine – social distancing – uncertainty – grocery shopping for the next 15 days, etc.
I decided to take one hour at a time and gave my attention to only the most important tasks of the immediate hour. The most important thing to do, of course, was to take care of my husband.
The next thing I decided was to get off my phone, unless absolutely necessary, such as the phone calls from my parents or from my husband’s colleagues. I uninstalled all the Apps from my phone temporarily, and that is probably the best decision I have ever made in this current digitalized year.
One thing that helped me stay positive and resilient is an everyday meditation regime, and the online group meditation sessions every Sunday morning with our Heartfulness community.
I suddenly realized how close my husband was, with his colleagues, friends, seniors, juniors, students, and the Dean in his workplace. I entered his workplace that I wasn’t as aware of, prior to his sickness in our busy lives. There was an outpouring of love, concern, affection. Most days he was on his phone, when he had the energy, talking to his students, or discussing regimes and protocols with his colleagues. He never gave me the impression that he was sick. But he gave me a lot of reasons to worry too, as he was still symptomatic with fever, respiratory infection. However before I knew it, he was back on his feet and on his job (from home, as we had to be in quarantine for few more days).
One hour at a time, one day at a time, we let time pass at her own pace. The hours were long, but the days were short, as they say.
Fifteen days, after our 15th wedding anniversary, we tested again, and the results were negative. He is back to work now, and treating patients, in one of India’s hotbeds of COVID-19 – Chennai.
Our wedding anniversary will have to wait until another day, another year, but I am proud of him for being a part of India’s fight against the pandemic. He makes me proud.
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
According to Merriam Webster, a belief is, “something that a person accepts as true or right,a strongly held opinion about something.” A belief is just an opinion, not necessarily the truth or the reality. Beliefs can be imagined as an iceberg. There are some beliefs we are conscious of, like the tip of the iceberg that can be seen above the water. Meanwhile, there are other beliefs we are less aware of, the larger part of the iceberg that lies below the water.
There are different types of beliefs. There are some that are empowering beliefs, like we are happy, we are successful , life is beautiful and worth being lived, failure is a part of the success journey, and so on. Other beliefs are disempowering, like I am unhappy, I am not good enough, life is unfair, I am a loser, et cetera. Such beliefs can be very limiting. Our beliefs about ourselves shape our lives. If we hold empowering beliefs, we feel more satisfaction and peace of mind. Otherwise, we are frustrated and unhappy most of the time. Most of our beliefs are formed during our childhood and adolescence.
Why our beliefs impact our lives?
Our beliefs drive our behaviors, so anything we do can be linked back to a certain belief we hold. Our perception of a situation creates a thought in our mind. The thought triggers an emotion, and the emotion makes us behave in a certain way. For example, one of my clients felt uncomfortable when her colleagues repeated to her, “You are so kind.” From my point of view, it was a positive comment of praise, while she perceived it as, “You are so naive.” With the positive perception, she would have felt totally comfortable and satisfied. Meanwhile, with the negative perception she felt annoyed and uncomfortable. These two different perceptions of the same situation triggered two completely different feelings, which lead to two totally different behaviors.
When we go through the same experience with the same thought, we feel the same feeling and we behave the same way until it becomes an unconscious belief and the behavior becomes automatic. Unfortunately it becomes the TRUTH while actually it is just our truth that we created due to our perception. If we want to change our behavior, we need to change the angle from which we see the situation.
“Making mistakes is shameful”
I grew up in a family and a school where making mistakes was not an option. We were punished, made fun of, and severely criticized for making mistakes. There were only one way to do anything, the way the elders wanted it done. Anything else was wrong and unacceptable. Living in such an environment was really hard. I always felt like an accused who needed to defend herself. I wanted to have my own life, but unfortunately anything that did not match their way was considered a mistake.
One of my dis-empowering beliefs that negatively affected my life and harmed my self confidence for many years was, “Making mistakes is shameful.” I was so sensitive, so I avoided many situations and experiences to avoid the feeling of guilt and shame I felt every time I thought I made a mistake. I feared oral exams, trying new things, delivering presentations, and giving an opinion in a meeting or a class. I was so frightened of failure that I had to find help. My coach helped me see my foundational belief that making mistakes is shameful, and helped me to see that it caused me to avoid situations where I feared failure. It took me some time to adopt the new perception and to overcome my fear and my belief. Fortunately, I can now express myself in public easily, confidently, and in a relaxed way.
How we can change a behavior?
When you want to change your behavior in any situation and you want to find out what dis-empowering belief you hold, just answer these questions:
What are your thoughts in this situation?
How do you feel every time you go through it?
Write down your answers, and repeat this process several times. You will begin to notice a pattern. Notice your inner self talks and your wording – it will tell you a lot about your beliefs. To change the behavior, you need to change the angle from which you perceive the situation. Try to find a more positive perception – it will make a big shift in your thoughts and feelings and hence your behaviors.
As moms we need to be so careful with our children. We must pay attention to how we treat them, and also how we treat ourselves or speak about ourselves in front of them. We need to be aware of our dis-empowering beliefs, and work on changing them as they will surely affect our children. They acquire their self confidence and self esteem from ours. Our children see themselves through our eyes and they believe us, so if you tell your child they are not good enough or they are amazing they will believe you and may be they will live their whole life with this belief. Be cautious which beliefs you want to implant in your child.
Are you aware of your beliefs? What type of beliefs do you hold about yourself? How do they affect your life? Do you have a similar story, to share with us, about replacing a limiting belief ?
Nihad is an Egyptian woman, who was born and has lived her whole life in Alexandria, Egypt. She says, “People who visited this city know how charming and beautiful this city is. Although I love every city in Egypt, Alexandria is the one I love the most.”
She is a software engineer and has worked in the field for more than twenty years. But recently she quit her job, got a coaching certificate and she is now a self employed life and career coach. She says, “I believe that women in this era face big challenges and they are taking huge responsibilities. That's why I have chosen my niche -- women looking for happiness and satisfaction. I help and support them in making whatever change (career change, life change, behavior change, belief change…) they want to bring more satisfaction and happiness in their lives.”
Nihad is a mother of two lovely boys, 15 and 9 years old. She states, “They are the most precious gifts I have ever had. I madly love them, and I consider them the main source of happiness in my life.”