COVID Rebirth by Annette Ramos
Two years before COVID-19 spread around the world I was already facing one of the biggest challenges of my life. My creative life was in transformation.
I had worked for years to establish myself as a theatre arts influencer, working for major arts organizations to further education and community engagement. I was at the top of my career — title and power were my allies — but then I dared to speak the two scariest words in any executive boardroom: systemic racism.
The reaction I got was not what I expected. After all, I had proved my loyalty. My work ethic was evident in the development of new programs and the deepening of others. Clearly, I was one of them. But to my horror I learned that I was never one of them really. Yes, their words echoed in my ears, but the words that I heard within myself cut the deepest.
“What’s wrong, you know you can pass.” I realized slowly that I had sold myself out to fit in, to be a leader in their white privileged art world, which had never accepted me. I had tokenized myself and forgotten the teachings of my abuela: “Don’t let them know your power, don’t give it away for free, never allow anyone’s views to define you, and don’t forget where you came from.”
I was living the American nightmare of valuing who I was based on my salary, my status, my education. And now faced with my own reality, I was lost in self-examination.
A cloud of dark depression enveloped my spirit as I began the deep descent into self-reflection. I was one of them, reflected back to myself, and trying to assess who I had become. After I was fired, I could not see my own strength, but all the fragmented, shattered parts of me. Perhaps this was my midlife crisis.
I questioned my work, my abilities, my talents, my reason for living. I was living the American nightmare of valuing who I was based on my salary, my status, my education. And now faced with my own reality, I was lost in self-examination. I questioned what good, if any, I had brought to this world.
My marriage suffered on account of the rage I felt, my daughter was the lifeline that brought joy and laugher to my days. My prayers were begging sessions with a Goddess I had lost contact with, because I could only see the numbers dwindling in my bank account as a poor reflection of my value. Poverty was my blanket of self-comfort and she was cold and mean-hearted and whispered unkind words to me daily. I lived in tormented self-doubt.
Then COVID stepped in to save me. The first month I spent in pajamas and in bed but, somehow, I wasn’t alone anymore. Everyone around me was feeling the isolation of self-reflection too. The darkness slowly began to transform into a cocoon of possibilities as the world collapsed into itself.
I had died a slow physical death. There was no big bang for me but a slow evolution and rebirth. I began to create space in my home for myself. After living for 10 years in our house, I had never been intentional about sacred, creative space. My office was the dumping ground for unused items and storage for things no longer needed. My coworker was my four-legged creative who reminded me to move internally daily and with purpose.
I had to feed her and comfort her as she aged though illness after illness. In this world of isolation, I magically reconnected with sisters around the world. Many I have known for 20-30 years. I fired up my long neglected alter and began to feel the surge of energy that comes up when you plug in a good lamp, long unused. The lightbulb was still good and with every click it became brighter.
I asked for help instead of assuming people knew I needed it. I garnered my courage with every simple act of clearing up spaces and filling them with kind self-talk and compassionate self-love. I slowly stopped comparing myself to others and threw myself into joyful, creative work. I began to see that there is enough in the world, and that I don’t need to judge my portion as less than. I surrendered to the darkness and was reminded that out of darkness, light is born – we are renewed once again so that we can follow our path.
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“I fired up my long neglected alter and began to feel the surge of energy that comes up when you plug in a good lamp, long unused. The lightbulb was still good and with every click it became brighter.”
Annette, what powerful and beautiful words to unpack your journey. Your return to joy, power, and the right to exist in all the ways that bring you light and purpose, speak to your resilience, growth and healing. Thank you for sharing.