I’m back in bed after a zoom call. I had COVID this time last year and had my first vaccine shot about 2.5 weeks ago. I feel flushed and my legs are shaking and I’ve been feeling increasingly overwhelmed and slightly confused and dizzy. My lungs have been increasingly shitty. I kept having to leave the call to go cough in the bathroom. I started a new asthma inhaler (I never had asthma pre COVID) yesterday), hoping it helps.

I’ve been chalking this up to all the liminal spaces, to moving out of my shell, but I think it may be a more direct reaction to the vaccine. This is very much how I felt when I had covid. My anxiety was off the charts, which made sense while reading about ambulance drivers deciding who to save and who to leave home to die. I feel the same sense of foreboding now. I’m finding myself searching for all sorts of reasons why. Stress and fear about taking the leap on the Outwork. Combating my own expectations about providing enough value immediately.

All summer I was largely in bed, feeling exhausted, foggy, and depressed. I had switched to injectable estrogen, and it wasn’t until September that I figured out my blood levels were 5x too high. Apparently I’m 4-5x more sensitive to the dose required to suppress my testosterone and maintain estrogen levels in the normal female range than most other trans women. Go figure. My doctor continues to be surprised.

It’s been incredibly confusing to locate which symptoms mighty be which. I was having persistent vertigo since late spring. Was it from COVID? Was it estrogen? Is it some problem with my ear? It’s gotten more manageable slowly. I honestly don’t know if it’s gotten better or if I’ve just gotten used to it. Some cis women have told me they get vertigo regularly.

I’ve been to many doctors. All sort of shrug and say they’ve gotten so many conflicting reports of COVID symptoms and that my constellation of other things makes it hard to pin down. My acupuncturist has been most helpful actually helping to stabilize my mind and body. So has my creative practice.

But as a lie here in bed with the slowly fading leg tremors, I’m called back to COVID. This has become a part of my life. I don’t talk about it much because it isn’t that helpful. Most of the time in the past few months it hasn’t bothered me. But in the past two weeks I feel cast back in bed and not wanting to leave. And yet I’ve heard other say this, that spring has been alarmingly sensitive. Of not wanting to leave their protective cocoons build by quarantined winter.

I often try to remember a time when my physical, mental, and emotional health hasn’t a constant. At best it’s a background noise, but I feel deeply out of control when it pushes to the foreground. I’m working on things here! And in fact, I do continue to work. I find space in the margins of my own physical process to fit myself in.

I am struck by how much I used to take my health for granted. Growing up indoctrinated as a white male with access to good health insurance and education I was able to spend the vast majority of my time focused on my ideas, my projects, whatever it was I wished. There was only one process in my life, the work of creating whatever it was that I wanted. Of course I wasn’t cisgender, had underlying mental health issues, and a host of traumas. And yet I remember months when there was nothing but the work.

Now the work is the work of balance. Of kindness to myself and others. Of remembering that needing to go back to bed for an hour is an invitation to check back in with myself in an hour, not also throw my positive outlook away in despair for the rest of the day lost. To do what I can do. To communicate openly with others about what that is. I’ve never had anyone actually disappointed with my output when I’m honest. It’s only when I present that I’m able to do more than I can and don’t follow through that they’re disappointed. It’s ok to be wrong and to follow up and change expectations. But it’s better to check in with myself deeply first and to setup gentle structures that give space for the weeks when I need more time and space.

I so often plan my life around my ability at my best. I build my expectations based around what I could and would produce if I was at my most lucid, creative, energized, and empowered. This is a recipe for disappointment. The alternative is not to expect the worst. To ask less of myself. It’s to understand that my expectations are always flawed, and to work to release them. To instead build expectations on the way I show up, on the practice and the process, not on the output. Not, “I didn’t get it done today.” But “I showed up in a way that I respect regardless.”

I’ve heard that respect is to give someone the agency to make their own mistakes, to have regency over their own process.

Do you respect yourself enough to give yourself this agency? To create a structure and then allow yourself to inhabit it without judgement? To cheer yourself on when you come back from a low point rather than berate yourself for the downward arc? We are gentle creatures. I must hold myself gently. There, there, dear one. It’s ok. All you have to do is show up.