I recently read a guest essay in the Sunday NY Times where Emily Esfahani Smith was talking about recovering and moving on from the pandemic. She suggested reflecting on how the pandemic has changed you, what have you lost and gained; what sort of life do you want to lead, who do you want to become?
I smiled at these familiar questions because they are the same ones with which organ transplant recipients struggle. For people receiving a pair of lungs or a new heart or a healthy liver, it feels like being born again. They’ve lost some things but have been given a second chance at life. They have choices now that they didn’t have before. They are changed.
This week I talked with a woman who just received a new heart. She grew up in a very conservative Christian faith. “But I rejected that,” she said. “I embraced New Age beliefs.” She paused for a moment then laughed and said, “But I eventually rejected that too.”
“What do you believe now?” I asked. “About life, death, purpose and meaning?”
“I’ve never really thought about it before.” She looked at all the lines and tubes running in and out of her body and said, “Well, being in the ICU gives me plenty of time to sort through those questions.”
It’s so easy to say what we don’t believe and so much harder to say exactly what we do believe. That goes for big things like religion and politics to smaller things like music or food or climate.
When we work on changing our behavior, we’re encouraged to put things in positive terms: “I enjoy getting up early,” instead, “I won’t sleep in anymore.”
So in this time of pandemic recovery and hot—and perhaps sleepless—nights, we can ask ourselves, “What sort of post-pandemic life do I want to lead? How have I changed? Who do I want to become?”
And like organ transplant recipients we can all sigh and whisper, “Thank you,” every night.