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Goodbye to 2020 by Karen Sussman

Goodbye To 2020 – What I’ve Learned

By : on : December 31, 2020 comments : (Comments Off on Goodbye To 2020 – What I’ve Learned)

To say that the year 2020 was challenging is an understatement. The nation, and the world, faced a pandemic unlike anything in most of our lifetimes. The devastating virus known as COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the globe, sickening and killing far too many people. Lockdowns shuttered businesses and took away millions of jobs, but may have saved thousands of lives. So many are struggling now just to survive in this difficult economic landscape. Travel, restaurants, the hospitality industries, retailers…so many of our small and even larger businesses decimated by the circumstances of 2020.

And then there are the arts. Broadway shuttered. Small theaters, just struggling to make ends meet in the best of circumstances, closed. Bands out of work, trying to at least write songs and record at home. Choirs, silent but trying to record virtually. Concerts, canceled. Actors, stage crew, directors, costumers, sound people, choreographers, pit musicians, house staff, and everyone else associated with performance venues, out of work for who-knows-how-long!

I had my own bout with COVID-19 last March. It was 3 weeks of hell, where each night i wasn’t absolutely positive i would be there in the morning. Not that much was known about the illness then, and fear abounded. Fortunately, it turned out to be a mild to moderate case, with about 8 months of lingering flare-ups, most of which are gone now, thankfully. I consider myself very fortunate that I had the support of my family and friends to get me through it, especially my colleague, laryngologist, and friend, Dr. Joel Portnoy, to talk me through each day’s symptoms, and guide me as to what to do to deal with each scary thing that came up. In addition to giving me sound medical advice, he also got me through the “I’m having trouble breathing” phase, by filling a prescription for my not-needed-for-years asthma inhaler, and by reminding me that I was still able to breathe and that I needed to use a meditation app to try to relax and calm my breathing at night. (And I highly recommend the app, Insight Timer, for anyone who is stressed or anxious) Click here to download.

I learned a lot from my experience with COVID-19, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share what I learned, as these revelations may be of help to others who need to get through a crisis such as the devastation, isolation, and challenges we faced this year, and will continue to face until enough people are vaccinated worldwide to help make Covid a thing of the past.

I learned to be grateful for what I have, for instance, a career that could convert 100% to remote platforms, and clients willing to make that leap with little notice. I owe those brave clients a debt of gratitude; after all, some of them really didn’t use computers or tablets or smartphones before this year. I worked through my entire illness: I got dressed (yes, really ?), put on makeup, and showed up every day to help my clients recover or improve their voices. It grounded me and helped me focus on something else besides being so sick. Working to help others kept me going, since I had purpose and focus. (Full disclosure: my only concession to the “pajamas for work” mindset was that i wore sneakers, not regular shoes, for 8 months. But the sneakers always matched my outfit!)

I am also thankful for the best assistant in the world, our Voice Program Coordinator Miss Theresa, who took home what she needed from our office on Friday, March 20th, and on Monday, March 23rd, had our remote office completely up and running from her home. And she continued to do so for 3-1/2 months, flawlessly. I am forever in her debt! And now, if you could say something good came out of bad, we now effortlessly switch to remote office management whenever needed, like during snowstorms.

I am grateful beyond words that I survived COVID-19, and that all my friends and colleagues who were ill have also recovered. I know many were not as fortunate. I am thrilled beyond measure that after almost 8 months of struggling to get back to normal, I can hike and work out and feel like my high-energy self again, without pain or shortness of breath. (this is the disease that doesn’t just stop; it lingers in strange and various ways that alter your life…for some, permanently.) i have to admit, I feel like I aged 3 years in 2020, but I’m working tirelessly to reverse that.

I value my friends and family more, since I can’t really see them. We came up with really creative ways to “socialize”, using House Party, Zoom, Facetime, and even watching a live-streamed show or concert at the same time as my theater buddy Wynne, and then Facetiming with her before and after the show. It’s as close as we were going to get to concert or Broadway tickets this year. See our blog entitled “Enjoy Theater and Socialize – Safely!” to see how we did it.

Suddenly 1-2 person hikes, masked walks in the park, and tubing down the Delaware River became the way to socialize. I’m sad beyond words that I can’t visit my 90-year-old parents in Florida, but phone calls and Facetime will have to do for now. We have to think of the safety of others, especially the elderly when considering our own actions.

I learned I could do a bang-up job of working out at home using a minimum of equipment (resistance bands, free weights, Zumba videos, power walks, etc.). I miss the gym, but I feel safer this way. Be creative with your workouts: dance, walk, hike, and develop your deep breathing; good for your voice and your well-being.

I learned I don’t really need to buy new clothes or shoes all the time. In fact, i did this recently online, only once in 9 months! A new record for frugality!

I learned that when you are freaking out about being sick, and your foggy brain has absorbed all it can out of one day of solving voice problems and reading lots of bad news, a good mindless romantic comedy is a pretty good idea, especially if it involves dogs (those are the best stories ?). But nothing tops cuddling with actual dogs, like my Buddy and Zara!

I realized that we are indeed fortunate that this horrible pandemic occurred during a period of dependable high-tech. My office setting is now a maze of laptops, tablets, smartphones, microphones, ethernet cables, adapters, and miles of wires. Imagine the isolation we would have experienced if the internet, online platforms, and multiple electronic devices didn’t exist. Even for entertainment, our Kindles, Prime TV, Netflix, and live streaming keep us relatively happy at home. (We also have to consider that these necessities for us are luxuries out of reach for many, and this has to change).

I learned that it’s OK to reach out for help, and it will be there. When I was quarantined and sick at home without the ability to go out for groceries, and delivery services were hopelessly overbooked, my best friend of over 50 years, Sharon, went to the grocery store for me and delivered the goods to my doorstep.

I’ve become an outspoken proponent of mask-wearing, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and crowds, and avoiding group performances and rehearsals, especially in enclosed spaces. Sadly, I’ve learned that there are many people who don’t care enough about the welfare of themselves and others to observe these guidelines. Even more sadly, I’ve read on social media where some of these people subsequently came down with COVID-19.

I hope more people will follow the guidelines. Perhaps with the new vaccines and more people complying with these simple rules, we can say goodbye to this horrible illness, and hello to hugs and kisses, seeing parents, children, and grandchildren, watching and performing in live concerts and theater again, and getting back to the business of being the social creatures we are.

Even as we say good riddance to the horror that was 2020, let’s look with hope toward 2021 and be grateful for the many things we do have and will have, going forward! Happy New Year, everyone!



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