Bananas are hard to eat

The blue light illuminates the tiny bubbles forming in the tea kettle water. While I wait for it to boil I think to myself that I should eat something while I am in the kitchen. I don’t know when I’ll have the strength to come back here. The idea of making my usual morning smoothie feels too ambitious so I settle for eating a banana. The kettle and its blue light have clicked off. I pour the water over the coffee grounds and turn my attention to the banana. I peel it and slowly take a bite. When I try for a second bite a wave hits me. Later in my illness I’ll be better equipped mentally to take these waves on. I’ll know what to do and what helps me feel better. They are still too new for me to even recognize that it comes in waves. I lean against the counter and take another bite. Standing here takes too much energy. My lean turns into more of a slump. Now I am resting my upper body completely on the kitchen counter. The surface is cool against my cheek and I say a silent prayer of gratitude that I did the dishes last night before I started feeling like this. I hold the banana close to my mouth so I don’t have to move much to finish it. I stay here a few minutes until I think I have the strength in my body to return to the couch. Once back on the couch, it takes about 45 minutes before I feel human again.

“You need to go to the emergency room.” The nurse is concerned with my breathing. It feels like a gorilla is sitting on my chest. We can’t risk it. I add more food to my cat’s bowl and put down extra water just in case I am not back today. The team of people at the hospital are kind. They speak some English. I speak some French. We muddle through with both. The only thing I can see is their eyes; everything else is covered. They all have beautiful eyes and I wonder to myself how that is possible. The nurse is trying to find a vein. I try in English to tell her my veins are small and everyone has trouble drawing blood, but she doesn’t understand. I don’t have the French for that so I let it go. She keeps trying until she finally strikes gold. She looks me in the eyes and says, “this is not my first day. I have worked here for seven years.” I can only imagine how tired and stressed she must be.

Later she returns along with the doctor. We need to test for COVID. It is a swab up my nose. The doctor tells me it will feel like she is swabbing my brain and he is right. Without thinking I scream and push her away, the swab dangling from my nostril. My turn to look her in the eyes. I apologize. She tells me not to worry, I did better than most people do. “Besides” she says “now you are no longer mad at me for the blood.” I can see the laugh lines around her eyes and I know she is smiling.

I have to pee. I leave the green army tent and enter the temporary bathrooms set up just outside. There are three stalls – two have bright red signs on the stall doors that read “COVID” and the third stall has a green “non-COVID” sign. I stand there for what feels like a million years trying to figure out what stall I am supposed to use. I don’t have confirmation yet that I am positive. But then again, the reason I am here is because of my COVID like symptoms. But the COVID stall may have cooties. But if I use the non-COVID stall and I have cooties, I could be risking other people. It is in this moment that it hits me: I am a statistic. I’m now one of the numbers on the infinitely long list of worldwide cases. I stand there for an eternity processing this until my bladder reminds me why I entered this room to begin with. I push on the door with the red sign and enter the stall.

It is clear to the doctor and nurses that I have COVID. The CT scan tells us my lungs are clear. Thank God. I get to go home and ride out the storm. I should call this evening for my test results. It may come back negative, they warn, as I am likely too close to my exposure to have a detectable viral load but my symptoms are obvious. I promise to come back if my condition get worse. I thank them and say a silent prayer for their safety.

After the banana incident I realize I am going to need help feeding myself. I had said no before because I didn’t want anyone to come near my apartment door for fear of infecting them. But all the food I have requires preparation time so I put aside my fears and pride. I ask for foods that take less effort than a banana. My community showers me with food. My friend also lends me a few books, for when I have the strength to read. I see Michelle Obama’s book in the stack and it reduces me to tears. I cry a lot these days. I’ve wanted to read Becoming since before it came out but just haven’t bought it yet.

I try to limit my movement. I only get off my couch when I have to pee. I wait as long as I possibly can and when I can’t hold it any longer I check my O2 and my heart rate. If not at worrisome levels, I make my move. This is usually a 20 minute expedition despite how small my apartment is. I go to the bathroom first and then I cross to the kitchen. It is all only a few steps away but I move slowly and take breaks along the way. I hold on to anything I can find. It is too hard to lift my feet off the ground so I slide them along the tile floor. Arriving in the kitchen I take an extra long break. I need energy to make tea, refill my water bottle, grab food out of the fridge, and venture back. Every time I go to leave the kitchen I wish I was a marsupial. I could really use a pouch to stash these things in. I need one hand free to hold on as I walk so that limits what I can carry. I have to make choices. I look around hoping I haven’t forgotten anything. If I have, it will be a few hours before I come back for it.

I pass a puzzle piece that is on the floor – a sign my cat must have been on the table while I was asleep. It is purplish pink with a little bit of green. I think it is part of the sky, the portion I was working on back when I was well. The puzzle piece has been on the floor for days. I know that it isn’t worth wasting my precious energy to pick it up. It will stay there until this is over. The familiar sounds of time ticked off by my cuckoo clock are missing. The clock fell silent days ago and although I miss its zen reminder that life is cuckoo, it would be foolish to try to make it across the room to wind it.

My finger pulse oximeter has become my security blanket. Sometimes I just hold it, reassured by its very presence. In the beginning I checked it constantly. I am learning the rhythms of this virus and my body’s response to it so I check it less now than I did before but still slip it on my finger with compulsive regularity. The best I can describe is that I am constantly exhausted and things like eating a banana takes everything I have in me. And then a wave comes. When a wave hits I am completely overwhelmed. I don’t have words for what it feels like. I struggle to keep some level of awareness of the world around me. I have learned to focus on my breath. I can only manage that sometimes. I check my levels. If the O2 goes too low I crawl to the floor and get on my stomach in the hopes that it will help bring more oxygen to my lungs. It has taken me four days to realize I can relax into child’s pose – far more comfortable than lying prone on my stomach. I haven’t figured out yet what is best to do when my heart rate is too high. People tell me to focus on “calming down” but that doesn’t make sense to me. I move at a sloth’s pace and don’t feel anxious so far as I can tell. So I focus on my breathing for that too.

Today I think I am smarter than that banana. Instead of eating it standing at the counter, I carry it over to the couch and give myself time to recover. I try in vain to peel the stupid thing. I don’t have the strength. The image from a children’s cartoon pops into my head – a monkey eating a banana but it is peeled from the other end. I defy 43 years of experience and habit and turn the banana around. The peel comes loose. It is still a struggle but after a minute or two I am finally eating it.

Today I notice I am lifting my heals slightly when I shuffle to the kitchen. This feels like progress. And then I have to lay down for two hours because making tea was just too much for me.

Today the puzzle piece mocks me.

Today I long for a shower. It has been days since I have had one. There is no way I could stand for long enough to take one so I settle for changing my clothes. I have to lay here and recover from the hard work of putting a clean shirt on.

Today new symptoms arrive.

I spend most of my time just laying here. It is too hard to focus on TV. Sometimes I put it on anyway for the company – something I have already seen so I don’t feel compelled to concentrate on it. I send the sporadic text. My doctor tells me to limit my phone calls as talking on the phone exhausts me and I need my strength. But I need to hear the voices of my family and friends so I call and try to mostly listen. I hang up after a few minutes, usually when a wave comes on.

Today I notice my knuckles are healing. They have been cracked and bloody for months with all the extra hand washing. I chuckle a little as I no longer need to be afraid of getting the virus.

I like to listen to the “Songs of Comfort” Yo-Yo Ma has been posting on Facebook, presumably from home while he shelters in place. He makes me think of my auntie Em. I like seeing him at home, dressed casually, his bookcase in the background. I’ve been listening for weeks, but they have even more power now. My favorite is Dona Nobis Pacem (grant us peace). He smiles a little while he plays it. I listen to it dozens of times every day. It brings me to tears every time.

Today I glance at the last two bananas and wonder if maybe I should have something else for breakfast. No! I am determined to conquer the bananas. I don’t mess around with the coffee, I go straight for a banana. I peel it from the monkey end and cram it in my mouth as fast as I can so a wave doesn’t hit before I finish. I revel in my superiority over the banana and begin to make my coffee. I know I will need recovery time from this but it was well worth it.

Today old symptoms long forgotten have returned.

This is just as much a mental fight as it is a physical one. I know I have to be strong. I know I am strong. People ask me if I am angry. Others ask if I am afraid. I’m not. I know I need everything I have to fight this so I don’t bother wasting it on such emotions. I consciously decide to let go of any hatred or resentment I am holding onto from the past. I can see now that energy is better used for healing.

Today I decide to write a blog post. More for my own processing than for it to be read. I can only write a few sentences at a time so it will take days to complete.

Today I am told I am likely half way through the most terrible part of this illness. I am cautiously optimistic while having a hard time fathoming doing this for that much longer. The hours go by quickly but the days seem to take forever. My favorite Emerson quote pops into my mind. I return to my breath.

Tomorrow is a new day. And I am dreaming a beautiful dream.


20 thoughts on “Bananas are hard to eat

  1. Oh Kelly, I am so so sorry to hear that you have this awful virus. Know that I am keeping you in my thoughts and sending positive, healing vibes your way! You are such a good writer that your post left me in tears. You are young and healthy, and to hear how this disease is kicking your bum is very sobering. Ash and I are both “elderly” and have compromised immune systems so we are trying to be very careful. It is very scary.

    We are hunkered down at home here in Denver. The only time we go out is every other Wednesday when my cleaning lady comes–I just can’t handle things without her. Our big adventure is getting take-out at Chick-fil-A and going for a long drive while she is here.

    Anne, our daughter, started a new job as a public health nurse for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless just before all this started. She is now working several times a week at a run-down hotel where they are housing COVID-positive homeless people. She is fine so far, but of course I worry about her.

    Obviously, I don’t have any news of interest. We had to cancel our annual April trip to Australia to see my son and his family, and have decided it’s best to forego the Baltic Sea cruise we had planned for July, even though it is on a very small ship (300). We just can’t take the chance.

    Please write another post soon so we can be reassured that you are healing!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Kelly, I just want to hug you, and make it go away, but… for now, you are in my prayers. I send you love, strength, and healing light. You will get through this. Stay centered in your power. YouTube Paul Lewis, Schubert Sonata in G Major. I’m learning this piece right now. I will play this to heal you now. Stay in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Even if you can’t read all these comments I’m sure you are feeling the energy, strength and love we are all sending your way. I look forward to reading about your recovery from this soon.
    You are so strong and full of spirit.
    I love you♥️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kelly,

    Hugs to you my friend!!! Prayers for a full recovery!!!!


    Please excuse any grammatical or typographical errors as this message was sent on the fly from my iPhone.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was unaware of your battle with the virus and am sitting here feeling so grateful that you had the energy to share your nightmare! It’s as powerful as any of your ramblings, but much more meaningful to me, as your strong spirit shines through each and every sentence. It is a gift to the many ‘us’ who love and care for you 💚

    I’m also grateful for your friends who are providing day to day assistance to you. Plus the blessing of having your kitty nearby.

    I pray your energy begins to be restored soon, and that your health soon returns.

    Much love and care, Rachel

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so grateful for our friendship and your phone call. You are a tough cookie, and like your nurse, I am here to carry any anger or fear for you when you need it. I wish I was close so that I can take care of you…

    Your words are super important for everyone to understand how horrible this is. And you articulate your struggles so beautifully. I long for the days when you are well and back on your feet, when travel and convening are a “go” and your next post will be about some magical place you’ve traveled to. Stay strong my friend, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are all sending healing energy across the world to you.

    AND, if you do have the strength, Michele Obama put her becoming book into a documentary on netflix (when you are ready to listen to something new on the tv).

    Hugs, kisses.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kelly,

    I am so, so sorry to hear you are ill. This account is so vivid, so frightening, and so full of your strong spirit. Hang in there, friend! You will concur more than the banana!

    I am sending you lots and lots of healing energy. Thank you for digging deep for the energy to send this.

    Big hugs,

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dearest Kelly, You are in my prayers and thoughts. I just heard this afternoon frim your mom that you have covid 19, then I read your blog. You are strong and smart and will recover from this. Take it slow, not that you could go fast if you wanted to!Keep listening to relaxing music, eat what you can and rest as much as possible.  😍🌹♥️ Marilou and Gary too  Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kelly, I certainly hope you are not going through this alone. I knew academically that this virus was devastating but had no idea just how devastating until I read your personal account. Please take care.

    On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 12:20 PM The Wanderings of Kelly G. wrote:

    > kellygerstbacher posted: “The blue light illuminates the tiny bubbles > forming in the tea kettle water. While I wait for it to boil I think to > myself that I should eat something while I am in the kitchen. I don’t know > when I’ll have the strength to come back here. The idea of makin” >


  10. Sending love!! You are strong… you are also a wonderful writer… thanks for sharing… I so love that Emerson quote…

    xoxo S



  11. Hello dear one! So because of the delightfully absurd title of your post, I flagged it to savor later–and then when I read it (just today!) I felt like a complete boob and terrible friend! My darling, I am so very sorry to hear you are struggling through all of this, but I am (as always!) AMAZED by your gifts as a writer and a self-nurturer and a human being. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us: nothing I have read so far has made this whole unreal several months pop into clear focus more than what you shared. Marc and I are well here in Vermont, which seems to be doing a very effective job at keeping this horrible monster under control. We both send you waves of love and hope for a speedy and safe recovery. –a&m


  12. Hi Kelly
    I am so proud of you. It is a true gift to be able to put to word so well what you are feeling. Your references are so clear and make the devastation of this virus more than a headline or statistic for those of us who get to read this. I can’t wait for part 2 the recovery. Stay strong, you got this!
    Love You


    1. Hi Kelly! How are you doing? I keep you in my daily prayers for your recovery and sustained good health. This is a resource you might find helpful: It’s a COVID-19 support group started by a couple of women from the queer feminist collective, Body Politic, who contracted COVID-19 back in March. I learned about it from an article in POZ magazine. I just signed up for their newsletter. Check it out. When you can, please let me know how you are doing. The Schubert sonata is coming along nicely – I can play all 31 pages and am working on memorizing it now! How does one get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! Be well! Love you! Keith

      On Friday, June 5, 2020, The Wanderings of Kelly G. wrote:

      > Cathy Gerstbacher commented: “Hi Kelly I am so proud of you. It is a true > gift to be able to put to word so well what you are feeling. Your > references are so clear and make the devastation of this virus more than a > headline or statistic for those of us who get to read this. I can’t” >


  13. It appears I let my subscription to your blog lapse. I was not notified about this post or the several preceding it. Please send me a renewal invoice, and I will pay it immediately because I would hate to miss news (and high quality writing) like this again. I’m very relieved that you’re still stationed in a place with good medical care and surrounded by people with access to fruit, but the sequel to this latest entry could not come soon enough (hint). Get well, old friend!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s