The 2020 Stress Test

The 2020 Stress Test

When a person comes to the hospital having chest pain, and the cause isn’t immediately obvious, their doctor will often order a “stress test.” The patient will be given medication, or run on a treadmill to increase their heart rate and put their heart under stress. When the heart becomes stressed, structural damage or blockages that may have been present for years can finally be found, and corrected. Sometimes doctors find that the heart and its vessels have already changed all on their own to improve blood flow to areas that had once been blocked or not working well.

2020, for me, has been a lot like a stress test- for my heart, my job, my family, and my faith. Suddenly, with very little warning, my life was put under pressure, with more to do at home and at work, and without my usual “me time” escapes.

As a nurse at my local hospital, I had to quickly learn everything I could about this new virus, how to care for patients who are alone and scared, and how to protect my family from the germs I encounter at work. When my career was put under stress, I found that the parts I liked best were suddenly more essential than ever. My role adjusted, and now I spend less time prepping for meetings, and more time on the phone with families teaching, listening, laughing, and crying right along with them. With my face mostly covered by PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), I learned again the importance of connecting with my patients through word and touch. And I’ve come to really depend on my work family- the nurses, doctors, and staff who keep coming back with a smile, a cup of coffee, or a kind word just when it is needed most.

Like just about everyone, my home and family were also put under new and changing stress throughout this year. My youngest has experienced almost all his “first” holidays at home, without any visits with extended family. My preschooler transitioned first to remote learning, and then outdoor school, and we began homeschooling our kindergartener for the very first time. While all of these changes have been strange, scary, and sometimes sad, this pressure has revealed how flexible and resilient our family has become. We found new ways to learn as a family, and we started new routines that keep us moving forward. And most importantly, we’ve learned to give each other grace. Not every day is perfect- I have many days that I lose my temper, forget about Zoom dance class, or let the kids have way too much screen time. But I’ve been learning to look at these times differently- a lesson in controlling my emotions and apologizing, gratitude for a day so full of fun that the schedule was forgotten, and appreciation of some brief moments of quiet with happy, healthy kids.

There have been many times in 2020 that I doubted. I worried that things might not get better, that my family would be under too much strain, that I might not be enough. And in those times, I found that even when I am not enough, God is. And He surrounds me with the people and things that I need to pick myself up, dust off, and keep moving forward in joy and in hope.

As I finish 2020 with my family, the first shot of my Covid vaccine, and plans for continuing homeschool and then getting back to public school (please!), I know that this year’s stress test revealed a few cracks, but those cracks let the light shine through. 

Meleah Berkowitz is a mom, wife, nurse, and unexpected homeschool teacher in central Illinois. Her hobbies include reading, tabletop games, Zoom cocktail nights, and long walks in the park with her husband and three kids (age 5, 4, and 1). Meleah loves GHG because of the positive messages, women supporting women, and of course the adorable clothes!

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