I was one of the lucky ones to get back into our country before all borders closed.
It was March 17th when I boarded my flight in Bangkok. Although friends and family members questioned my decision, seeing how things in Thailand were pretty much normal then compared to the rest of the world while back home in Los Angeles panic was rising, I just knew it was time to come home.
The flight back was packed to the brim. Although most passengers and crew wore masks, and even though I carefully wiped down every inch of space around me, I felt somewhat apprehensive. It was not a nice feeling. What a relief it was then landing at LAX and being greeted with a most friendly “Welcome Home”.
I decided to self-quarantine for 14 days and was so glad I did so even though I felt perfectly healthy. Because it hit me like a ton of bricks by the end of that week. There were days when I felt that I was not going to make it. Fever, fatigue, diarrhea, breathlessness, a strange buzzing sensation throughout my body, an electric feeling on my skin, a burning sensation so severe that my skin felt like it was on fire. All alone I felt dissociated and disoriented for days. And I just knew it was the virus although I never told anyone. Hospitals were already brimming with patients who had the coronavirus and I knew I would be much safer at home. By myself I could combat this.
The nights were the worst. The beast came to visit then. I lost track of time as nights crept into mornings. So many thoughts raced through my head: Had I sent a set of spare house keys to my friend, C? Had I sent a copy of my will to her? Did I even get my will notarized? What about my family’s contact information? Did I send those to C? How would she know if I was alive or not? How will they know? I wasn’t in touch with anyone. Will anyone ever find me, and if so after how long?
My head ached from all the morbid thoughts that never stopped playing on my mind. I was being reminded now that life does not go on forever. I was learning how to deal with the idea of my mortality and the inevitability of death.
It’s strange that something like a virus becomes our wakeup call. Suddenly priorities shift. Suddenly one realizes what is most important and what is not.
As I looked around me I was filled with so much gratitude for the blessings in my life, some of which I may have taken for granted – my beautiful home, my friends, my family, my faith. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the Grace of God that flows through me. For the Supreme Being who at every turn was there for me, holding my hand, lifting me, sending me the right people and opportunities, and guiding me to places where I would meet those who would become my lifelong friends.
What a blessed and beautiful life this was!
And in the midst of all the fogginess, I remember thinking –
What if everything I ever believed in was a lie?
What if the “perfect life” I strived for is not so perfect after all?
I relived my life, and picked up the broken pieces I called my life, and tried to make sense of them. I gathered and assembled all those broken pieces and filled the cracks with gold – just as I had done during my journey at a Buddhist monastery a couple of years ago, just as I did all the while I was writing my book, Gold in the Cracks.
The human body is a pretty impressive construct and a pharmacy in itself. It knows how to heal itself. It took an entire week for the fog to lift. I feel perfectly whole and healthy now. Amazing, isn’t it?
During this strange period that we are all going through, when the workday blurs into the rest of the day without so much as an outfit change, Joel Osteen’s sermons help to define the hours. I post something inspirational on my social media platforms almost daily, reply to emails, schedule meetings, and even do a little writing.
The bigger challenge is convincing myself that this may be the new norm. That life as I had known it would never be the same again. Listening to Snatam Kaur’s uplifting music in the background while working every day is analogous to putting on makeup before a Zoom call. I know that by staying active and hopeful some meaningful difference is being made and I am buoyed by my own initiative. I think, with some self-assurance, that I could be doing worse. The music creates a boundary, however arbitrary or artificial, between the hours spent in my living room for work and the hours spent in my bedroom for rest.
As I write this, minutes before an 11:00 a.m. zoom call, I remind myself that many people, like me, are lucky to have the opportunity to continue to work through e-mails, phone calls, and video conferencing. The highlight of my day so far has been taking out the trash in my Prada suit, which even as I write this sounds comical! But c’est la vie…
Some mornings, like early this morning, I wear my gardening gloves and a bandanna over my face to tend to my garden. Some weeds have crept up and need to be pulled out and dead leaves removed. Just the act of doing this brings home the fact that I must tend to life and living, to pull and toss out what is not working and tidy up areas that need my attention.
And like today, after almost a whole month, I will be going out for a short walk. Yes, and wearing my mask and gloves as we have been told to do. It seems ridiculous but necessary since this virus is invisible, and it’s everywhere. Every day the news is more alarming. I don’t know what will happen next.
It’s strange, being apart from the social world, while awash in these virtual seas of fear. I’m grateful to be able to escape to my sanctuary that is my home. And I’m comforted by Osteen’s voice as he spreads hope.
Right now I’m rewriting some parts of my memoir, Unveiled. Its size is daunting, but, as soon as I began to reread it, I remembered why I had written it and why it is so important to share my life story now. Even though it is raw, it is real and vivid: the abuse, the betrayal, the society; the success, the downfall, and the resurrection; the never-ending struggle that has been my life… and I’m thrust abruptly into the thick of the many lives I have lived in this one lifetime.
In each scene I present the room, the behavior, the language that made up my world. My experiences are vast—and intimate. I tell my story through my lens, how I experienced the great and the not so great, and even the traumatic moments that made up my life.
Yes, right now I’m glad that I have the time to devote myself to my writing. I’m trusting it will be my companion in the days and nights ahead. I need the writing to remind myself of the human condition, of how fragile and vulnerable we all are. I want to show the human heart and remind everyone how great it is, how resilient, how much it can hold, and how brave it is, even when it breaks. I hope to publish Unveiled by the end of this year.
One thing is for sure: Awareness of mortality motivates me to live life to the fullest. And that seeps into how I coach others, how I write and what I share with the world. I realize that nobody is invincible when it comes to illness, and I have learned how important it is to be surrounded by people you love. I am reminded now that life is brief. Life does not go on forever.
Humanity has survived plagues and calamities before. We will emerge victorious. And we will keep going. We don’t know how long the quarantine will last, or how life will move forward from here. But what we do know is that today is as good a day as any to plant seeds of love, light, joy, and welcome all that is true in this life within and without.
This is a time of reflection as we move forward to determine and hold dear to what is important and let go of what isn’t.
© Rani St. Pucchi, 2020
Rani St. Pucchi is an award-winning Couture Fashion Designer, a Style & Image Consultant, and a Relationship Expert. She is a Bestselling Author, Speaker, a certified Life Coach and Success Trainer. Her highly acclaimed TEDx talk: Is Your Body Image Holding You Back has won worldwide acclaim and is definitely worth watching. Rani’s #1 International Bestselling Books, Your Body, Your Style; The SoulMate Checklist; Your Bridal Style; and Gold In The Cracks are now available on Amazon and at Barnes & Nobles.
For more information on Rani visit www.ranistpucchi.com