Spoiler alert! Hilary Swank and her space crew landed on Mars and I am crying watching it from my couch. Not a cute cry like at the end of watching, say, Pretty Woman but more of a stream-of-tears-and-snot-involved cry (I’m sure you know which type of crying I mean). I just finished watching the Netflix series Away which is about the first humans to land on Mars and I notice how the story of their journey and landing touches me even though it’s all fiction. Somehow the makers of this series managed to capture something that resonates with me on a deeper level. So, what is that?
I believe I connect the space journey of the astronauts in Away to my own Long Covid-journey. I realize that this might stop you from reading because it sounds quite corny (even to me!) but hear me out if you will.
Just like the astronauts on the space mission, suddenly I felt like I was thrown into outer space when I became ill exactly 28 weeks ago. From one day to the other, my life turned upside down and everything started floating. After a while I got used to being sick and could even find acceptance for it. Like the astronauts started to live a somewhat normal life inside the space capsule, I started to find a way to live my day-to-day life in the best way I could under these new and unfamiliar circumstances. Sometimes in space, a potentially life-threatening situation arose out of the blue and the crew had to face both their fear of dying while at the same time using all their strength to figure out how to stay alive. And even though Long Covid is nothing like space travel of course, a person experiencing Long Covid still faces very challenging situations that come and go in waves, not only physically but also mentally.
But then at last the moment came in the final episode of the series: the crew arrived at Mars, had a safe touchdown and took their first steps on a whole new planet never before visited by human beings. That’s the moment I had my ugly-cry in front of my TV because I too feel like I’ve made a touchdown after a hell of a challenging journey. And slowly, just like the astronauts, I’m taking my first steps into what feels like a whole new reality. Even writing about it makes me tear up again – the journey from March 12th until today (middle of September) has been challenging on so many levels, it feels almost impossible to truly explain the depths of it and convey how different my life feels today from before I got covid-19. I know this is a sentiment I share with many other people with Long Covid; we are doing our best to explain but words just aren’t enough. As is the case for all life experiences of course – you can never fully understand something unless you’ve lived it yourself. I believe the same goes for astronauts and their experience of being in space. It’s impossible for us here on earth to fully grasp what it feels like to exist up there.
The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell describes his experience as follows in the documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon:
In my cockpit window every two minutes — the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and a whole 360-degree panorama of the heavens. And that was a powerful, overwhelming experience. And suddenly I realized that the molecules of my body, and the molecules of the spacecraft, the molecules in the body of my partners, were prototyped and manufactured in some ancient generation of stars. And that was an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connectedness.
How beautiful is that?
I feel that Long Covid has enriched my life on many different levels. Most importantly I feel connected to my body in a whole new way. I notice how much it is speaking to me and how incredibly important it is to listen to what it has to say. So many years of my life I have lived in a way that pretty much ignored the signals from my body. Have a headache? Take a paracetamol and keep on working. Have a fever? Same thing. Feel stiff in my body? Do a heavy workout in the gym. And so on. While a headache is a sign that I need to slow down and become more quiet. A fever definitely too. And the stiff body might benefit more from a relaxing bath in calmness than the loud and hyped-up atmosphere of a gym. So these days I listen to what my body tells me in a whole new way. Every day I give it a walk with some stairs to climb in the park behind my house or an online yoga class. That’s a level of workout that is just enough for now and in a pace I feel comfortable with. And when no one is at home I turn up the music as loudly as I can and then I dance all by myself and feel the joy of being alive. For the first time in my life, all of this comes naturally to me. So it’s not difficult at all to take the walk, climb the stairs or take a yoga class. I feel flow with it. Time will tell but I believe that I’ve finally found a way to ‘honor my body’ in a way that it deserves and for that I’m really grateful.
Back to landing on Mars. I hope I will be alive the day this will become reality instead of Netflix-created fiction. I believe a Mars-landing will make the world stop and inspire millions of people, just like the first Moon-landing did. My hopes are on Elon Musk who said that Mars is the only place in the solar system where it’s possible for life to become multi-planetarian and with SpaceX he’s well on his way to make this a reality. How exciting is that?!
Until then I continue to look up at the sky every now and then and realize how vast it is and how small I am in comparison. And somehow I feel hugely comforted by this….
Thank you for reading! ♥
Photo of “Twin Peaks” on Mars: Dr. Timothy Parker – NASA JPL