I’m terrible at titles. I think coming up with titles is my biggest weakness as a writer. After scrolling through a bunch of – a dozen or so? – possibilities for this post (most of which sounded too new-age or self-help-y, or strangely melodramatic, or simply inadequate), I settled on the most basic thing that came into my mind. Tomorrow is the Vernal Equinox, but this post isn’t necessarily about that… It’s about moving forward, but not knowing exactly where the f*ck we’re all actually headed. It’s with an eye of hopefulness, trying hard to be less cautious than usual about that hopefulness.
Gods, to talk about my experience over the past year… feels insanely self-indulgent. Who hasn’t had a very messed up year? Who hasn’t lost someone dear to them, or if they haven’t lost a person, who hasn’t lost a piece of themselves? And I’m not suggesting we haven’t gained anything in this whole process. I have been “old enough to know” for a very long time, that even through the most painful times we can learn or gain much, and to never take the joyful and peaceful moments for granted, to never overlook them or let them slip fast into memory, because soon enough we will again encounter something difficult or painful that will take over our lives for a bit. This pandemic has been longer than “a bit.”
I tried to be one of those people who always made the best of this thing, who worked daily toward a greater goal, who didn’t lose faith that this would end and all would be okay, who continued on almost as normal doing the things I love or enjoy… Some days I achieved that. I went hiking during good weather. I learned how to DM remotely for my D&D game (and learned it’s actually quite effective). I returned to studying Russian, and began (finally) learning Spanish. I ate more organic food, learned to use a few veggies I’d never bought before, read some really excellent books, got more used to video chat, started catching up on some technical skills, and kept the house quite clean. Also, I’m very fortunate, in that I’m married to my best friend of thirty-four years, and we love being together, so we enjoyed each other’s company in the uncertain days of lockdown. I did lose certain basic, but immensely important, things… the freedom to see my daughter and her boyfriend in person, which was a difficulty; the freedom to visit my elderly dad who has dementia and lives out of state; obviously the freedom to go and do what we normally would have gone and done. I also lost some heart. It was incredibly painful to know my dad could not give or receive hugs or even enjoy the holding of hands for, now a year, and still indefinitely. His dementia has progressed, so there has also been a loss of mind and memory, and more heart. And it is heart breaking that so many must say the same. Concurrent with the pandemic, here in the US we have suffered cultural pain, in most cases understood but in some simply inexplicable (and where does that leave us now?).
Before I go on in this vein for too long, I’ll just get a little specific for a minute… My biggest fear during the pandemic was that my dad would get covid, especially as he lives in a long-term care facility in the tri-state area. At first, early in the pandemic, that fear caused great stress. Over time that stress lessened a bit because the facility did a super job in protecting its residents – they were sticklers, and I appreciated their strictness. It was terrible not being able to visit, when we’d normally visit at least once a month, and Christmas was nearly a disaster as we tried and tried to get through to him but couldn’t make even a phone call, nevermind a Zoom call. But, all was generally okay with him. He received his first dose of the vaccine at the very end of 2020… I was starting to feel better… In early January we were told he had been exposed and was being put in quarantine. On the last day of his uneventful fourteen-day quarantine, I thought “omg, whew, I can finally let go of that one worry! He got through this stupid thing and he’s started his vaccinations!” … and later that day, they called to tell us he’d tested positive. I couldn’t believe it; I mean, I could, but seriously… He received his second shot while in his second quarantine, while positive, and incidentally, on his birthday. I didn’t panic, didn’t stress overly; the most worrying thing was they continued to tell us that he wouldn’t be out of the woods for several weeks, even though he didn’t show any symptoms other than extreme tiredness and some congestion, but at any day, he could take a serious turn for the worse. So, we took it day by day, and eventually, he was fine and they sent him back to his own space. He continues to show no further symptoms, nothing residual. They had allowed us a very brief window visit while he had covid, so my husband and I drove down there, had only (social-distanced and masked) contact with the administrator (who gets tested twice a week), and immediately returned home, following all guidelines for each state we traveled within. That was the one time I’ve seen my dad in person (um, I mean, through a window) for an entire year. And that is a story that is being lived every day by how many millions?
So, I have this tendency (perhaps it’s somewhat common), to get through things quite well, to not panic in the moment… to not even feel a twinge in the gut, a sweaty palm, or a racing heart… to take care of what needs to be taken care of, and to appear to others as being very calm… But then when I think I’m through something and I’m allowing myself a sense of relief, I notice some sudden physical symptom. That sense of relief is not immediate, nor is it complete. Right now the symptom is shortness of breath. I don’t feel nervous or unsettled, and I do have allergic asthma that acts up during spring – which is an obvious, diagnosed cause. But I suspect the sudden worsening of this is partly exacerbated by an underlying – lying in wait, is how I’m perceiving this, haha – stress or tension or anxiety. I’ve also been in and out of mild depression for the past year (see above) – some days being amazing and wonderful, some moments simply bleak. (I hope that explains my absence, and I apologize for not being at all good with email replies during this time.)
Back to tomorrow… I’m making no commitments. After the past year I feel like anything can happen (I’m even rethinking my skepticism about alien visitation 😉), but really, have no true idea of where things, or I’m, headed. I have hopes, and things I’m considering doing. How it pans out? I dunno!
I do genuinely hope that all who are visiting here have been able to get through the past year with a minimum of loss, and if you have suffered greatly, please know that I think the rest of us, or most of the rest of us, feel deeply for your pain. We have felt so awfully alone or isolated this past year, but in ironic reality, we have all been in this together.