Monday, March 15, 2021

It's Been A Year

I’m late to the “one year of lockdown” game. Game. Ha! Nightmare, more likely. But our lockdown started a few days later than everyone else’s. We were still hoping to go to Australia to visit the Princess, who was studying there. Her program hadn’t yet been cancelled, and she hadn’t yet been sent home. Banana Girl was still at school, and campus hadn’t been shut down. We were in denial. So our official lockdown anniversary is March 17.

It’s been a year—and I mean that with every inflection you can make. A year of lessons and losses and losing time. Because really, when every day is the same, it’s hard to keep track. What day is it? What’s the difference between seasons, days of the week, weekdays and weekends? But I tried to keep track, and although I didn’t keep a journal or blog regularly about the pandemic—who wants to read about how every day is the same?—I will never forget this year and what I learned.


I’ve learned that living through history isn’t as glamorous as the movies and history books and literature make it sound. I should have probably realized this much earlier in life, but it took a goddamn pandemic to drive that point home. I remember as a child, hearing whispered explanations about relatives who behaved certain ways because of the Depression or the War. I wonder what habits I’ll keep and what people will say about me?


I’ve learned that when the world stops, and silence reigns, there are still beautiful things to be seen—flowers, birds, dogs (lots and lots of pandemic puppies), smiling eyes behind masks, and even the occasional bear. I’ve had to search harder for the beauty and the joy, but it’s there. The wildlife took over when the humans retreated. People smile more with their eyes now so their greetings can be seen while masked. It’s effort, but it’s worth it.


I’ve learned that fear not only stops the world from turning, but doesn’t do anything to get it back on its axis. Hope, however, does. And despite a rotten year (or several) of unimaginable horror, my hope never died. It dimmed, it hid, but it’s still there. It reminds me to feel, to cry, and to laugh. 


I’ve learned a full-blown panic attack in the grocery store is not as weird as I might have once thought. In fact, there’s an element of camaraderie that develops between those of us who have them, and pride for each other as we learned to conquer them.


I've learned 20-second songs to wash my hands, with a continuous loop playing in my head. Thanks, Anxiety! I can rattle off my favorite scents of hand soaps, and have revamped my basement storage to accommodate truckloads of sanitizers, wipes, sprays, gloves, masks, and lotions. If you're planning to rob my house, please take the TV, but don't touch my cleaning supplies.

I’ve learned resilience is a THING. And while everything else may have disappeared this year, resilience thrived. If I can get through this pandemic, I can conquer anything—um, God, that’s not a challenge, so feel free not to test me. I’ve been tested enough. You win.


I’ve learned that my mother wasn’t nearly as insane about cleaning as I thought she was, and that I may have surpassed her when it comes to that insanity—it is, after all, hereditary. And, my habit of keeping hand sanitizer in my car that started when my oldest entered kindergarten was really, really smart.


I’ve learned that there are a lot of stupid people in the world and that Darwin works really slowly. But there are also a lot of kind people and funny people, and they are the ones who kept me going. Being able to help me find the humor in a situation has never been more appreciated than during this year.


Speaking of kind, I’ve learned that kindness is really all we have, and the myriad ways that kindness has been expressed is awe-inspiring. Messages of hope have sprung up in the most unlikely places, carried on like a game of telephone—from painted rocks to driveway chalk messages to hearts and bears in windows.


I’ve learned I’m exceedingly lucky that no one in my family got sick or died from Covid (and that’s despite some really questionable judgment at times, by all of us). I’ve also learned it’s really, really hard keeping those same people alive, no matter how careful they might want to be.


I’ve learned that the world has failed this group project and probably won’t learn from its mistakes. 


I’ve learned that as much as I used to love being alone I need people. Even though I like my personal space, I miss hugs (occasional ones from specific people, so don’t get any funny ideas). And while I love my house, I will love it even more when I get to leave it.

I've learned my husband and I can spend almost every waking moment together and still love and tolerate each other--despite my propensity to talk to myself, his really loud voice during work hours, and our significant differences in body temperature.


I’ve learned it’s lonely and scary to be the one always trying to do the right thing, but it’s necessary. And the people who do it with me are lifesavers. They’re my bubble, my trusted friends and family, and the ones who convince me I’m maybe not quite as crazy as I think I am. And that my inconsistency and irrationality during a pandemic is okay (even when it’s not).


I’ve learned who my true friends are, those who make the effort to reach out and find ways to connect. I’ve had fun finding new ways of socializing. I’ve seen more nostrils on Zoom than I ever want to see again, but I’ve cherished being able to see people I probably wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. I hope we continue to bridge the distance when we no longer have to keep our distance.


I’ve learned that silly things keep me sane, like wearing real clothes and creating a routine—yes, I change out my jewelry on Saturday. It’s weird, I know. But it reminds me what day it is, it lets me see and wear pretty things, and boy, don’t you feel normal right now? 


I’ve learned to stop wondering if I can handle something and just do it. Because what other choice do I have? 

I’ve accepted that creativity has flown out the door, and my writing has suffered, but in its place is forgiveness. I’m easier on myself when I have a bad day, when I don’t do what I thought I should. There’s peace between the panic, and I just have to look for it.


And I hope, I hope, that as the pandemic eases and life returns to a new normal, I don’t forget these lessons—well, some of them, anyway. Because forgetting will not offer justice or peace or honor to those who have suffered, including ourselves. The only way we can heal is by remembering. And by remembering to cherish hope.


  1. Great post, Jen. It made me wonder what I've learned, apart from clinging on to the hope that this will end sometime, and I will get to meet my friends again.

    1. We've all learned a lot, we just have to analyze what exactly to take away from this experience. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. I loved this post!

    You've learned such valuable lessons this past year.


  3. "I’ve learned that fear not only stops the world from turning, but doesn’t do anything to get it back on its axis. Hope, however, does. And despite a rotten year (or several) of unimaginable horror, my hope never died. It dimmed, it hid, but it’s still there. It reminds me to feel, to cry, and to laugh."\Brilliant, my dear. SImply brilliant and so very true. Wonderful post, And don't worry how people will remember you in the future because it will be with the utmost respect, love, and appreciation for the amazing, kind, and smart woman you are. I am privileged to know you.

  4. Lovely post, Jennifer. I especially like your observation about the parallel to our parents and grandparents who were shaped by earlier mass tragedies, just like we'll be/have been shaped by this one.

    1. Thank you, Sadira. It's weird being able to suddenly relate to that.

  5. This post was wonderful, Jennifer! It has been a tough year in so many ways, but we have learned things and come out stronger. Like you, I'm trying to go easier on myself, especially when I don't feel particularly creative. Thanks for such an insightful post!