In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives forever. We were faced with something almost none of our generation has ever faced: Illness and Isolation – and yet, not isolation. We were bombarded with so many facts and fiction through the media, our phones and then we had to sort out how we were going to interpret those facts and live with them. We saw the horrors of bodies being stacked up – not in wars such as Viet Nam, or Iraq, but in New York! Workers and clients alike were getting sick and dying, abandoning loved ones in dark rooms, family not being allowed in nor being able to take the bodies anywhere. People all over the world were dying in numbers a single human could not fathom.
At first so many people denied it, including our illustrious leader. Then, there was grudging acceptance by half the population, because lots and lots of people started dying in the US. But so many so-called “Normal” people still denied it and demanded they have their rights, even at the risk of others, and went out into the world, rather than quarantine, and then more people got sick and died as these people spread the virus some more.
Half the people hunkered down and became more and more isolated. The media said we’re in this together and to help others, but yet everyone has to stay inside and keep safe. How could we have it both ways? You Tube channels became popular and some of the isolation dissipated as we found someone to talk to who was like us in the same situation.
We tried to pretend that life was normal, spent more time with our families, and yet there was this cloud over our heads. The fact that everyone was home and on top of each other was overwhelming for so many people.
Relief was a long time in coming. Some people were able to work from home. But, so many other people were laid off. Some were finally able to collect unemployment, but so many lost everything. Businesses shut down and some changed reluctantly to try and adapt to the new model given to them. Takeout was popular and outdoor seating became a thing once again. GoFundMe programs soared to help those in need. “Social Distancing” became a generic phrase in our new lives. Masks became the normal trend and we got used to them.
Grocery stores were packed. No cleaning supplies or paper supplies were on the shelves. People learned how to cook with what they had, and use what they had to clean everything. Everyone gained weight because we had no reason to go outside and we were trying all kinds of new carbo-loaded recipes!
So many of us cleaned and remodeled our houses as we kept to the stay-at-home orders. Home Depot and Amazon soared in the pandemic. We walked the dogs more than we ever had before. They had never had this much attention and became exhausted. We set up rooms for working at home and in-home classes, but children and spouses remained underfoot.
And then, the fires started. No rain, 100+ degree temperatures all summer and smoke from the fires isolated us even more. The heat got to us Coloradans. We weren’t used to it. And, the air was thick, so thick that we didn’t see the sun for days. We didn’t expect so much devastation. But, we still didn’t have anywhere to go unless we wanted to chance going in our cars. So many people lost their homes this year. We went a little crazier.
We recognized injustices and surged out to protest them, but cases soared again. People needed a reason to get outside, but everything escalated and protesting felt like the only way to change things. It was reasonable to do this in “Normal” times, but these are unprecedented times, and people of color were dying for no reason.
Restrictions began to lift and the cases surged forward once again. Everyone wanted to just “get it over with” and get back to normal even though things weren’t normal at all. No one wanted to believe that his or her lives had been changed forever and irrevocably.
Schools were starting to recognize that their model of teaching was going to change, and yet they continued to cling to the fact that everyone would eventually come back. Students became guinea pigs for the new learning process. Teachers have had the toughest time, not quite sure of themselves, and sometimes there were epic failures. Most persevered and tried to present the material in a better way, but some were just not getting it, so the kids suffered. Parents freely admitted they weren’t teachers and this year was slowly getting “written off” that most kids would have to do summer school or something else to catch up.
And, then it hit again, a third and really bad wave. We got pulled back home and life went back to the “New Normal.”
We are slowly changing our lives to fit in this new model. There are good things and bad about spending so much time with your family. Isolation is hard. There continues to be people who cannot cope with change and are trying to run backwards and it’s not working. Cities have to change and grow just as people have to change and grow.
I had to decide if I could put up with another year like this one—working from home and not making much of a dent in the things that needed to get done. I thought long and hard and decided it was time to retire. I knew I would never be happy trying to do all the things I wanted to do, in the current environment (having been in this environment for nearly 14 years). So right before Thanksgiving, I gave it up. I was old enough for Social Security, and I felt that I had accomplished all that I could. I was ready for the “Social Security Crowd” (at a distance and maybe only a selected few of them, and only in short bursts, and socially distanced of course)!
For the first two weeks into retirement, I slept longer, and cleaned the house a lot. I made it through that initial stage and now I am moving on. Once we are at a point where we can go back to “Normal” activities, I will take the time to go out and learn something new and help people where I can with what I know. I am ready.
With the elections over and having a new leader, we can only hope for a better future. I don’t listen to the news much because there is just too much speculation. I am reading a lot of history, nonfiction, as well as fun and poignant fiction novels that help me put things in perspective. Check out Graham Greene’s “Travels with My Aunt” for example. It is weird and funny. Currently I am reading “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho and it is definitely a revelation. It is a book that you have to read a chapter at a time and digest it. It is a little bit of work, so keep reading! I agree with him that we are privileged (yes I know we don’t like that, word, but hey, I am an old white lady, so I can say that). I had a hard time with all of the issues being a woman in a male work force growing up, but I don’t think it was anywhere near as hard as any person of color has had in their entire life. Yes, it is uncomfortable to think about it but we have to. We have to start and get along and accept our past, and change our future for the better for EVERYONE.
So, maybe I am finding my own, very opinionated voice by reading others who have strong, opinionated voices. Maybe I’ll make a small difference in someone’s life each day that I live and breathe. I challenge everyone who reads this to make a difference in his or her community, no matter how small. Right now I am knitting scarves for everyone in my City that has to work outside! Shh… it’s a surprise! Learn that you can do things in isolation by just being there for those you love, even if they drive you crazy! Take some time to listen to whoever is talking to you, even if you don’t agree with them. That is the only way to make change happen, one person at a time. Happy Holidays everyone!