We’re all starting to recognize that it’s been a whole year since our entire world turned upside down. One exact date doesn’t fit all; each of us has our own markers.
Soon the internet will be flooded with thinkpieces about this still unbelievable and in many ways devastating anniversary, and while I wouldn’t normally choose to add to the clutter, I couldn’t imagine not writing about it, especially this week.
For me, this week marks a year since I last worked on-site with my team.
This week marks a year since I last went out into a crowded bar to listen to live music and dance with a bunch of good friends. (While I have many photos, this picture of my view of Yachtopia’s set list is the only one I can post, don’t ask.)
This week marks a year since I packed into a crowded booth at a diner to eat breakfast with friends. (We were too busy talking and laughing and eating, all squeezed together, to take pictures until we went outside.)
And this week marks a year since Jim and I ate dinner–and dessert–inside a restaurant. It was at Chef Tim Love’s decadent Lonesome Dove in Knoxville. (If you’re going to have a last dinner—and dessert—inside any restaurant before switching to curbside for an indefinite amount of time, we picked one of the best. It was a happy accident; we didn’t know it was our last dinner out.)
I have lots of feelings about this pandemic, way too many to thoroughly cover in a simple blog post, but I can scratch the surface. First, let me begin with anger and whining.
I have a lot of anger towards the previous administration for dropping the ball countless times when it came to taking action and simply modeling what Americans should do to slow the spread of COVID-19, the anti-maskers, the people who claimed that COVID-19 “is just like the flu,” and the people who suddenly come around to the side of cooperation and acting with care, only because they or a loved one got seriously ill. I have been working on my anger, however, and while I know it is a waste of energy to carry around with me, I can’t neglect to acknowledge it front and center.
For me, what has been (and will continue to be) most impactful about the pandemic is the loss of my dad, as well as the trauma of those couple of days right after when I truly thought I might lose my mom and my sister too. They’re still recovering but they’re going to be okay and I’m beyond thankful.
After that personal agony, I will always remember the struggle of so many of my friends losing parents (one of my closest losing her dad the week after I lost mine), and countless friends who became sick themselves. The stress we have been under as a nation due to this pandemic is something we are all going to have to deal with for years to come.
Another heartbreak that will affect me for a long time has been seeing our grown sons and their girlfriends only once, for a quick weekend, in the past fourteen months so far. This, along with the loss of my dad, has made me a huge proponent for families living close to each other. I miss them so much my heart actually hurts when I think about it.
Setting aside the actual virus—if only it were that easy!—it has been a horrible year for mental health. I keep going back to this picture that my friend posted on Instagram a year ago. I laughed at it that day, but in more of a “ha ha, sob” way. And that was even before we really knew what was coming.
Hello, my name is Melisa. I’m an extrovert. The amount of time with friends that this pandemic has stolen from me is so hard to reconcile in my brain. I am a people person, and pandemics are, by nature, no-people. Socializing up close and personal is in my blood, and I cannot describe in words the longing I have had for visits with friends. Being with my friends energizes me, recharges me, fills me up. I don’t know how I am going to make up for it but you can bet I’m going to try, starting at the soonest possible moment.
Something else I have missed: travel. Before COVID-19, Jim and I traveled a lot. Sure, we’ve saved money in the past year and this is definitely not the worst problem anyone could have, but…sigh. I warned you about the whining. I still regularly visit the AirBnB app and follow our favorite places on Instagram so I can be ready to pull the trigger the second it’s okay to do so.
As I do, I like to think about the positive things in any situation. This pandemic had some devastating effects on me and my family but a lot of good came out of it as well.
Jim and I got to spend a lot more time together than usual since he worked remotely for a while and still hasn’t gone back to his regular on-site schedule completely. We got along this past year just as well as we always have, and while our marriage was never close to being in any danger, I have said many times that any two people who can live together through this pandemic can make it through anything.
I have an enhanced sense of daily gratitude and have learned some personal lessons as a result of this pandemic. I wrote about them a while back in my optimistically-titled post “What Will We Carry Away from Spring 2020?”
I worked on new skills, like making macarons, and wrote lots of notes to send to friends through the actual mail.
I have organized and reorganized various areas of my house and continue to work towards minimizing our excess belongings.
I have done my best to support my friends who have needed a little extra for a myriad of reasons, and I have done my best to gladly and graciously accept the support that was offered up in all shapes and sizes from those same people in my time of need. If you’re like me and sometimes have difficulty accepting help, I highly recommend thinking about it in reverse: wouldn’t you want someone to accept any help you’re offering? (Yes, you would.)
I think a lot about how my life will be when most of us are vaccinated. While I still can’t imagine these things actually happening without shuddering a little bit, I do eventually plan to get back to dining indoors, going to the movies, going into a grocery store, leisurely strolling through Target, and going to arena concerts. Those might take a while.
The first things on my mind are of course, my people. I’m going to arrange a visit with our kids as soon as humanly possible. I’m going to plan some girls’ trips and a trip to Columbus to hug my team (and maybe work a little bit). I’m going to do lunch with friends. I’m going back to my early morning boxing classes at the gym so I can reunite with my crazy crew there (and get my body back into fighting shape). Jim and I will likely go back to Trivia Night.
We don’t know exactly what our New Normal is going to look and feel like, but I am certain it’s going to be…better. This past year has been a challenge, to put it lightly, and we will all come out of it as changed people who have a lot of internal work to do. I think if we move forward with gratitude, kindness towards ourselves and others, and a sense of community responsibility, we’re all going to be okay.
It was also about a year ago when I took the picture at the very top of this page, thinking “how cool” it was that my neighbors set up chairs in the driveway, six feet apart, so they could safely socialize. I look at this picture now and think about how innocent we all were just one year ago, before this pandemic took more than a half a million of our loved ones from us, along with so many jobs, in-classroom learning time, and basic togetherness. May we all take the lessons we’ve learned and put them to good use so this never happens again.