Wow. What a year! It has been the longest year and the shortest one at the same time. It has definitely been a year none of us will ever forget. It has changed us.
When the World Shut Down
I remember clearly one year ago today — March 13, 2020. It was the day the world shut down, literally.
My husband and I were at the beach, just as we are today. I was looking forward to a trip to New York City with my daughter and my friend. He was looking forward to “March Madness”, the collegiate basketball tournament.
We were down by the pool watching television when we heard the news. Professional basketball was canceled for the rest of the season. Then, the college basketball tournament was canceled. Like a line of dominos, other events were added to the list — baseball’s spring training, The Masters, large concerts.
When we saw that Broadway was going dark, we knew we had to cancel the trip we had so looked forward to. It was a beautiful sunny day as I sat on the balcony with my laptop, canceling flights, our hotel and shows. It was hard to fathom the magnitude of what was occurring.
I remember hearing undercurrents about a new virus when we were on a cruise in January of 2020. My friend first brought up the question of our trip to NYC in late February. At that point, we thought the virus was isolated and contained and would not affect our plans. I remember my husband reasoning that it would probably all blow over in a couple of weeks. I don’t think any of us knew what the year ahead would look like.
During this past year, I have pondered what lessons I was supposed to learn from this pandemic. Here are some of the things that came to mind.
- Don’t give in to fear. While a healthy respect for precautions is prudent, giving into fear doesn’t do me any good. I had to meditate on how often the Bible reminds us to “fear not.”
- I am not in control. I can’t tell you how much I hated canceling my trip to NYC. It wasn’t just a trip — it was time with my daughter. Circumstances out of my control made it necessary to cancel. Actually, there came a time when it would have been impossible to travel due to travel restrictions. I acknowledge the fact that the trip may never be rescheduled.
- Trust God. When things seemed crazy and completely out of control, the one thing that would calm my soul was to reset my focus on God. I had to do this often.
- It’s ok to cry. There were days when I just wept. I was sad, afraid, angry, overwhelmed and simply needed a good cry. At first, I thought something was wrong with me. Then, I talked to so many women who experienced the same thing. That was affirming.
- Sometimes it’s ok to do nothing. April was a difficult month for me. I think it was a combination of recovering from surgery as well as being in the midst of a pandemic. I felt so foggy and had trouble focusing. I didn’t have motivation to write. I struggled to put my thoughts into words. I think many of us initially thought we were going to be able to get so much done while we were on lockdown. That didn’t necessarily happen.
- My neighborhood is pretty friendly. We spent a lot of time outside, walking the neighborhood. Without all of the busyness in our lives, we got to know many of our neighbors a little bit better. Our neighborhood became a little bit nicer.
- Puppies help. We knew we were getting a puppy in the spring of 2020. We just didn’t know it was going to be at the start of a pandemic. I’m so thankful that we got our labradoodle when we did. He gave me a purpose and a routine which helped me immeasurably.
- Human contact is like air. I missed seeing people most of all. Normally, I might see friends once or twice a week. That came to a halt, especially when they closed the churches. I was so thankful to be able to spend time with friends once things started to reopen. I will endeavor not to take those times for granted again.
The Losses We Faced
While I know a handful of people who had the coronavirus and know of a few who died from it,my family has not suffered a severe illness or death due to COVID-19. My parents are older but they live in their own home one street over from me. I never had to experience the isolation from them that many did. I was sad that they had to spend several months isolated from their best friends. I don’t have children at home so I didn’t have to juggle virtual education along with my responsibilities at home. I didn’t personally have to experience the cancellation of a major life event like a wedding or a graduation.
Even so, I did experience loss. I lost things like travel, time at church and time with friends. But, even deeper, I lost a sense of well-being, of hope, of trust, of optimism. I hope these things come back but I know it will take time.
Hurricanes and Pandemics
Back in 2004, four hurricanes crossed our county. Two of them had a direct impact on our home. I watched as two forty year-old magnolia trees toppled over in our front yard in one of the storms. In another, the rain was so hard it came down the inside of a wall and up through our kitchen floor causing it to buckle.
The following years, as hurricane season approached, I experienced a feeling of unease, almost dread. It was worse the closer the storm track was to us. It was several years before the thought of hurricane season didn’t make my stomach churn just a little.
I wonder if it will be like that with viruses. I wonder if I will, if we will experience that sense of dread every time an illness sweeps through our part of the world. I wonder if we will always look at people funny if they cough in our presence. I sure hope not.
We will have experience to draw on. We will have lived through one of the most difficult times we have ever faced. Personally, I will try to remember the things that helped me the most in this lost year — fear not, trust God, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to not be in control, it’s ok to take a break, take walks, treasure people and cuddle your puppy.
Oh, and one last thing. Buy a package of toilet paper each time you go to the store.