A year ago most of us were still living in pre-pandemic mode. We’d just visited our college senior daughter, attending an on-campus dance production and eating at a full and lively restaurant. Our high school senior son, along with other actors and techies, was in the final days of rehearsals for The Addams Family; psyched for opening night. My spouse was working. I was seeing clients in my office.
March 2020 is one of those unforgettable dates we’ll reference, as our parents did when JFK was assassinated or those of us did who alive during the horrific events of 9/11: “Do you remember what you were doing when the pandemic hit?”
What were you doing a year ago? Is it hard to remember?
And now, a year later?
Well, we’ve gone through disbelief, grief, acceptance, impatience, anger, surrender and feeling blah. Sometimes all in one day.
At first, we thought this virus would be muffled in months. Spring was coming and it didn’t feel so awful because we were able to get outside and be with friends.
My daughter came home mid-March, graduated without a ceremony, and is living with us, working, saving money, and making plans.
The musical was canceled on opening night. Our son attended his 5-minute drive-through graduation, moved to college in August, and found the experience so dystopian with masks, social distancing, no in-person gatherings, no eating in the cafeteria, etc., he decided to study online from home this semester.
My spouse stopped interior painting jobs as he wasn’t considered “essential” until August. Unemployment benefits, newly created for the self-employed, saved the day.
I moved from in-person sessions at the office to video or phone sessions from the finished attic of our home. I’m still paying rent but only visit my office to get the mail and water the begonia. It’s blooming now, and I need it there to remind me that I’ll return to the office at some point.
Where are you now?
And, what have we learned?
Whew – that’s a tough one. Here are first thoughts.
We learned we are more resilient and flexible than we thought.
We learned to delicately balance between grieving what was lost and also accepting what was happening – often toggling back and forth between those actions.
We learned our government did not have a well-planned strategy for a disaster like a pandemic.
We learned we are not in control of events but that we can work at managing our response to life so it’s an intentional response and not impulsive reactivity. We learned this is really hard.
We learned that our time together is precious and enjoyable – all of us in a small home – and we are also all looking forward to the time when our young adult children can restart halted plans.
We learned that participation in nourishing activities and rituals is vital.
We learned we need each other; that being together virtually is an available alternative but pales in comparison to being together, in person, with those we love.
What have you learned?
With vaccines coming and deaths and infections decreasing, we appear to be moving into the wind-down phase of the pandemic but of course we don’t really know.
So, how do we live now, one year in?
We work to surrender to what’s not in our control and to focus on what is. And we allow ourselves days when we’re just sick of all of it.
We keep wearing masks and social distancing.
We mourn those we’ve lost and whose lives we couldn’t adequately honor during the pandemic. My dad died in October and a favorite neighbor down the street just last month. We mourn with those who have suffered terribly this year. Our family’s losses were small ones compared to those whose family members and friends died from Covid-19, or lost jobs, homes, security. We remember that all of us are vulnerable and all of us are connected.
We eye the calendar hopefully and try to be patient. Perhaps we can visit family later this year. Maybe our son can return to a more normal college experience, and our daughter can move in with friends. Neighborhood potlucks, street festivals, concerts, and all sorts of gatherings might become reality! And perhaps we’ll be able to stop worrying about loved ones or ourselves getting seriously ill.
Returning to a new normal will bring new challenges. Still, I’m confident that given what we’ve learned this past year, we’re more likely to adequately manage what lies ahead.
How are you living now, one year in?
A final note: Courtney Martin wrote a terrific post with more questions if you are in a reflective mode. You can access it here.
Brenda Hartman-Souder, LCSW-R March 2021