Friday, March 12, 2021

The Year I Didn't . . .

The past year was one that I never would never have guessed I would experience in my lifetime. I did less of what was familiar and routine and more of what was different and uncomfortable. Reflecting back on these last 12 months, I realize I've grown in ways I never would have had I not been challenged by isolation, fear and need. In talking with my friends, I've discovered one thing we all had in common. Each of us thought that we would use the time in March last year, when the reality of COVID-19 really hit home here in the United States, to get our houses in order. Be it cleaning, purging, working on hobbies, or redecorating, most of my friends, and myself, naively believed we would just stay home, putter about, catch up on lots of things, and in a month or so, start living our old familiar lifestyles. Having a clean and organized domicile would be a perk of our month of self-quarantine and the time spent would feel less like sacrifice and more like a gift. We thought to ourselves . . . "I've got this". Soon, though, as the hours, and days and weeks went by, and the daily news reports were filled with stories and images of worldwide suffering and death, it became apparent that our first impressions were way off base.

How is it that we didn't understand what a pandemic really was? How could we be so naive? Had we been fooled by living in a bubble for years where a DPT shot in the arm as a child, or a flu shot as an adult kept us heathy? Did we even understand the alternative? For me, not having known anyone who suffered from diptheria or tetanus, it never registered with me that it could be so serious. Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, made its way into the local school in the late 50's/early 60's, but I only knew one person who had it and they were quarantined. I had influenza many times and was very sick, but nothing like what I was seeing on the nightly news . . . a deadly flu.

The isolation I originally embraced as an opportunity to get my life and home in order lead to fear. I feared the loss of friends and family due to the virus, the loss of the life of freedom and convenience that I'd grown so accustomed to, along with the inability to make plans for the future. Instead of the invigoration I had embraced in early March, by April my thoughts and my spirit were dampened. 

I didn't clean, purge, or organize. I didn't sew, draw, paint, knit or redecorate. I didn't garden. I didn't write and I didn't dream. I didn't do any of the things I imagined I would do during the shutdown. I worried about everybody and everything.

Slowly I learned how to function in new ways. Disbelief was replaced by a acceptance. I shopped for groceries online and had them delivered to our door. I made masks and gave them to friends, family, neighbors and the people who delivered groceries and packages to our door. I learned how to cope.

When elastic wasn't available, because all the home sewists exhausted the supply in stores and online by making masks, I dug out my grosgrain ribbons and used them to make ties. Sometimes having a stash of supplies pays off!

I made lists and made plans. My thoughts got clearer and I remembered pleasant things in my past and dreamed about the future. I wore my favorite perfume every day. I fussed with my hair as it grew longer and I put on my makeup. I stopped saving my favorite sweaters for good and wore them for every day. These habits gave me a sense of normalcy in an abnormal world.

While writing this post, I thought about my journey over the past year or so. Going through these changes reminded me of the stages of grief that psycholgist Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross wrote about in her book, "On Death & Dying", which was required reading for a course I took in college. Before her death in 2004, Ross collaborated with David Kessler to write the manuscript for her final book, "On Grief and Grieving". It sounds interesting and I plan to read soon.

My stages seemed to follow this path:

Denial ... I was shocked and was in disbelief.  What I had only seen in science fiction movies was becoming a reality.

Anger ... As more news came out about how the virus spread around the globe, I became angry. I couldn't believe that this was "allowed" to happen and not stopped before it spread.

Bargaining ... I decided, if we needed to live with this threat, I could do so. I hoped it would burn itself out when summer weather arrived and we started to live outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, like the influenza does that spreads across the US every winter. 

Depression ... Friends and relatives contracted the virus. The virus was continuing to spread. My depression was mixed with fear. Visions from the stories on the nightly news were burned into my brain and were hard to shake. 

Acceptance ... Hearing that vaccines were being developed and tested and would be available gave me hope. I have learned and practice safe ways to shop and socalize with others. I have only seen my friends and family on Zoom. I have a better understanding of what our future may hold and how I will need to function in our changed world.

There is a plethora of information on the subject of grief on the internet. A link to one source about grief follows:

This is a heavy topic, but one each of us has dealt with over the past 12 months; so I hope you, my dear reader, don't feel this post is preachy. Since some of my relatives and friends were diagnosed with Covid-19, I take it very seriously. We are not out of the woods, but there is light ahead as we make our way. Becoming knowlegeable about how a pandemic affects us and the world we live in is our responsibility. If we need more medical information, we can either read about it online from reputable sources, such as the NIH or the CDC, or consult with our own doctors. Information is key. 

Please continue to stay informed and please continue to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, keep the recommended distance away from others, and wash your hands! Some gatherings may need to be postponed, and others may need to be held in spacious settings to keep all participants safe. Zoom calls and Facebook messenger video chats have become commonplace and if you haven't tried either, I urge you to do so. With just a little practice, you can learn to use them and enjoy chatting and seeing unmasked faces! 

Some of the masks I made with grosgrain ribblon ties, before elastic became available. 
Another lesson learned during this pandemic was making do with things I had on hand

As I alluded to in this post's title, this was "the year I didn't", which I described a bit herein. But it was also "the year I did" new things and learned new things. I learned a few of life's lessons along the way, too; but  that is a topic for a future post. 

Thank you for taking time from your day to read this post. Your comments are welcome here on my blog or on Facebook. It is my sincere wish that you and those you love are happy and healthy. And, until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand. 


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