Blogging through the COVID 19-Crisis: It’s been a year

photo credit: Chris Montgomery via Unsplash

This is my first update in 5 months. It didn’t feel appropriate to let the anniversary-week of the start of the pandemic pass by without mentioning it. I mean, not much and so much has happened. We’re still in a pandemic (I know!) and we went through another lockdown (in California) over the holidays, but with a new administration coming in at the beginning of this year, vaccines are finally being rolled out (and at a rapid rate). Some of my family members and friends have been vaccinated already. Jon and I aren’t yet eligible, but I am hopeful that we will be soon. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, or at least there seems to be.

Still, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since this all really started to impact every one of us on a very personal level. This week last year was when I transitioned to full-time working from home. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.  A week later, California issued the first statewide stay-at-home order.

Nobody, I mean nobody could have foreseen that we would be here one year, 500,000+ COVID deaths (2.6+ mio worldwide) later. It’s mind-boggling, to say the least.

I remember the first few weeks when people frantically bought up toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, flour and rice, pasta and canned goods. When we stood in line before the stores even opened to make sure we could get in when the shelves were freshly stocked. We were supposed to drastically limit our outdoor activities to absolute necessities, but also not hoard supplies. As much as Jon and I tried not to panic-buy (I’ll never understand the need to hoard toilet paper), I admit, we also did stock up on a few things here and there, too. Just in case. It all felt a little surreal there for a while. 

The standing-in-line-at-the-grocery-store and toilet paper shortage only lasted about two months before things returned to a more normal pace (at least at the supermarkets), but otherwise, things were anything but normal. As previously mentioned, Jon and I have been taking this whole situation very seriously. More seriously than other people. I haven’t been to my office, eaten inside a restaurant, or seen any family or friends in a year (last week was the first and only exception that we have made in 365+ days). We’ve canceled weekend trips, a visit from my family, and get-togethers with friends. We cut down the frequency of our grocery runs, I haven’t browsed the aisles of any stores for leisure, and I haven’t seen my family in over 1,5 years. I have not hugged anyone (besides Jon) or left Sacramento County in over a year.

One of the hardest lessons for me in the last 12 months was that yes, we’re all in this together, but we’re ultimately all doing it alone.

Guidance by our elected leaders more often than not was confusing and/or contradictory. The statewide and national efforts did not go hand in hand. Don’t get me started on the many failures or our previous administration. Lots of people cherry-picked information to justify carrying on as usual, as if we were not in a pandemic, often guided by the belief that ‘hey if other people are staying home, I can go out and do x, y and z safely because nobody else will be doing it.’ News flash: the purpose of a lockdown or stay-at-home order is that nobody is out doing things. It was hard to witness other people be so blatantly selfish and disrespectful towards others when all that was required was to wear a mask, keep a distance, and park your butt on the couch for a while. If only we had all done this collectively at the same time for a little while…

But I digress.

I am sure some people, who haven’t been as strict as we have been, think we’re overly cautious, but I’d rather be cautious than catch this virus. Nobody knows for sure how it’s going to affect them and even if the statistics for my age group look good, it’s not something I want to gamble with.

Did you also feel like leaning on other people didn’t feel like an option knowing that everyone was fighting their own struggles? Of course, we checked in with each other, we talked about the current situation a lot, the good and then not-so-good news, the ups and downs of cases, but did we really share how things felt inside, maybe too afraid to burden the other person more or ending up in a competition on “who has it worse”? I definitely felt this way sometimes, like we weren’t really sharing how this situation was affecting us. I know, Jon and I have been so lucky in so many ways, especially since we weren’t dealing with the loss of income or the added strain of trying to homeschool (and entertain) kids, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been hard. 

For me personally, the hardest part was being so far away from family and the fact that I knew that I couldn’t get on a plane at a moment’s notice, that we were stuck in place to wait this out. 

I also often felt that I didn’t have the capacity to keep up, to reach out, to ask how everyone else is doing (even when I felt I should), not because I wasn’t interested, but because I felt so damn tired. At the same time, small interactions have been so valuable, so life-saving really, throughout this last year. A handwritten letter. A text message when I didn’t expect it. To know that people think of you (and letting them know that you think of them) is really quite an impactful thing in times like these.

Life changed – and was put on ‘pause’ – in so many regards last year, but you know what’s funny?

The only thing that hasn’t really slowed down is work (for those lucky enough to still have jobs, that is!) and while we’ve been constantly praised for being so productive despite the circumstances, I sometimes wondered, how much less productive we all must have appeared before the pandemic.

I am not complaining, my workplace has been (more than) great when it comes to safety protocols and handling the COVID-situation overall. I am so, so thankful that the transition to full-time working from home was possible and sustainable. Nobody was pushed to do anything that they felt uncomfortable with, and honestly, I love working from home.

But I remember early on, in one of our check-in sessions over Teams, someone was brave enough to admit that he was struggling and that he felt distracted by *all the things* and less productive at home and that he hoped that wouldn’t reflect badly on him or get him fired. He said what we were all thinking at the time and nobody was brave enough to say. We were assured that this was all normal and everybody was going through the same thing and that we were supposed to be kind to ourselves. But while partial paid-leave options were offered for people with dependents at home – which btw, I totally support – day-to-day work has for the most part been business as usual for the rest of us.

Sure, we’ve talked a lot about being kind to each other and taking care of ourselves, but there has been very little guidance on how to do this in a pandemic while trying to meet deadlines. It often felt like we were expected to power through somehow, especially now that – after a whole year – we are technically experts on the pandemic work from home life.

While it’s true that things feel more normal now than in the early days of the pandemic because we have adapted (as humans do), I don’t think we really haven’t addressed the collective trauma that we’ve all been through yet. 

My hope for 2021, going into the second year of this pandemic, is that we can learn from the bad and carry forward the good lessons that we’ve learned. To really think about what this last year has taught us, what’s important in life, to set our boundaries and not just preach, but practice self-care. And, of course, my biggest wish is that we can very soon feel safe enough to travel and see family and friends again.

Oh, and I could really use a hug. You?

  1. *virtual hug*
    Working in Health Care and being vaccinated since end of December did make me feel less “tense” to go grocery shopping or to work. But other than that we have not changed anything since last year March. LO hasn’t seen the school from the inside ever since.
    We just miss traveling and museums. This shell pass (soon I hope).

    1. So glad you already got vaccinated!!

  2. It’s been a hard year, for sure, and I’m sure it’s felt super isolating for you!

    I’ve also heard the refrain of how productive everyone has been throughout this pandemic with work. I’ve felt increased pressure to be productive because I’m working from home and there’s always that need to “show” that you have “earned” this right. But it’s also weird because we’re in a friggin pandemic and everything feels harder than usual!

    Alas. I am just glad we’re almost through this and people are getting vaccinated. I just hope we can make it to the “finish” line without anything crazy happening.

    1. I am glad I am not the only one who felt weird that work seemed to be the only thing that continued as “usual”… but I am very glad we’re finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and things will be a bit more normal soon.

  3. This was a great reflection on a difficult year. We also did not feel like we could complain. We didn’t lose any family members and only 2 family members got Covid and it was a very mild case. And we didn’t lose our jobs. So we felt like we were lucky. But it was a hard time to be pregnant and I had a lot of anxiety. But the worst part was the strain it put on relationships with my family as we took it very seriously but some in my family didn’t and felt we were ‘living in fear and letting fear of a virus keep us from seeing family’. That was very hard to hear as I was following the advice of my rheumatologist and OB. Going to therapy in the fall helped as she let me see that it was ok and justified to say I was going through a very difficult time and didn’t need to diminish my experience by comparing it to others. But I still wouldn’t publicly talk about how hard the pandemic was, like on my blog. I confided in close friends though and that really helped.

    I’ve had my first vaccine dose and get my 2nd on 3/31 so I am feeling more comfortable and hopeful. Phil won’t be eligible for quite awhile since he’s healthy so nothing is really changing. But we are seeing our parents which is so wonderful. His mom didn’t meet Will until he was over 3 months old and she missed seeing Paul soooo much. We are going to visit my parents in April and then they are coming here at the end of April to help with Will when I go back to work (I need help covering my first 2 days back at work as his spot doesn’t open until the following week). I feel much more comfortable seeing our parents now that they are fully vaccinated!!!

    1. Yeah, it’s been hard to navigate the pandemic… everybody had their own challenges, although I am thankful that we could count ourselves lucky overall! So glad to hear you got your first vaccine dose!! I am so thrilled for everyone who’s been able to get it yet!

  4. Sending virtual hugs back. While we on that topic;I had a wedding over the summer (very covid proof) and it felt soooo weird not to hug everyone, especially my friend who gives the best hugs. I’m still not over that.

    There are plans to loosen the restrictions at the end of the month and at the same time we’re having a vaccine pause for a month here in the UK, I’m very curious where that will lead to. In the meantime I’m counting down the days until I can go visit my family again

    1. Sending a virtual hug, too. Getting married (congratulations! <3) without hugs is just cruel!

  5. It’s been such a crazy year. I’m glad you and your husband are staying safe, and I hope you can get the vaccine soon so you feel a bit safer to get out more. I’m definitely thankful I had virtual therapy this past year because I used that to really share my thoughts and feelings and get me through the year.


  6. San, I’ve mentioned before that we seem to be on the same page in terms of how we approached the last year (I also have not seen anyone other than my MIL x 3 [to pick up / drop off stuff] and my spouse x 1 [we live apart]. I have hugged one person [spouse] in the last 13 months.)

    And this is me, too: “Did you also feel like leaning on other people didn’t feel like an option knowing that everyone was fighting their own struggles?” I don’t have kids, I can work at home and love it, I’m financially stable, etc. Who am I to complain? Sigh.

    Here’s hoping we learned from the last year and that the next year is better… and that we both get to see our families. You especially. Take care.

  7. So well said. I can agree with all of your thoughts, arguments and reviews. I am every once in awhile wonder how this whole pandemic is affecting us and the generation to come. My niece as to cancel her birthday for the second time and she is only 8 so this must feel like always. We will have a lot to work through in the future – not only all the costs the governments had to cover… I fear it will be tough times ahead…

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