In about two weeks, it will be the anniversary of the last time I did anything that involved other people that didn’t include worrying about COVID. It was a funeral for a friend’s dad, and while we had heard stories of COVID, it felt sort of like SARS did – like a thing that had happened to some people, but that didn’t really affect anyone I actually know. After the funeral, we stood around in the parking lot, no worries about distance or masking, and talked about toilet paper shortages that were already happening, and how ridiculous it all seemed.
It was a simpler, more innocent time.
The Boy was a week away from his last normal week of school, before the spring break that would actually end his school year months ahead of schedule. We had house guests, who stayed with us a week – the last normal week for any of us.
And then a year of pure hell would happen.
The 12 months after March of 2020 were ridiculously hard. I don’t think I realized at the time just how hard. I’m good in a crisis, am able to strip away inessentials and focus on the problem at hand, so I let a lot of things go during that time – things like self-care and routine – and couldn’t do a lot of things that were important to me, like eat with friends and be in the larger world, while scrambling in order to take care of people. I’m pretty sure the combination of having people who depend on me and people who read my writing kept me alive that year.
But it was still a horrible year. This morning, I saw that I had posted this on Facebook a year ago today:
A global pandemic.
Trying to scramble to pivot and keep our income afloat in the midst of extreme economic uncertainty.
The death of at least 8 people I personally know from COVID.
The extreme stress of being worried about bringing an almost certainly fatal disease home to my wife who has no immune system.
Spending thousands on car repairs, only to have to scrap it and buy another car after all.
Watching paid speaking and consulting gigs reschedule, then reschedule again, and then cancel.
Losing grants and donations as donors’ and grantors’ priorities shift because of the changing realities.
A winter storm that brought my city to its knees, and left it there.
It’s been a horrible 12 months for my mental health. I know I am not alone with this, but for 12 months I have had legitimate reasons why I am not operating at my best, and I am just tired of it. I want to be back at full strength. I want to feel productive again. I am at about 40% of pre-pandemic capacity, and some days that 40% is a stretch goal.
I told someone the other day that this whole last year has felt like a really bad normal year, but while wearing a weight vest. Everything is harder, more expensive, lasts longer, and is more exhausting than normal.
I don’t have anything inspirational to say here. It’s hard. It just is.
I learned a long time ago that it sometimes helps to say out loud how hard it is, and to say it where others can hear it.
That way, if it’s hard right now for the folks who hear it, then they will at least know they are not alone.
Yeah. That guy was in really bad shape.
I remember how low I felt at this point last year. Spring is always my favorite time of the year, but spring last year felt like an endless winter. Everything was dead, and felt dead, and looked dead.
Over the year that followed, I would personally know another six people who would die from this damn virus, as the nation lost hundreds of thousands more. Delta and Omicron would destroy all the plans we had of a year where we could return to “normal”, despite the literal miracle of the vaccines. Our political situation, while more superficially calm, has gone from “aftermath of insurrection” to “brink of nuclear war”.
Over the last year, I would write well more than 100,000 words. I would start a new blog, and a new newsletter that would quickly grow to half the size of a newsletter I have written for seven years. I would develop new sources of income. I would begin a daily practice of both writing and moving, and would learn to pay attention to my diet in a healthy way for the first time in my life. As a result, both my blood pressure and glucose levels would decrease to healthier levels, and I would lose a hair over 50 pounds.
Growing up in the evangelical end of the church, we were taught to expect change to happen instantaneously. The Apostle Paul, on the road to Damascus, had this watershed moment, where he was struck by an overwhelming force, and as a result, had no choice but to change his life’s direction.
It’s never been like that for me. Change for me has always been quiet, slow, and nearly invisible, but striking in retrospect. So I’m grateful for the times that Past Me has admitted it was hard, the times he told the truth about what he was going through, the times he bore witness to the pain and grief, if for no other reason than to leave a signpost so Current Me could look back and mark the truly miraculous ways things have changed for the better.
My depression is more under control these days. I spend about 10% of my time on deliberate practices to keep it managed: I control my diet, prioritize movement, pursue connection, and write like my life depends on it.
It’s two years later. People are still dying. We are on the brink of nuclear war. And the daffodils are blooming in my yard.