How People Are Feeling after a Year of Pandemic, Part 2
We wrote about the increasing importance of relationships one year into the pandemic and asked people to share how the year was for them. We published some last week, and here, in part 2, are another four peoples’ responses on how they are feeling after a year of the pandemic about themselves, their relationships and the future they hope for.
March 4th, 2021
My birthday. Just a little less than a year ago my life totally changed. I had been scraping along at my hourly low paid shopkeeper job, managing to get through each month’s bills supported by small sales of my little paintings. I had been squeezing in the childcare help, including driving late nights so my daughter could keep her bartending schedule afloat. Life was functioning on a bare bones level. It seemed to me we were all running to be somewhere as fast as we could and never had the time we needed to catch our collective breaths. Life had become overrun and I felt run over.
March 14th, 2020
I got a call that the shop I worked in would be closed; the owner had no idea for how long. The little tourist town I live in, Mendocino California, was suddenly empty. The town once filled with weekend tourists from surrounding metropolitan areas was suddenly shut down: no tourists, no vacation rentals, no restaurants were open. The grocery, health food store and marijuana shops were the only businesses in operation.
Suddenly, town was quiet! The first time ever that weekday mornings had no school buses running at 7 am and the weekenders were completely gone. The sounds of silence were like a tonic I did not know I needed until I drank it. There was rest everywhere and a sigh of relief was felt by everyone.
The overhead planes stopped, too. There was only nature; we could hear the ocean pounding on her shores and I could hear my footsteps when I moved down the once packed streets. The car alarms which seemed to go off for no reason disappeared as there were no longer cars parked along every street spilling out tourists shopping for nothing they needed just to spend money because they could.
And now here we are. Without reviewing the progression of how we all suddenly had to find our orientation to each day, the simplicity of waking up each morning to discover a life completely altered had begun.
I came to live in this remote place to be close to my aging mother, 91, and help my daughter with my grandson. I had plenty of focus as my family needed much of my time. I had art orders to fill and I found myself busy with commitments to personal orders and family needs to be pressing each day. Due to the fact that there is such a small population here when there are no tourists, I languished on long walks with no one around that allowed me hours and hours to roam around outside where the views of the coast and my natural surroundings filled my lungs with fresh air and wonder what would this new life be like?
My intimate relationships with local family and a lifetime of friends filled my days. Right from the start, my phone rang and friendships spanning over 40 years that I had had no time for were in my daily life. The phone rang and still does every day. The treasured connections of my life began climbing back into my days regularly. I did not find myself creating new relationships or groups; I quite simply had the time to connect to my lifetime of intimate friends, renew our conversations and discover how we each spent a lifetime. Long phone calls were the key to all this communication.
A most important part of this not mentioned yet is money. Aside from the previous 3 years as a shopkeeper, I had been an artist my whole life, working by the week to pay bills from my paintings and hand painted t-shirts. Due to the pandemic, I received unemployment benefits that changed my financial picture from frantic to peaceful. For the first time ever in my life I knew I could pay my rent.
WOW! This new time was a huge gift I had never before experienced. I had the luxury of relief and I was able to breathe deeply, and finally all the pressures of not having enough was lifted from my shoulders. Although temporary, it has been profound. I have found new strength and over this year several things shifted as my aging mom handed over her little salve business and with the unemployment benefits I have found things evolving to form the new now. I have been busier with my family and intimates, and while I live alone I have never been lonely. My family and friends are a huge part of each day.
I have gained about 12 pounds and have spent more time sitting and talking than walking. I have spent more time with my mom during this year than ever before in my whole life. Old friends who were deeply woven into my life 40 years ago have resurfaced and we have rediscovered our roots together. I am truly a more grounded, more stable, more loving human being than I knew myself to be.
I am peaceful and feel renewed.
I am half way through the vaccination program and freshly reviewing what my new life may become.
All is still unresolved, but I am more excited about creating a life that is richer and fuller than ever before. We all sat by and could hardly breathe while our government unraveled with a horridly selfish man whose actions created lots to worry about as we bonded together. And as we emerge from this massive disruption and hold our hearts open to so many who lost so much, I am a much more compassionate person with a new sense of a renewed orientation for the greater good for all of us!
Even though we have been cut off from bodily social interactions, our phone calls, Facetime, and Zoom have kept us connected to extended family and friends. Only one member of our household has engaged in the outer world, working in a biotech lab. The rest of us have been sequestered at home, some of us able to work from home remotely. Nevertheless, all of my intimate family relationships have been improved, due to the continual adjustments brought about from such constant interaction. Coronavirus has forced us to have more intimate relationships in this household, which has numbered from 7 to 10 of us throughout the pandemic.
There have been some stresses caused by the friction possible in such close physical and social association, but this has brought us to focus more on the love that binds us all together. I would say that this has been truly one of the happiest times in my memory, largely due to the daily play and adventures with my four grandchildren, as well as the chance to spend more time with my husband, daughters and sons-in-laws.
The pandemic year of 2020 and the start of 2021 has been a difficult one for me. Physically it was challenging, with several maladies including a reoccurrence of breast cancer that required multiple tests and surgery in the time of Covid. I was blessed to have great doctors, but every appointment (like every decision that involved leaving the house) was fraught with a risk/benefit assessment. I’m well now, in no small measure due to the love and support of my dear husband and friends who sustained me in my time of fear and anxiety.
It was hard to deal with my emotional swings last year, largely due to the crazy political atmosphere in our country, the amount of time and effort I spent on my version of political activism and the dismal former government non-response to the Covid crisis. This had repercussions on my relationship with my spouse because of my reactivity and sometimes inability to moderate my responses to stress. I have sleep problems and that is not helpful to a calm mind. I do, though, have techniques such as Yoga Nidra, Tai Chi, meditation, singing, walking, gardening, and Zoom stretch classes that help to keep me balanced. Especially in a time when I could not be “out there” participating in activities that would normally give me pleasure and which I could anticipate, it was difficult to focus on the things I could do that did bring me happiness and peace. I was most distressed by not being able to have “real time” and hugs with friends and family. Texting, sharing on social media and Zoom only go so far in filling that void. I’m hopeful now that we have a sane and competent government and more people are vaccinated, that the Covid crisis will recede and it will be possible to resume some of those activities and I will be able to once again return to going to the gym, concerts, art openings, restaurants and home visits with friends again.
One of the most difficult things for me last year and still going forward for at least another 6 months in my estimation was not being able to travel. I’m a planner by nature and trip planning and traveling to see new vistas and cultures both domestic and foreign is one of my great life pleasures. I now have a trip planned to Morocco on 3/22, still a long way off, but I look forward to shorter domestic travel, hopefully by this Summer or Fall.
I feel a bit guilty about how the pandemic has affected me, although I’m not sure I should tell you why for fear that I’ll, well, put the kibosh on my good luck. I’ll tell you, though, because as Doris Day once sang, “Whatever will be will be.”
You see, I’ve been very lucky. I haven’t gotten ill from it, or from anything else over this year. Nor do I know anyone who’s been struck by Covid. Perhaps I’ve remained healthy because I’ve stayed home, masked up, and gotten lots of sleep. At my age, 78, these are not bad actions—-or inactions—-pandemic or not. Also, my age places me in an early cohort for the vaccine. I’ve had my first shot with no ill effect and am to get the second shot this Saturday. Wish me luck on that one, although I’ve heard that a bit of illness from the second is a sign that it’s taking effect.
But my best result is that semi-isolating has brought my wife, Valerie, and me closer. We’ve grown more tolerant of each other’s idiosyncrasies. More than that, we’ve grown closer from the simple fact of being with each other, not letting the other stuff of life come between us. We talk more, share each other’s concerns more completely, and really look at each other more. All improvements in otherwise complicated and busy lives. Perhaps the call to “isolate in place” is a secret to better living and loving.
Author of three novels: Max is Dead, Hangtown, and The Curse of Lucky Joe German
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Photo credit: Phil Mayes