It’s the second day of 2021 and I am just now, saying goodbye to the very eventful and different year just ended. This is all about my 2020 — the year that marked such moving changes in the way we all lived, and continues to do the same in the new year. As a fitting goodbye that I can speak to, this is all about what the year was for me. It touched us in different ways, some good and some bad, but everyone was moved in one direction or another by all that transpired.
My son and I were thankfully untouched by Covid, and for that I am grateful. There were the brushes with positive tests from people my son had interacted with, but his own tests always returned negative. It has taught us to be mindful of our interaction with others — and although the anxiety it brought upon was unwelcome, it was enough to get us to be vigilant about protecting ourselves.
I have managed to make working from home actually work for me, and although my company has moved return to office plans from January to May, I am not raring to go back to the office anytime. We adapt. And so far, it has worked well, even when my boss had to return to work in October. I am lucky that she herself insisted I work from home, and that we will keep the arrangement as long as we can for my safety and my son’s.
The pandemic that claimed so many lives has actually made me take a harder look into how I’ve been keeping myself healthy. I walk my steps everyday now, and while the holidays has thrown a curve ball into my diet, I know that I’m on the right track. As one of the people considered “at risk” for being over 50 years of age, and one who has pre-existing conditions like asthma, everything that has happened has given me pause. You have to stop and think what needs to be done to keep yourself safe and healthy. The masks can only do so much, and your body can only take so much as well. This is one of the positive things that 2020 has given me.
I regret that I was not able to go home in 2020, and I honestly don’t see myself crossing the seas anytime soon. It just feels like it’s too much of a risk to put myself and my son in, and there is so much that it entails on both ends of the journey. I can force it if I wanted to, but I don’t. An audible sigh just escaped my lips, and my thoughts were interrupted for a second or two there.
Not being able to travel this year to see my Mom is actually the biggest loss I have felt as a result of the Covid pandemic. I know that this is almost insignificant compared to the lives lost, and the loved ones they left behind. I consider myself fortunate that this is all that I have to sigh about. We will be able to travel again. While I am not counting on this being anytime in the near future, I know it will happen, and I will get to see my family again. I can wait. For all the excitement the thought brings me, I shudder to think that I might be the one bringing them more harm than them doing the same to me, so I will wait. I tell myself: in time.
One thing that I did more of was talk to my mom via video calls — even just to say goodnight or good morning, and have her see that we are well here.
So much has changed in the way we live. I have had the chance to go to the city occasionally the past couple of months, and nothing is the same. So many businesses have shuttered their space for good. Many have lost their jobs. While there is still a stream of people and the occasional tourists (yes, they are still there..), there is such a pronounced thinning of the usual crowds.
I find myself fortunate to be in a state that enforces mask wearing inside establishments. A sign by the door will always greet you saying you cannot enter without a mask. New Yorkers, for the most part, have taken to wearing masks as part of their daily attire. You will still come across people who sometimes wear it below their nose or on their chin or not at all — but rarely. People will usually put it up on their faces when they see someone approaching. That, to me, is a matter of respect for others. It’s not all about what you think, or the discomfort of it all — it’s about being mindful of your neighbor. After the thousands of lives lost in the earlier part of the year when we experienced the worst of it in the big apple, New Yorkers have learned that prevention is key.
It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. We experienced grocery shortages — and just recently, a second wave of the disappearing toilet paper and other essentials hit us, but things have settled back to a semblance of normal. Back in March, I felt the panic when I saw the meat section practically empty. My grocery delivery had shortages even of the most basic items like diet soda. I succumbed to my own version of hoarding but quickly let it go. If I had rice, cereal, snacks for my son and some canned goods in my pantry, I felt a sense of security. In the beginning, I did not venture out of the house except to get essentials every 3-4 weeks. I relied heavily on contactless delivery. Then we relaxed. When the fear of the virus settled and numbers in New York went down, we let go of the gloves and just kept a bottle of sanitizer in our pockets handy.
I went from season to season with most of my usual wardrobe unworn. I went through my closet and realized I had more items than it could hold so I started to weed things out. I didn’t quite go the Kondo way, but I went by the simple rule of asking myself if an item was something I’d wear again. There is a second round in the offing. I also stopped shopping for clothes, save for the activewear I needed to go on my walks, and only because I really never had any. For the holidays, I bought one dress to wear. This winter was the year I was retiring some of my winter coats which had served me well the last four to five years. I was planning on sewing coats and buying one more, but all that has been put on hold. My winter coats are still here, and I have really not worn them outside.
I discovered an entire world of New Yorkers who are down on their luck and asking for the most basic necessities. I joined a Facebook group focused on New Yorkers and there was just such an overwhelming sense of need. I did my part and helped a handful — something I will write about separately. I shared this with my son to show him the reality of an existing problem that was magnified and made worse by the pandemic. But while the local government tried their best to continue to help despite the pandemic, there is only so much that they can do.
Free food is available for all New Yorkers. I remember walking past the school in my area which is the main distribution hub for meals for kids from 7:30-11am or so, and from 11-1:30pm for anyone at all who was hungry. The lines were long — partly because of social distancing — but people needed to eat. That was a jarring reality for me because I live in a predominantly middle class neighborhood. But people’s circumstances have changed and have been affected by the closure of schools. So I no longer found it surprising when I saw the state delivery of a crate of food good for a few days to one of the doorsteps during one of my walks. You even have the option for Kosher, Latino, or regular food. (There might be more, but those are the only ones I had heard of.).
Hotels in the city were turned into homeless shelters to prevent them from cross-contaminating one another in some of the communal dormitory type dwellings. It was that bad that even the Lucerne, one of the more upscale hotels in Manhattan, was turned into a men’s homeless shelter. It created quite a stir among local residents — dividing them sharply between those who were tolerant, and those who wanted the men moved elsewhere. Only in New York.
I think I did pretty okay in 2020. My days were busy with work most of the time, and they were long days, too, but I am not complaining. I work full time — with full benefits. My son has been doing remote learning this whole time, and I think he’s adjusted to it and has actually been doing well.
There were times during the year when I felt the stress of all that was taking place around me take its toll on my peace of mind. I resorted to meditating and lulling myself to sleep using sleep casts, and I continue to have difficulty sleeping sometimes. “Okay” did not mean not being affected — I just coped better than most and I think I managed to adjust to the demands of this whole “new normal” that we find ourselves in. I managed to work around the restrictions we faced — and found my work around. I talked to family and friends. I wrote in my journals. I wrote here.
I am grateful for that.
I managed to continue crafting through it all, working on my art journal. I started sewing masks feverishly but have stopped the last 6-8 weeks to focus on my jewelry making. I am getting ready to start sewing again, though.
I cooked and baked.. gained and lost the weight. I’ve tried to put a semblance of order to my supplies and crafting in general. It kept me sane and distracted. It got me here.
As we begin a new year, I am full of hope for a better one after the challenges that 2020 brought our way. I am cautiously optimistic — and still taking lots of caution in going out into the world beyond my doorstep. Whatever it is that 2020 brought our way, it is far from over. I am praying for continued good health, peace and love. I think I had a good measure of all of that in 2020 — just asking for a bit more for all of us in 2021.