Social Distancing: One Year
Most of the last year has faded into an indistinguishable blur—day after day, we do the same things. One virtual school day blends into another, our weekends are slow and unhurried. There have been a few highlights, a handful of events that stand out, but for the most part, I couldn’t tell you if something happened last week or six months ago.
In sharp contrast, this week last year is still clear and crisp in my mind. On Monday, I took my kids to a new park, and occasionally checked my phone for updates on this new coronavirus situation that was starting to dominate the news. On Tuesday, I wondered how to break the news to my kindergartener that his upcoming, much-anticipated field trip was cancelled. On Wednesday, I stocked up on extra groceries, just in case. (In case of what? I wasn't really sure yet, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to be prepared). On Thursday, I scanned news headlines of schools closing and events being cancelled, and started wondering if our schools would close for a few weeks. On Friday, I sent two kids to school and raced with my one-year-old through an apocalyptic-feeling Target with empty shelves and frantic people, filling my cart with craft supplies, and then on to the library, filling one side of my double stroller with as many books as I could fit. On Saturday, I debated whether or not I should take my oldest to a birthday party, imagining it would be the last time he would see his friends for a few weeks. Later that afternoon, school closure was announced and we officially started pandemic life.
The first weeks felt like a roller coaster. Part of me enjoyed the slow days at home with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Another part of me was frantically scouring the news for more information, trying to understand what was happening and how many weeks it would be before normal life resumed.
I started documenting the weeks, knowing history was happening, and wanting to have a record of how we lived through it. (Week 1 // Week 2 // Week 3 // Week 4) Soon it was clear we would be home longer than initially expected and I found myself desperately hoping for a normal summer while starting to come to grips with the fact that things probably wouldn't be normal for a long time. (Week 5 // Scenes from Quarantine // Week 6 // Week 7) We settled into the first iteration of virtual learning and learned that school buildings would remain closed for the rest of the year.
We spent hot summer days splashing in our DIY backyard pool, and I stopped chronicling every week of pandemic life, because it was clear that it would no longer be measured in weeks. (Month 4) Summer faded away, and a new school year started--virtually. The pandemic marched on, but in the midst of our rearranged lives, there were still many moments of joy to be found.
The weather got colder and the news got grimmer, but there was still hope shining in the darkness. I discovered my favorite pandemic pastime--sitting in parking lots. Winter seemed to stretch on forever, and I wondered how much longer we could go on this. When we were approaching the eleven-month mark of the pandemic, I felt a sense of dread.
Now--spring is here again. It's a full year later and the pandemic has gone on longer than I could have comprehended in those early days. I'm still desperately hoping for that normal(ish) summer that we didn't get last year. Each morning, I check the vaccine tracker and its steady tick upward gives me a new sense of optimism. Every day, my social media feed is full of more people getting their dose, news headlines are trending towards hope, and I can see it--the light at the end of the tunnel.
It's been quite a year. We're tired of hearing all the words to describe it--unprecedented, unexpected, unpredictable, challenging, anxiety-inducing. And it has been all of those things. But it's also been a year of refining, a year of learning, a year of uncovering what really matters and seeing if who we think we are matches up with the way we act in an extended crisis. It's been a year of letting go of much of what is familiar and trying to establish new rhythms and routines. It's been a year of constant risk analysis and questioning decisions and trying to balance the grief of all that has been lost along with gratitude for the things we have gained.
We've tested our endurance. Kept putting one foot in front of the other while the finish line seemed to keep moving. And now we're here, at the one year mark. I'm cautiously optimistic as we start to dream of breaking out of isolation and look towards what the next months could look like.
Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed. Like the world just hit pause last March and we are waiting for someone to hit the play button so we can pick back up where we left off. But time has marched on even while our activities stopped. A whole year has passed, and the spot in the back of my minivan previously occupied by strollers is now housing bikes. We've all grown--some in more visible ways than others. My baby wasn't yet walking when the world shut down and now he's running.
What will things look like next March? How will we have changed? I hope our pandemic days are well in the rearview mirror, but if the last year has taught us anything, it is to hold our plans loosely, so we'll take it one day and one step at a time.
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