Most news sources, newspapers, and magazines have recently been publishing articles reflecting on the past year as we have now hit the one year mark of the WHO declaring Covid-19 a global pandemic. Even though I clearly value reflection and writing, I haven’t been drawn to read any of the articles yet. Maybe it feels too soon or something. I’m still living it, so why do I want to read reflections on the global trauma of the last year? I think I’m still very aware of what has occurred in the last year.
I will say that as we approached this one year mark, the overlap of the pandemic timeline only served to heighten my anxiety. There was something novel about being able to say, “One year ago, we didn’t know this was going to be our last date night out.” Or “One year ago we saw our last movie in the theater together.”
But those statements can’t be made now. We’ve crossed the threshold of time, and every memory from a year ago now is a part of the same pandemic we are living in currently. I don’t need to tell you this, but this has been one long year. When I do think back to this time last year it still remains very vivid for me. Sarah was very sick with very bad symptoms, and we thought it could be this new coronavirus somehow, even though at this point in Nebraska we had only eighteen confirmed cases. Because of this, it was near impossible for us to convince the doctors to test Sarah for Covid. She did eventually see a doctor and was taken to the Covid unit of our most prestigious hospital where they had already established a wing of their hospital to be solely for Covid-19 patients. Sarah was treated by nurses and doctors wearing hazmat suits akin to those worn in the movie E.T. She ended up testing negative, and was given a diagnosis of bronchial respiratory virus of unknown origins and sent home to rest and quarantine. Her symptoms lasted nearly three weeks. Three months later she would test positive for Covid-19 after being exposed by a girl in our home who had tested positive. (That girl is now our daughter!)
It was the next week that everything went into lockdown mode for us. School ended earlier than had been planned before the girls’ Spring Break, and all family passes were cancelled. We were asked, like the rest of the country, to be serious about doing a two week quarantine where we stayed home, away from other people, and hunkered down to “flatten the curve.”
During this time things were so new and unique that it almost felt…exciting. There was a rare sense of unity. Everyone was doing this together. It was a once in a hundred year sort of experience where we all were asked to take the threat of a virus serious and quarantine ourselves from the public. If we all could do it, we could stop this thing right now.
Being in a group home with eleven other people in this situation made this something that we felt we could make the best of. We made a daily schedule for ourselves. It started with journaling every morning and ended with watching a movie every night, a movie that usually dealt with apocalyptic themes. We played games, and had inside jokes, and eventually spoke in fake Russian accents when we realized we were starting to all go a bit crazy.
We zoomed past that two-week mark and thought, “Maybe another week or two and things will start going back to normal.” But then when we hit that milestone and realized that this had a potential of stretching on for, dare we say, months, our attitudes started to shift. The desire to get back to “normal” was a driving force for a lot of people. Seeing people gathering in restaurants on TV and in the movies started to feel odd. There was already a sense of nostalgia about it. The novelty of a global pandemic had worn off and people were growing antsy for things to get back to how they used to be.
But that’s not how viruses work, and that’s not really how society even works. When major events happen in our world that disrupt what “normal” is, we don’t somehow find our way back. That doesn’t exist anymore. Society is forced to build from or upon what has changed. I think it’s taken a full year for us to realize there is no going back to “normal.” The world has forever been altered because of this past year, and so now what does it look to build upon that? What will we change? How do we move forward?
There’s been a lot of reflective questions being posed during this pandemic. Lots of questions that we are all asking ourselves. I saw a question recently that has been rattling in my head for the last few days: “If you could go back a year ago and tell yourself one thing, what would you tell yourself?”
It’s an interesting question, because going into the pandemic I set out to be intentional about as much as I could be. I journaled, I tried to be careful about the messaging of how we think about this pandemic to the girls that live with us, as well as my own kids. I’ve tried to focus on gratitude and empathy during this time. So, even after being so intentional throughout this past year, what would I still tell myself?
Like I said, memories from one year ago at this time still seem quite vivid to me. The adrenaline was pushing me to work hard and push through this unique time to the best of my ability. I was often working alone with the eight girls in our care, as well as having to watch my own boys alone because Sarah was so sick. But as we headed into April and then into May, the memories start to grow fuzzy and fade a bit.
I think what I would tell myself would be to record more videos of my everyday life. I took photos, I wrote blog posts here and there, I wrote journal entries, but nothing quite captures life like simple documentary videos and clips from everyday life. I didn’t do much of that, and so big chunks of time throughout the course of the last year are kind of just…gone. I don’t remember them because my life felt so repetitive, I think.
So as we are now solidly into year two of this global pandemic, my goal is to capture more moments via video, and to take more photos of the mundane. I do take a lot of photos, but often they are when we are on family walks or outings together. They are the moments of great light or happy events. I want to capture more of the day to day stuff that so quickly leave gaps of time within my memory.
And our memories aren’t very reliable. Our memories are intertwined with our emotions. And as we think back on moments from the past, we first get there through our emotions first, and the thing is, emotions shift and sway and evolve over time, making the reliability of our memories fairly faulty. Video is better. It captures moments and sounds in a more objective way, moments less corruptible by our ever changing moods.
I have often kept myself from taking videos, opting for photos, because I think about what it means to be “in the moment” and want to prioritize my experiencing fully the moments I am in. But I am able to do that while also taking photos, and so I know I can do that while taking videos. It just takes time to be normalized.
I have often felt the desire to make more videos, and then I don’t. Videos take time to edit and take up so much space on hard drives (and hard drives are expensive!), but after seeing how valuable literally every photo of my brother has become to me since his death, I know that video is even more powerful. And it pushes me to make more of them.
I won’t beat myself up for missing days, or not being consistent. I have finally learned how to do that with writing. Of course I have had the goal of writing a post every day during lent, and I have not, but I have written as often as I have had the time and emotional capacity to do so. And so, for that, I feel that I have made a lot of progress. I will try to do the same in regards to taking more photos or making more videos.
I’m curious what you’d tell yourself one year ago if you could. What would you do differently? What would you change?