Shortly after what I view as world lockdown began, March 11, 2020 (the date would no doubt vary from place to place and person to person), I began what I called "The Covid Journal." Thinking, like so many, that this change in our lifestyles would be short-lived, I chose a rather small journal I had bought two years before at Sennelier in Paris. I would record thoughts from this time in words and watercolor. It would all end neatly, when Covid and masks were a thing of the past. Not necessarily a happy ending, but an ending.
I should have bought a bigger book.
Those who have read the Marmelade Gypsy for quite some time may remember that on March 10, Rick and I headed to Canada, stopping to celebrate 24 years together at a lovely restaurant along the way.
When we reached our friends, the news was on and as we watched the horrors of overcrowded hospitals in Italy, canceling of NBA games and many others, video of shopping carts overloaded with toilet paper and a grim announcement that international travel into the U.S. was halted, we were stunned.
It wasn't that this came out of the blue. For a week or two before, Rick had been contacting the trade show he was set to attend a few days after the stop in Canada to see if it was canceled. The news from Italy and other places in Europe wasn't good. We worried about our friend Giorgio, who lived in Torino, with the north of Italy being very hard hit.
But, as he set off the next morning for the show (which did end up being canceled, something he found out while on the road), I stayed in Canada until the border was ready to close, where I first noticed empty shelves, carts full of toilet paper and hand sanitizer in book shops. We had no idea that two years later we would still be dealing with a disease that was smarter than all the world's best scientists, with mutations as mercurial as the moods of a toddler.
Last year at this time I wrote about the things I'd learned in the previous year of Covid. Reading it again, I didn't realize quite how much that was!
Over the past few days, I've looked back on this journal again and thought even more about the past two years, how it has changed me and how it has changed our world.
For me, it has meant a quieter life. In all honesty, I haven't missed the life I had before all that much. Yes, there were events that broke my heart to miss -- family holidays, the birthdays of friends, the wedding of my cousin's daughter. And days like "Fathers Day" or "Mother's Day" should have been with family. It was just Rick and me.
I was supposed to be in England in 2020. And when that wasn't possible, 2021. And now, who knows?
So many things were canceled. But in many ways, my life opened up.
Oh yes, I have had a meltdown or two. The pity party we all probably experienced now and then.
And yet. And yet.
I savored the time I had with Rick and the time I had independently. Time to do things I wanted to do and often got put behind because of one obligation or another. I could still walk to the ditch, spend time at the cottage, paint, read, write, cook.
And yes, we had to wear masks and our hair grew and grayed and mine was colored and grew and grayed some more. I can work with that, because I'm here to tell the tale.
Dinners at our favorite restaurants became dinners for two, quiet times on the porch at the lake, and wonderful conversations.
And, when things eased, in the ebb and flow of Covid over the past two years, we had wonderful, albeit small, gatherings.
I suspect I will always have a mask (or two or ten) at hand and that there will be times when I will lock myself down again and carefully monitor whom I see and under what conditions. I don't for a second believe this is over, just resting.
And why not throw caution to the wind when all restrictions are off? Here's why.
I have enough issues that might prevent my having a long life with these little guys. I don't intend to let Covid or its ugly stepsisters to be one of them.
I have purged the cacophony of the group for a good conversation between one or two dear friends, hopefully in person, but if not on Zoom. Thank goodness for Zoom. It keeps me in touch with those farther away or larger groups.
I have purged "I've GOT to do this" and "I SHOULD do this" for "Do I NEED to do this?" "Do I WANT to do this?" "Will I be sorry if I DON'T do this."
I have always placed great value on deep personal relationships and joy. But now I realize that things can change in a heartbeat -- literally. Part of that is the nature of aging. For those of us "of a certain age," regardless of situation, there is less time than there was before. Part of this is, of course, illness, which can come in all forms, at all times, at all ages. Loss is never easy and it will be more prevalent, Covid or not. What business is unfinished when it comes to saying goodbye? I hate unfinished business.
The past two years were learning years -- readjusting old habits. I appreciate and value all the more some simple things, like going to the grocery store and picking out my own produce -- something I didn't do for a very long time. And hugs. Oh, how I missed hugs. How good they feel now.
We took care of each other in the best ways we could, whether it was keeping distance or helping out. Eventually I stopped home delivery and Rick shopped for me. We kept six feet between us pretty much all the time until we were vaccinated in February 2021. That was WAY too long. And when we could, which was rarely, we saw the little guys -- who were growing up far too fast.
Globally, I think our world has flunked the tests. The tests of wisdom, kindness, selflessness versus selfishness, truth and trust.
I have seen far more anger than I ever would have expected. Much of this is cloaked in political partisanship with standards of behavior that became -- for lack of a better term -- normalized over the past four or more years.
Civility seems to be a thing of the past. There is no gray, only black and white (or red and blue). It's as though the lid came off a simmering powder keg. Pandora's box was opened.
Or, to quote Theognis of Megara, a sixth-century BC poet:
Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind;
the others have left and gone to Olympus.
Trust, a mighty god has gone, Restraint has gone from men,
and the Graces, my friend, have abandoned the earth.
Men's judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted, nor does anyone
revere the immortal gods; the race of pious men has perished and
men no longer recognize the rules of conduct or acts of piety. (Wikipedia)
In other words, everything old is new again.
Have we forgotten history? I couldn't help but recall, as all signs pointed toward war in Ukraine, Hitler promising he'd take only the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, not a bit more. "It belonged to us, from World War I" was the argument. Neville Chamberlain and others believed him. Appeasement. We all know how that turned out.
I have never seen our country or our world so far apart. It has taken a war, halfway around the world, to actually unite us in at least one way.
My word of the year is "Endure." I thought it would be another year of enduring Covid and its "children." Maybe it will be, though things are easier now. But it is also enduring the insanity I see in the world -- the wars, the environment, the politics. It's so tiring.
Yes, I've changed. I have little interest now in going to the movies or the theatre or out to a restaurant or to large events. I don't miss them as much as I did in those early years. Right now, I long for moments like this...
And lots more like this.
And more to the point, I value every single second.
Things are easing now, at least for a bit. And that's good. I hope it stays that way. But six million have died worldwide and countless others have been ill and with long lasting effect. Hopefully, the newer variants will be lighter for most. But my docs tell me, not necessarily for me. So, I'll relax, but be prepared. And, I'll hold Megara's words in my heart:
Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind
And I can work with that.