The weight of the past year has really hit me this week. The gravity of all that myself, my family and the world has been through feels like it has been coursing through my veins, coming back to haunt me in waves that at times feel like they could wash me away. I can’t help but stop and remember. Frozen for a moment in the reflection of all that this past year has been.
It has been a year of great sadness, fear and uncertainty.
It has also been a year of strength, courage and hope.
When I look back it seems crazy. I remember thinking how will we ever get through two full weeks with no school? It has now been over 365 days that my husband and I have been either working, caring for our daughter, or both.
Not a day has gone by that I have not worried about her mental health.
I feared the implications of her not being connected to teachers and to peers. Trying desperately to be a friend, confidant, grandparent, playmate, educator, and parent. Feeling like no matter how hard I try, that I will never be enough. The mental anguish of being the decision maker. The parents responsible for putting a stop to family vacations, for saying no to playdates, and for cancelling Thanksgiving and Christmas.
How do you explain these decisions to a six year old without giving her nightmares and filling her with fear?
You see, my husband and I both work in healthcare. Essential employees who have been on the frontlines since the beginning. Terrified that we would be the ones to bring the virus into our home. The memories still lurk, just below the surface. Being on the phone inside the house crying, my husband sitting in the car in the garage, afraid to come inside.
His nursing facility was hit hard in the middle of the pandemic. Riddled with over a hundred cases of the virus, understaffed and with residents extremely sick and dying, he showed up to do his duty and tried to be part of the solution.
And he was terrified to come into our bubble and bring it home to our family.
Our bubble was small. If we both got sick who would take care of our daughter? I tried to plan for the worst, making emergency lists and virtual support plans to follow in the event that we all became ill. Short of us being hospitalized, I was determined to make sure that we didn’t need to unnecessarily expose close friends and family.
Our family had already suffered great loss, three elderly relatives gone over the course of the past year. A text or a phone call letting me know that another family member was gone, felt more like a bad dream than a reality. The thought of these vibrant, loving souls dying alone in isolation was almost more than my already beaten spirit could bear.
Three beautiful souls gone from this Earth.
And almost as if it was presenting a peace offering, the universe also blessed our family with three beautiful, healthy babies this year. Born to their parents amidst a sea of masked faces. Entering a world that felt uncertain and at times, downright scary. These miracles have been a bright spot for myself and for my family.
Seeing their smiles light up that screen, learning the features of their faces and watching their personalities grow via Facetime and Zoom has been both beautiful and heart wrenching. As I have watched their proud parents show off their one month, two month, three month, four month, five month photos.
My gut squeezes a little harder each month as I realize all that I’m missing out on. Longing for those moments when it is safe to snuggle them and breath deeply into all that these new lives offer.
Because without hope, what do we have?
At some point during the journey of the last year, I realized that I had a choice. I could try to push these devastating and glorious experiences out of my mind or I could let them change me.
I decided to let them change me.
Digging deep and learning to lean on my strengths. My sense of curiosity and my love of learning driving me to double down on my studies of resilience. To know and to understand what makes some individuals thrive in the face of adversity? You see, I was determined to be one of those individuals.
These experiences changed the way I approached my work. I spent that extra time in isolation rooms against my better judgement, because that’s what I hoped someone chose to do for my family. For my Grandfather, for my Grandmother and for my Great Uncles. Because I understood the value of human connection for both myself and for the souls behind that glass wall of loneliness and fear.
These experiences changed the way I approached my life. Finding a renewed sense of appreciation for professional help and personal growth. For the importance of filling my soul with nature. For living in the moment and for finding joy in the small things. We each have our own experiences and stories of adversity.
For me, this past year has been about learning to write my own ending. To map out my dreams and my goals and to work each day to move slowly towards them.
Please don’t think that any of this has been easy. There have been many tears. Days of grief and fear so intense I wasn’t sure I would survive it. There have been moments where the goal was simply to make it to the next.
And here we are a year later. The sadness is still there. The fear and uncertainty follow me like a shadow. But I would say that most days, strength and courage prevail. The light that feels like hope shines bright and lights up even the darkest of days.
One day at a time.
I am here choosing hope and I see each and everyone of you doing the same. So kudos to you.
To the Parents, to the Providers, of this unimaginable year.
I see you.