From time to time I read a phrase in novels that’s used to describe a veteran who’s in bad shape: “He had a hard war.” I’ve never been given an official definition, but from context, I understand this to mean that war is soul-crushing for everyone, but even worse for some. Could be because of their own experiences, or things they’ve observed, or things that they’ve lost.
In the future, I think many of us will look back at 2020 (and 2021, although it’s discouraging to acknowledge that we’re not done) as the crisis of our lives. The things that have happened in the past year have been as close to war as I ever hope to get, and I say this with the full acknowledgement that I’m in a place of privilege. I haven’t lost a loved one, or a job, or my safety, or my health. In other words, I haven’t had a hard war. All over the world there are people who have risked and lost far more than I have, and will be changed in ways that I will never understand.
With all that being said, I still want to acknowledge that the past year has been terrible.
I’ve hated having to feel afraid all the time, particularly afraid of other people. I really miss my parents and my siblings and their families and all my friends who don’t live in my town. I haven’t left the state in a year. I’ve been out to eat about twice in the past fourteen months. My office is also in my living room/dining room and I’m tired of looking at these walls. It’s hard to feel connected at work. Many (SO many) of the ways that I think this year has been terrible are related to being 14 years old and a ninth grader, but that’s John’s business, and I’ll leave it to him.
Anyhow, if you’re reading this, you’re alive. You know what this was like. You have your own list.
But I do just want to say one extra thing. As we struggle through what I hope are the last days of extreme pandemic shutdown (at least in the U.S.), what bothers me the most is the loss of time. I’m no longer at a point in my life where the future stretches out ahead as an unmeasured expanse. Every day I’m aware that I have just three more years with John at home before he leaves for college. I think about my nieces and nephews, some of whom are in the process of leaving childhood behind and will not want to hang out with uncool aunts for long. My parents are almost 80. I don’t think I have unlimited time with all my Vermont friends. My physical abilities change every year, and I’m as capable now as I’ll ever be, but worse than I was before.
It’s grim, but I can’t help counting all the things that I have left. Now there are fewer days, fewer trips, fewer dinners, fewer walks. You always hear people complain about how they’re too busy, and that’s not what I mean here. This isn’t about the day to day struggle to tick boxes off a checklist. I mean that actual life is slipping past. The seesaw has already tipped from weighted towards the beginning to weighted towards the end. This pandemic reached in and carved away a year. I didn’t have a year to spare.
Time not spent with people that I love is time that I can’t get back. Time stuck at home, particularly for a person with a degenerative disease, is priceless time wasted. I haven’t had a hard pandemic when compared to many, many people, but I still feel as if something has been stolen and I’m furious about it. I am incensed.
When I stopped writing in this blog before, it was partly because I was tired of my tone. I was always finding a bright side at the end of posts, and I didn’t feel like finding them for a minute. I don’t feel like finding one today either. I’m just going to leave it here at the intersection of pandemic and furious, and I think there are probably plenty of people who live in this neighborhood with me.