2020: A Look Back (Braces Self)

I almost didn’t write this post. Because do I really want to look back on this year that has felt like a decade, and not in a good way? To be honest, I’m not totally sure I do. But I always do this post, and while this year didn’t go to plan for anybody, I do want to pause to reflect on the unexpected sources of joy and growth that we drew upon to get through this year.

January. We rang in the new year on a hopeful note. Spent New Year’s Day hiking in Old Chatham, New York, then warming up at my high school BFF’s house. Home in Virginia, we also squeezed in a hike at Great Falls – one of our favorite parks. The falls were roaring that day! Later in the month, I spent a week in New Orleans at a litigation training conference. Didn’t get much time to explore – the conference kept us busy – but I did make it out to the French Quarter with a new friend, and had beignets twice. Unbeknownst to me, this was basically the only travel I’d do in 2020.

February. Work kept me super busy in February. I was preparing for a federal jury trial that was scheduled for mid-March, and was logging 14+ hour days, staying in the office until 11:00 p.m. most nights, and working through the weekends, to get through all of the pretrial work. Not many highlights that month – no hikes, no weekend fun at all – but I did get to celebrate with friends at my work wife Connie’s baby shower.

March. Forever known as “the month the world shut down.” Or, our world, anyway. My trial was indefinitely postponed, Nugget’s birthday party (scheduled for the end of the month) was cancelled, and we all headed home to sit and wait out the uncertainty. (Which we are still waiting out.) The kids got an “extended spring break” while their school figured out what to do (basically nothing – one Zoom session a week and a bag of worksheets; tuition dollars vey well spent). We all wondered what this new life boded for the summer and beyond.

April. As our time at home stretched on, new routines started to take shape. The kids and I began each morning with a long walk, often to a middle school soccer field where they could run around, then muddled through my amateur efforts at homeschooling them until lunchtime. Steve took over in the afternoons and I hopped on my work computer and fielded client questions about how to manage their workforces in these weird times. I grasped a bit of sanity via my running shoes and signed up for a training and virtual racing program from Another Mother Runner.

May. More of the same. Still home, still basically locked down. We walked the neighborhood. We homeschooled. We hiked on the weekends – when we could. It seemed like everyone and their mom had suddenly discovered our favorite hobby, and the trails were alarmingly crowded, but we found a few hidden gems. We also started gradually moving things over to our new house, one county over, in preparation for a June move.

June. This month was all about packing and moving. Our truck rolled out of Alexandria mid-month and we prepared to start a new chapter out in the exurbs. The move was bittersweet – away from so many of our favorite places and people. No more walking to the library and the farmers’ market; no more back patio hangout sessions with the best neighbors ever. But a lot of good things in our new town, and we looked forward to learning them all.

July. Steve and I got a long break this month, because the kids went up to New York to spend a month with my parents. We missed them, but it was also really needed – on all sides. We needed a break from the kids and they needed a break from us, and my parents really missed them. Steve and I spent our time “off” from parenting pretty much the way we always do – hiking and kayaking – but without breaking up fights or doling out snacks. Refreshing! And we also did a massive purge of a bunch of stuff we’d been moving from house to house and never using – Steve rented a dumpster and we filled it to the brim. The kind of project we could never do with the kids around.

August. As the calendar turned to August, Steve and I drove up to my parents’ house to pick up the kids. From there, we were supposed to go on to Cape Cod for a summer vacation, but had to cancel last-minute because of COVID-19 travel advisories. So instead, we quarantined in my parents’ house for a week, then drove back home to Virginia, disappointed and disheartened, but glad to be reunited with the kiddos. We tried to make a staycation work, but the weather was crummy and I ended up just working the whole time – and with that, our vacation hopes for 2020 evaporated. I tried to look on the bright side – we were (and remain) healthy, our families are healthy, and we kept our jobs despite the imploding economy – but I wasn’t in the best place. Just very frustrated that irresponsible government and willful blindness and intransigence by half the population had stolen half the year from us, with no end in sight. We were responsible and careful and rearranged our lives to stay home and keep our communities safe, and we felt like we were being punished; it felt very unfair.

September. The year from hell continued into September, as we stared down the barrel of a very different school year. The kids headed “back” to school – to second grade and kindergarten, respectively – but not in the usual sense. We elected virtual schooling for them as the best of all the bad options, and the whole family transitioned, again, into a new routine for our days – Nugget on his computer next to me, Peanut working side-by-side with Steve. Running kept me sane, and I banged out a few virtual 5K races and a trail 10K.

October. Feeling more and more frustrated with having put our lives on hold for so many months and given up so much to subsidize others’ bad behavior, I decided that I was not going to have my favorite month taken away from me. I finally booked that hot air balloon ride – a Valentine’s Day gift from Steve, right before the world went to hell – and we hit the pumpkin patch and took a walk around Old Town to check out the Halloween decorations. It wasn’t much, but it was something. The kids had fun contactless trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, dressed as Batgirl and the Mandalorian, respectively.

November. It was a low-key month; I swallowed my disappointment at not traveling for Thanksgiving and we threw ourselves into local fun. Met up with friends for a hike in Rock Creek Park; ran several virtual races – including Nugget’s first kids’ mile – and celebrated Thanksgiving with a prepared foods feast at home after our dishwasher spontaneously combusted. Good times.

December. The end of an absurd year, but I can’t bring myself to join the voices shouting “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, 2020!” To be honest, I’m too afraid of what 2021 might have in store. We finished out the year the same as we’ve been living since March. Another month of muddling through distance learning, tramping along the trails at Riverbend Park, watching the birds from the kitchen and sunroom windows, and collapsing on the couch at the end of the days. There was one snow, which was fun; the rugrats pulled out the sled and went screaming down the backyard hill with the neighbor kid. I continued to drive the struggle bus. We celebrated a quiet Christmas at home with our little bubble, and looked ahead to hopefully better things down the road.

And so ends the WORST YEAR EVER. I do hope 2021 holds better things in store, although at this rate I’m not especially optimistic. But here we go: New Year’s is just around the corner. Bring on the cocktails.

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