2020-the year of the unexpected

For me, the best thing in this horrible year has been the birth of my youngest granddaughter, Maddison Isla. Maybe when she’s older someone will ask her what it was like to be born during the great pandemic of 2020. So Maddi, this digital reflection on 2020 is for you, but also for Claudia, Austin, Josie and Logan for whom this year has thrown many challenges to which you have all risen with great resilience.

Maddison Isla

This time last year we thought the catastrophic bush fires and chokingly thick smoke were the major issues here in Australia. Little did we know that by March we would be confined to our 5km radiuses, banned from travelling overseas and running out of toilet rolls…

There is anger that some governments were too restrictive while others think they weren’t restrictive enough. Everyone has an opinion, a theory, and too many conspiracy theories. 2020 saw a huge rise in facebook-trained epidemiologists and health experts!

Many have lost loved ones; loved ones are still separated by closed borders and many are living out their final days devoid of visitors or looking at them though impenetrable glass when all they want is a hug. 

Everyone has their own 2020 story of the COVID19 pandemic. I know that I’ve had it so easy compared to millions of others, and I am truly grateful. 

January 2020, I started reading more about the virus that was affecting people in China, but I didn’t really think too much about it. My husband went off on the first of his planned overseas work trips in early January and I took myself off to Melbourne for a few days with friends. Late January two of my grandchildren started kindergarten, one began preschool and one started year 2. February was a fun month with friends visiting from Colorado and we also enjoyed catching up with friends from the UK and other parts of the USA. We attended several large events alongside hundreds of people and had an overnight trip to Sydney in a hotel.

Early March and this virus was making headline news and affecting people in many countries beyond China, including here in Australia where there was one death recorded and the first cases of community transmission reported. There was a general feeling of apprehension and even confusion as people tried to grasp just how great a threat this virus was to us here in the Antipodes. My husband’s planned trip to Peru on 15th March was cancelled 5 days before the WHO declared COVID19 a pandemic. By mid-late March the terms social distancing, quarantine, contact tracing and lockdown were becoming a part of everyday vocabulary. 

The week of 9th March was my last week of ‘normality’. We babysat our grandkids, had a haircut, I went to the gym, had coffee, drinks and dinner with friends and did the usual grocery shopping — although there was no toilet paper, tissues or hand sanitiser on the shelves. By late March there were restrictions on how much pasta, rice and mince you could buy.

Monday 16th March we pretty much started self-isolation for 7 weeks. Previous arrangements were cancelled and I opened a Zoom account which would prove to be a lifeline of communication across the world for both work and socialising. WhatsApp groups called ‘iso’ were created and the lounge began to look like a recording studio with microphones and laptops mounted on piles of books to get just the right height for ‘Zoom drinks’ with friends and family.

Friday night Zoom church became a thing and on Sundays you could choose from a plethora of youtube services from churches all over the country.

My birthday was in late March and my husband’s 4 days later. We had innovative friends set up a picnic on our front lawn as we sat at a COVID safe distance with our own little picnic. Another friend threw up some snacks and a balloon onto the front deck and another delivered slices of cake to the door which we ate on the deck while they ate theirs on the driveway!

Our kids and grandchildren would stand on our driveway every other day to chat to us, while we stood on the deck. We walked to the beach nearly every day and stopped to wave and chat to our kids on their verandah on the way back. 

Our eldest granddaughter sent us a week of challenges which included dressing as Kim Kardashian, doing back rolls to drop stuffed toys into a laundry basket, Pops singing the Baked Potato song. My daughter in law challenged me to join her in the Getty Museum ‘recreate art at home’ which was a lot of fun. On our granddaughter’s birthday we were able to help her parents organise a scavenger hunt which ended up with her coming into the garden through the back gate to claim her present while her parents stood and watched at the fence.

Several hours a week were taken up with online ordering — groceries, fruit and veg, books, more books as well as other things that we probably didn’t really need, but helped us to get through, like wine! We binge-watched netflix series and signed up for nearly every streaming service available. I learned to sew masks and started painting again. My husband rediscovered his piano. 

In May we were allowed to meet with people again in very small groups. It felt so good, but also a bit surreal. We still can’t hug everyone the way we used to and we are all more conscious of sanitising and keeping at appropriate distances. Here in NSW we were able to do so much more than our friends in Victoria who were locked down for so many months. It was extremely tough for them, but they are in a much better place now.

I am so appreciative of all the amazing health care workers, service and retail staff, delivery drivers etc all across the world who have worked under incredibly difficult circumstances to provide care and services to us all.

2020 has been such a mix of really bad and really good. Really bad, because people are still sick and dying and the numbers across the world continue to be horrific. Bad because we couldn’t hug our nearest and dearest. Bad, because loved ones died and people weren’t able to say goodbye or attend funerals. Bad because people lost their jobs and their homes, Bad because we saw an exponential rise in domestic violence and suicide. Bad because plans and hopes and dreams were crushed in an instant. Bad because we saw true narcissism at its worst in too many world leaders.

Really good, because we were able to slow down and learn to appreciate the beauty of where we live and to explore locally. Good because it reminded us that human connection is what’s important and thankful that modern technology allows us to interact and see friends and family across the planet. Good because it allowed me to start a daily practice of being intentionally grateful which is good for my mental health. Good because we started looking out for our neighbours and the vulnerable. Good because I finally started to do some of the things I never had time for before —except I never did join the sourdough bandwagon!

As we approach the end of this difficult year, we are aware of the challenges ahead for us in 2021; will the new vaccines, developed in record time, be effective in curbing the spread of the disease? When will we be allowed to travel overseas again? When will people be allowed to travel here? Will the latest cluster in Sydney lead to more restrictions across the state? Will we have to wear masks for a long time?

So many questions with no definitive answers …

No matter what lies ahead, may the lessons we’ve all learned from 2020 about what’s really important guide us towards creating a better future for this fragile planet and its people.

Here’s to 2021 …

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