2020: the year that wasn’t

When news came that Sheffield was entering into tier 3, nearly a month ago, I really struggled. I’ve been treating this year as a ‘blip’, a crisis to come back from, believing an end has always been just around the corner.

Since March, I’ve been taking a couple of months at a time. At first, I took up couch to 5k, and then 5k to 10k, telling myself that the end of each might coincide with the possibility of a return to all the social things I so loved. In May, after bursting into tears on a zoom call with church community, I made a calendar for until the end of July so that I could more clearly make plans. I mitigated feeling sad on my birthday with a litany of calls, post and a murder mystery. I still moved house in August, I have still made plans, life has still gone on. Although lots of things have changed, I am about as busy as I was before, and for the most part, I am still just as well in myself too.

And yet, when we went into tier 3, with the year’s end around the corner, it tore apart the narrative that I’d been faithfully reciting. This is not a blip, the end is not around the corner.

This is not a blip, the end is not around the corner.

Once more, I have mitigated where I can. I’ve drawn up plans with my house, I’ve been on walks in the dark and cold evenings to still see people, I’ve drawn up another calendar for the weeks until the end of this year.

And yet, something about the blank piece of paper over Christmas and New Year’s, and an empty calendar for 2021, leaves me aching.

I have been wary about writing about my experiences of this year, because I feel like it’s simultaneously too easy to both understate and overstate what has happened. I am reluctant to identify myself as someone who has found this year hard, because comparatively, I’ve had an easier ride than most.

And yet, there’s a reason for my feelings of loss. This is a loss. A loss which is still unfurling and changing. My memories from 6 months of conversations are not sticking because I am hanging every single one to squares on a computer screen. On bonfire’s night I went quiet and couldn’t work out why until I realised I was just longing to be in a crowd, any crowd, huddling to keep from cold, hearing the chattering, and smelling the smoke.

The situations which give me most energy and most life no longer exist.

The last party I went to was in February. The situations which give me most energy and most life – being able to host people for a dinner or games night, going to a wedding, staying over with friends, visiting new places, crowds, parties, weekly meals with community, weekends away – no longer exist. There are imitations and approximations available, but none of them can be done without careful planning. None of them involve hugs, or travel, or hundreds of people, or dipping in and out of multiple snippets of small talk.

I am the extrovert the world is built for, and it’s a world that it feels like we are leaving behind. My greatest need is restoring energy levels which have become increasingly depleted, and I don’t know how to plan for a future where there are no guarantees that I’ll be able to refuel in the ways I long to. I am a social person and a planning person who cannot be social and cannot plan.

I don’t feel like I can grieve this loss well, because it’s not over yet, and I don’t know when it will be. I don’t know how to grieve for a slow catastrophe. I don’t know, even as the gnawing pain of a diminishing baseline of energy becomes harder to ignore. My only strategy is taking a month at a time, and it doesn’t feel like that could possibly be enough.

My instinct if this was a loss caused by any others means, would be to gather with others; it feels like a cruelty that this is precisely what we are unable to do right now.

I deeply wish that I could feel like I’m not – at some level – holding my breath.

I don’t know what your experience of this year has been, or how you are feeling in this moment. But this is how I feel. I’m tired. And I deeply wish that I could feel like I’m not – at some level – holding my breath.

Really what I’m missing, is the same level of being able to connect and find meaning with others. So, would you comment here or message me, and tell me how this year has felt for you?