I don’t know if 2020 was a good year for wine production…
But I think we can all agree it wasn’t a good year for the human race. Yes, I know historically we have had badder (no, that isn’t a word) than bad times before but in terms of the boomers and beyond, it has really taken the biscuit.
I remember a time when every new year came around, I’d hope the next twelve months would be an improvement on the last. Even someone as cynical as I am reserved a little optimism for nice things to happen. But hello January and crushing disappointment.
However, we can confidently say 2020 cannot be bettered in terms of bad (relatively recent) years. It will be, for many orbits of the sun to come, the barometer on which we measure the worst of times.
As Carly Simon said, it makes me feel sad for the rest. Just when we thought we had experienced previously terrible years, 2020 comes along, doing it better.
It was not a brilliant start.
I turned 40 and although I don’t mind so much, many other people seem to, at least, they keep reminding me about its alleged significance. I know that as a woman my currency has taken a nosedive and my womb is dying but still, I’m rocking a septum ring, I enjoy Hip Hop (I can’t name a single tune from that genre, so don’t ask me) I’ve still got some youth poker chips, right?
Along with being gifted middle age in 2020, I also received no work. I didn’t have a career to speak of at the start of the pestilence. It’s true I have not always made the best choices. To suggest I wasted my formative years is to woefully diminish that action. I pissed my youth up the wall and now I’m here, telling you about it.
It can’t get any worse, can it?
2020 wasn’t done giving me its ‘best’.
My 32-year-old stepson was diagnosed with leukaemia.
He went for a routine check to figure out why he ached so much and why his sore throat wouldn’t clear up. His GP thought it might be sepsis, which is also very serious. We all yearned for sepsis when we heard the words “Acute Myeloid Leukaemia”.
He had an aggressive form of blood cancer and we weren’t even out of January yet.
2020 became the gift that kept on giving as the UK went into full lockdown. Hospital visits were restricted and my stepson had to receive treatment alone.
Weeks – months of drugs were given, gruelling chemo stages, one after the other. He took them all like a good soldier. He read all he could about his disease and put on a happy face for his three young children, laughing and joking with them on video calls. He was going to fight as hard as he could, not being there to see his fourth child born was not an option. And he did fight, he fought like anyone would when they have so much to live for.
When your life hangs in the balance, you do what you can to survive.
COVID meant he couldn’t be there to see his son being born. On one of the few occasions he had a respite from treatment, he went home and made some memories. A bone marrow transplant gave us new hope. As ever, he was outwardly cheerful, reassuring us all that things would be fine. But deep down he must have been desolate.
He died on a beautiful sunny day in August.
I got to see him one last time, his organs were failing but he was still conscious. Death was near. He wasn’t that vibrant lad anymore, that chubby, funny kid. I watched, as his parents saw their son, or someone who vaguely looked like their son, slowly drift into nothingness. I knew my husband would never be the same again, and I had no idea how to help fix him.
Grief is grief.
This isn’t a competition. I didn’t reveal this to be smug, or say “look, my trauma is bigger than yours.”
My terrible 2020 doesn’t lessen your experience.
When we care for a thing, we feel emotion. If you lose something important to you, you’ll grieve for it. When your partner no longer thinks the relationship is working, when the company gives you the push, when your parent dies, these are all losses. These things break us in some way and most of us deal with them in private.
Some people self-medicate. It’s ironic that humans hurt themselves to take the pain away. We do what we do to get by, sometimes it works and others, well, you get the picture. I use humour. The dark, blackest of comedy keeps me from going mad. I have to find the funny in a hopeless situation because if I don’t, I’ll be forced to confront the magnitude of what has happened, and until I’m ready for that, maniacal laughter is my coping strategy.
Every bad thing that happened in 2020 was magnified by COVID.
We’ve all lost something.
People have lost their homes and their livelihoods. They’ve lost people they love, their personal freedom and their sense of self. Some people have lost their escape from an abusive partner and remain in a home where every single day poses a threat to their existence. Couples wanting to start a family may have lost their only chance of conceiving.
2020 has robbed you of something.
It’s stolen from you and you might not be able to get that thing back. And I’m not here to tell you to be grateful, suck it up, or don’t complain. The phrase “It could be worse” is not coming out of my mouth.
I bet you had moments of happiness in 2020. Shards of hope that sustained you, tempered the days when you couldn’t get your arse out of bed or lift your head from the pillow. We all sit somewhere on the COVID spectrum. Some have had their worst year and some, unbelievably, their best.
I’ll tell you what though, I am grateful I got to say goodbye to my loved one. Many didn’t have that opportunity, plenty had a wall between them or a country.
And although 2020 has gone, we’re still picking up its laundry and trying to rid ourselves of its impact. In reality, we know it will be some time before we get over this toxic relationship.
That doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to shards of hope in 2021.