I write a year end thing for myself, and to share, every year and have done for about 15 years. Normally I love writing these but this was not an easy one to write. Not because I am reluctant to see 2020 go, but because so much awful has happened in the last 12 months that I struggle to write much of anything that is not just doom and gloom for the year past and the one to come.
The year started out well enough. After some debate my friends and I decided to stick with Free Play Arcade’s 90’s themed NYE party assuming we’d have plenty of 20’s themed parties throughout the year to be able to buy sparkly drop waist dresses and wear layered pearls to. How little we knew then… In early March we hit the slopes for snowboarding to avoid the spring break crowds. Just one week after we got home from our trip the ski resorts closed cutting off those spring breakers all together. We had a few friends over on March 14th to play board games for Kevin’s birthday and celebrated with our families the next day. My family made a last minute decision to celebrate my nephew’s birthday as well that sunday and cancel the following sunday’s dinner. We knew things were going to be rough for a while, but we had not realized that Saturday game day and Sunday birthday celebrations would be our last indoor and maskless for the year.
Things got weird and even Kevin, an engine mechanic on giant planes, was “working” from home for a while. I had set a fairly simple New Year resolution for 2020 and was suddenly very thankful for the wildly appropriate goals. Ride More, Read More – oh man was a pandemic perfect for that. I expected to read maybe 30ish books in 2020 and felt it might still be a lofty goal considering how busy I intentionally make my social life in the years that Kevin deploys. COVID however didn’t give a shit about my social plans and I suddenly had all the time in the world to read. I’m about halfway through my 43rd book this year, Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey, and not including this one I’ve read 15,013 pages in 2020. The books I chose kept no boundaries for genre or subject. I read no less than 6 books on US political history, multiple celebrity memoirs, quite a bit of fiction, a book on the 7 years war in Iran, a handful of books on civics and philosophy, and (of course) more than a few Sci-Fi novels. I kept up with riding my bike as well and have ridden every month, nearly every week, except in May. I’m not sure why I never got on my bike in May, but I didn’t, not even once.
I had hoped to maybe go to Caddo Lake or find new mountain bike trails way out west for our 8th anniversary road trip in May, instead we had ourselves a little day trip to Earl’s Art Park in St. Joe, TX just about an hour or so from home. That same month George Floyd was murdered while being arrested for using a counterfeit bill. Floyd may have been the breaking point but his was only one name among far too many sparking protests against police brutality across the country while infection rates for COVID continued to rise. Largely peaceful (outside of the police proving the protesters point by violently attempting to disperse the crowds) some riots did break out as well adding to the fear and outrage on all sides and somehow making many Americans feel it was ok to be unapologetically racist. At the time it seemed nothing would change except the names of buildings and a few monuments to traitors being pulled down however, if you’re still paying attention, many states and cities are finally begining to make changes to their laws and at the very least firing officers who murder while on the job. While these things are long overdue it isn’t enough. Many new names to remember have been added since Floyd. Casey Goodson Jr. was shot to death while unlocking his door holding subway sandwiches earlier this month, and Andre Hill was killed by an officer during a non-emergency call just last week.
The pandemic, first thought to last only a month or so, continued and worsened.
Our federal government was attempting to undermine both the USPS and the coming election by removing mail drop boxes, closing mail sorting locations, and claiming voting by mail was fraud. My family was having Sunday dinners via zoom and retail employees were being attacked, sometimes killed, over asking people to wear a face covering while they shopped. And then, on May 30th NASA and SpaceX launched Astronauts into space and for a few hours everything felt exciting and good. But of course, that same day Brooklyn police drove their SUVs directly into a crowd of protesters and in multiple cities journalists were being arrested and shot with rubber bullets even after identifying themselves as press. Things only got weirder and worse from there.
Kevin left in June for Air Advisory School in preparation for his coming deployment. A deployment I was sure would be canceled considering Soleimani’s assassination and the pandemic. Cheyenne moved in for a while in preparation to move to Colorado and while things were odd outside my home, we rode our bikes, and drank beer, and watched stupid old movies together just trying to survive the chaos of a modern pandemic. In early July I helped Chey make the move to Denver and treated the trip back home as a sort of solo vacation. I stopped at all the roadside attractions I knew of between here and there snapping selfies with a pillow that looks like Kevin. By this time, it had become painfully obvious that his deployment would still happen despite the drawing down of troops in his original mission location, an ongoing global pandemic, and political uncertainty in the strangest and most tense of election years. He did get to come home for about 8 days near the end of July before heading out of country – we rode our bikes and distance visited with as much family and friends as we could before he left again.
Then, I was alone.
Due to the pandemic every trip and event I had pre-scheduled to distract myself with during our separation had been cancelled so, I rode my bike and I read – a lot. I updated my flowerbeds in the front yard, built a blind for the AC unit and put up a fence to hide the old ATT utility pole in the back yard that I painted like a sunset. I put in a new flowerbed in the backyard as well and planted Texas Sage and wildflowers. I spent a lot of time in a hammock I had nearly forgotten I even owned. I started distance hanging with friends in driveways and my family began holding Sunday dinners outside in our various backyards. I painted all the common spaces upstairs. I painted my office and hung fairy lights and new shelves and completely rearranged it twice. I built a cabinet for Kevin to house his gaming consoles in our game room. I learned through the cabinet project that I still hate staining wood. My girlfriends and I started mailing each other cards and stickers and we became more actively engaged in a group message originally created a few years back to plan brunches. We grew closer than we were pre-pandemic and we cared for and held each other up when we needed it. We listened when someone was struggling and encouraged each other through text and gifs and videos. My sanity this year has only held on because of these women. I am more thankful for them, and their friendships, than I could ever express. To the rest of you, Arthur, Eric, Bassey, Adam, Allan, Chris and Christina Haley, Ben Tucker etc. that regularly checked in despite my repeating “I’m fine.” over, and over, and over again, thank you. This year has been lonely and hard for so many of us and I cannot thank you all enough for checking in on me even though I’ve been rotten at checking in on all of you.
Some good things did happen this year. I went tent camping for the first time in a decade this September and was introduced to the absurd joy of geocaching in November. Even though my annual Post Halloween Party was cancelled I still managed to organize an online costume contest complete with digital ballots and handmade trophies that I mailed to the winners. Biden/Harris won the general. I built a new backboard for my dartboard and have rearranged my garage about 20 separate times and added wheels to both of my work benches – getting to and using my tools has never been easier. I’ve started designing and making my own stickers and made little cartoon sticker versions of many of my friends to mail to them for Christmas.
I decided to create a pandemic bubble with my mother and father, both retired, since I work from home and live alone (while Kevin is gone) and can easily keep myself isolated enough to not have to worry about exposure. They started coming to my house every Thursday for lunch and I have spent multiple weekends working in the shop and riding bikes with my dad and hanging out with mom. I told everyone my parents were my bubble because they needed it but really, I was the one who needed it. With Kevin deployed and a global pandemic raging the ability to hug my parents without worry was necessary for my own mental wellbeing. I’m fairly certain my mom and dad are my very best friends. I’m so glad that some good was able to come from spending months and months apart from my husband – while COVID kept so many families and friends apart, I got to at least be close to my parents. Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went without hugs or elaborate tablescapes but were still celebrated with my sisters and brothers in law, and all the nephews and nieces – outside.
I could write pages upon pages about our government and the absolute political horror show that has been 2020 (RIP RBG) but honestly, I write enough of that already and there is no need to continue to sum it up here as well.
I ended my yearend review of 2019 with “2020 is going to be a big, tough year.” At the time I was only thinking about how big and tough 2020 would be for me personally with Kevin gone half of it and the potential of Trump winning a second term. I now know it was a big, tough year for just about everyone the world over. Tonight I will watch The Avett Brothers Virtual New Year’s Eve Celebration at home with my cats. I have wanted to go to their Charlotte, NC NYE concert for years but I have not ever managed a vacation over the holiday. This year, due to a pandemic, the concert will come to me via the internet and I’m actually pretty excited about it.
I’m happy to see 2020 go. Not because I think everything will magically be OK, or “back to normal”, or that Biden will somehow fix everything broken in the US, but because 2020 was a shit year and I’m ready for it to be done. I’m sure 2021 will be difficult, the pandemic won’t just disappear, there will still be power struggles and political unrest, and the half of our nation that voted for (supported and encouraged even) Trump will not just suddenly become capable of empathy for those not like them at midnight tonight. 2021 will however end this solitude I’ve been living in by giving me back my husband. 2021 will, hopefully, allow us to see a resolution to manage this pandemic we’ve been living in. And 2021 will bring with it a new administration – an administration that undoubtedly will make mistakes and not do near enough, but at least we’ll be able to breathe a little while we continue to work toward actual change.
It seems I am going to write about politics after all. The below is going to get a bit preachy. I’m not sorry about it.
It is important that all of you who suddenly started researching and learning how our government works in the past 4 years continue to do so going forward. Trump is not, was not, the actual problem but a result of a myriad of problems that have been quietly growing within our nation for decades. We’ve never been perfect and we’re unlikely to ever be perfect but without civilian participation we will never get the chance to try and are just going to see another, more charming and better speaking, Trump again in the future. It is our job to make sure we not only scream about politics into the void of social media or over brunch with like-minded friends but to actively participate. Vote, in every election – especially the little ones. Donate to politicians and activist groups you believe in. Talk to your candidates, meet them in real life (once it is safe to do so considering COVID). Volunteer, talk to your family, listen to others, do the research, and learn about how your state is governed. Know your city counsilmember’s name and what district you live in. This is our nation, our home, our neighbors, our friends, our families – we have to do the work.
I have received a lot of eye rolls my entire adult life for being “so into” politics. I’ve been called an alarmist, a libtard, too conservative, a feminazi, an idiot, unamerican… I’ve been told I have my head in the sand about “what is really going on” and then in the same conversation asked why I care so much about politics, by the same man. I’ve been told that I can’t call myself a patriot because I question and criticize the president (that is basically how American patriotism works btw) and then also told that I am blind to the atrocities my nation commits because I have an American flag in my yard. I’m a leftist to conservatives and not liberal enough to many. I’ve been criticizing and supporting my country for as long as I can remember. I’m not walking a line, I’m merely informed and understand that every nation, ours included, does both good and very very bad. I’m not always right, sometimes I back the wrong person, sometimes I accept compromise and baby steps and other times I am infuriated by how broken our system is. This is my home though and I will keep reminding everyone I know to participate in the governing of it no matter how annoyed or frustrated they get with me. Midterms aren’t until 2022 but I promise you there are local elections where you live coming fast in 2021. You want things to change? Start local.
Happy fucking New Year.
Sorry for the f-bomb mom, it feels appropriate though and I’m leaving it.