No one expected this past year to go the way it did, I don’t think. Except perhaps my boys, who kept saying – for an entire year before 2020 began – that there’s always a plague in the 20s and we should be prepared for it. Ha! They were joking, but hey, guess they were right. Anyway, here’s a closer look at how the year went, followed by some individual category wrap-ups and my top moments of the year. Because in spite of everything, there was a lot of good in my 2020, and it was the first in many years that I’ve felt real joy.
Note: This post will not be short. You should know that by now. When do I ever do short?
February: We sold our old house (whew!). There was a lot of running and hiking and happiness, a 5K PR, and my cousin’s beach wedding.
March: Birthday month, with seven in our family (!!!). Covid came to town, Morrigan returned home from school to finish the semester virtually, and quarantine began. Lots of Zoom and Marco Polo and online hangouts. I began binging the Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast.
May: The boys finished school and Ambrose graduated without any ceremony. I finished Couch to 5K and began to xeriscape the front yard as a way to deal with my anxiety. A tornado almost hit our house.
June: Returning to hikes after three months without them, only to cancel again two weeks later as covid spiked in San Antonio. Lots of social upheaval throughout the country.
August: Heat, heat, and more heat. Applying for school, getting Morrigan up to Kansas for school, the other boys starting virtual school… (PS – I hate August.)
September: Giving up on school for me. Nope, nope. Never again. Construction insanity. Beginning the medication that caused many problems going forward.
October: My body underwent a sudden, dire change in health that caused a myriad of problems that as of yet no doctor has figured out. It was a month of poor health and much physical pain. Plus Halloween.
November: Continued health problems, plus the election, another covid spike, and lots of Stormlight reading. And Thanksgiving of course.
December: Morrigan got sick. All plans canceled/rearranged to bring him home and quarantine our family for most of the month. There were 2020-style celebrations for Christmas, way too much construction, and the discovery and replacement of the Devil-Bed.
Not going to say too much about these as I’ve been doing monthly check-ins, plus covid basically canceled most of what I wanted to accomplish this year. I did discover a few things about myself and my future plans, though. My career plans need to change, because I don’t want to return to school. I no longer enjoy writing the way I used to, though I hope one day that love will return again. My body is capable of so much more than I thought, even if it was (once again) incapable of weight loss (heh). (Pic: After running a full 5K!)
For most of the year, my health remained pretty much the same as it’s been for years now. I don’t know why it started going crazy in October, but in my mind, that’s just further evidence that my body is fighting something that neither I nor my doctors have been able to identify. (My money is now on the Devil-Bed, but that discovery only came Dec 26th, and I don’t know yet if it’s the full answer.) In any case, beyond that weirdness, I feel quite accomplished in terms of nutrition and fitness this year. I exercised on 231 days, for a total yearlong length of 193 hours. That includes 101 yoga sessions and 417 miles walked, run, or hiked – not quite the 500 mile total I decided I wanted in June (heh), but far more than I expected, especially given the body-situation from October to December! I’m unfortunately ending the year up about five pounds from where I started, but I also have hope that I can make real improvements going forward, which is more than I can say for the past few years!
Home and Family
We just celebrated our first year anniversary in this house last month, and of course, it was an expensive year filled with all sorts of surprises. We’ve replaced the carpets/floors, the a/c system (both inside and out), one of the two toilets, the back door, the deck, the back wall siding, part of the front yard, the water heater, our freezer, the dishwasher, some kitchen drawer facings, and several windows (more than once). Our plans to improve our debt situation were not helped by these developments, most of which were unexpected. The good news is, I feel at home in this house in a way that I haven’t in any house since the one we lived in prior to our move to Boston in 2014. If I suddenly had the opportunity to move back into that old house, I don’t think I would take it now. I love this place. It feels like home. And that’s something I haven’t really felt in years.
The family is adjusting to life in our new reality. Laurence is schooling from home. Morrigan was living up in Kansas on a more full time basis (before we had to bring home home re: covid), and plans to stay up there over the summer. Ambrose did his first semester of college virtually, and will continue that way in the spring. Jason is working from home, and has been told that his team will be WFH for the entirety of 2021, minimum. My cousin got married in Feb, I met another cousin’s son for the first time this year, and too many family members have suffered through covid. As far as it goes, though, things have been relatively well. We at least have had a steady income with all the uncertainty going on, and we’ve adapted as well as can be expected to current life-during-a-pandemic.
Biggest influences of 2020
As one might imagine, the year had some pretty big moments and events. I have a top ten of individual moments below, but these are some of the larger currents that swept through the year and affected its shape.
–Covid: Of course. This affected all of us in one way or another. For my immediate family, this included 1) everyone working/schooling from home for a big portion of the year, 2) some of us spending a month living in Wisconsin while the numbers spiked in San Antonio, 3) total chaos to daily rhythms and routines, 4) multiple family members and friends contracting the disease, 5) several health scares, 6) the cancelation of both Jason’s and my 20th anniversary cruise (May) and our 21st anniversary remote hiking trip (Dec), and 7) total family quarantine/lockdown for a big chunk of December.
–My hiking group: I’m sure I would have gone insane without my hiking group this year. I only discovered them in December 2019, and they have been a godsend. They’ve helped me overcome the mental health challenges that the pandemic threatened, kept me connected with other people in a time of isolation, and bolstered my self-confidence back to pre-trauma levels. It’s because of this group that I’ve felt so much happiness and joy in 2020. Even though we couldn’t host hikes for six months of this year – and I couldn’t attend for most of another due to my family’s covid situation – I still managed to go on 38 hikes with them, a total of 115 miles, and visiting 8 new-to-me locations (a wonder, given my agoraphobia!). All that in less than six months! I’ve made wonderful friends and have begun hosting hikes myself, becoming one of the group leaders.
–Politics and social upheaval: We have so much work to do as a country. It was a year of fighting, and I hope people will continue to fight for the end of racism, police brutality, wage gaps, fat-phobia, gender and LGBTQIA discrimination, and so much more. It’s also been a year of reflection, from rooting out ingrained biases to recognizing what more we can be doing for the community. Maybe that’s just buying coffee from a local cafe instead of Starbucks, or buying from small businesses instead of Amazon. Maybe that’s going out into a protest despite the pandemic danger, or standing hours in line to vote, or seeking out Black-owned businesses to buy from.
–Running: I began the year wanting to learn to run again, and I did so. I accomplished more than I thought possible. Running has shaped my year, from exercise schedules to the nonfiction I’ve read to the posts and groups I hang out with online. I’ve struggled a lot with it the last few months as my health has gone nuts, but I also found joy in each run, in just knowing that despite all odds, I can do this.
–Ash: Our oldest kitty got sick in January, and the entire year has revolved in some way around his health. He has his own room, quarantined off from the other cats as some of them will attack him now that he’s ill and weak. He’s been subjected to all sorts of tests and medications, the poor guy, and he’s probably eaten more treats this year than the other than years of his life combined! We still don’t know how much longer he’ll make it, but he’s holding steady, and has even seen a bit of improvement in his energy in December! We’ll continue to make him as comfortable as possible, and hope that this current upswing isn’t a temporary bump.
–The Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast: I started listening to this podcast right around when the pandemic began, and it has been a major influence on my year. Not only have I been listening, following the creators, and participating in the online group of podcast fans (this means many spooky silly memes, and is an utter delight when everything else is so serious!), but other parts of my life have been affected. I’ve hardly read anything this year that isn’t a mystery or paranormal novel of some kind, for instance. It’s like living in RIP-mode year-round! My sister started listening as well, and the two of us started remembering stories of our own Ouija and paranormal experiences as kids. I feel like another part of me that was lost back during the trauma of 2014 has been returned, and I feel more whole for it. (Art credit: Real Life Ghost Stories)
Top Ten Moments of 2020
I had to really think about these, but unlike past years, I didn’t struggle to come up with ten – I struggled to cut down to only ten! All things considered, it really was a wonderful year. Despite everything. I know. In no particular order:
- Birthday, or my Year of Adventure: It didn’t exactly turn out to be as adventurous of a year as we had planned, but Jason made this whole day absolutely amazing.
- Lost Maples: Discovering that history had been made right as my group reached the top, with all the cheering and celebrations that followed (all throughout the park)
- Running: Two moments go into this – the first time I ran 20 minutes straight, something I didn’t think I was capable of, and then later running a full 5K without stopping!
- Jen’s wedding: It was a lovely beach wedding, and it was incredible to be able to go up in front of the family and do a special reading as part of the ceremony!
- Triumph: May not seem like much to most folks, but I triumphed over my agoraphobia to call into a Zoom get-together with the hosts and fans of Real Life Ghost Stories.
- Chocoholic Frolic 5K: Jason and I did this 5K together – actually a leftover birthday gift from the previous year, a 5K run together! We walked/ran it, and I made a current personal best 5K time!
- Awespren: Every once in a while, an author impresses me so much that it leaves a great mark on my soul.
- Moment of Silence: In October, my hiking group leadership team went out to Hill Country State Natural Area, about two hours from San Antonio. At one point during our hike, we stopped and let full silence descend. No people, no sounds of birds, everything muted by fog, until the silence was louder than noise. It was incredible, like seeing a night sky outside the city for the first time.
- Compliment: There is a woman that I know online, barely an acquaintance but someone I admire greatly. I honestly had no idea that she took any notice of me until mid-year, when suddenly she started telling people that I was a badass and that she admired me for my running and boxing-in-a-dress. !!!
- Sleep: The discovery of the Devil-Bed may have been extremely rage-inducing, but the nights following – on an air mattress, with the Devil-Bed removed from my life completely – were amazing: 10+ hours of restful sleep without sleeping meds, so that I felt more refreshed than I had in years.
Favorite Photos of 2020
Last up for my year in review, I’ve chosen my favorite photos from throughout the year. This was the first year that I actually managed to take at least one photo per day – in the past, I tended to stall out in the fall whenever I tried this kind of project. I adore photos, even if I’m not a great photographer. I love the memories they capture. Each month this year, I’ve picked out 12 favorites. Reducing that to only a dozen for the entire year was impossible, and would be entirely arbitrary, to be honest. But here’s what I’ve got instead – my top, um, 17 photos of the year, excluding hiking photos, which I included in the massive collage above:
Top, left to right: Esperanza blooming; self-portrait of anxiety-induced isolation; cairn by the giant tree off Salado Creek Greenway. Bottom, L to R: “hipster soup;” Jojo in attack-mode; the most Texan Christmas ornament ever…
Clockwise from top left: Vinca in the front yard; sunset over Woodlawn lake; Gavroche in attack-mode; embracing my body in every way; one of Ambrose’s senior portraits
Top, L to R: Jason and me in our matching Chocoholic Frolic hoodies; my boys posing (with reflections) on the beach; lizard! Bottom, L to R: Ash hanging out in the dining room; tiny bee on a beautiful flower; shadow over the new patch of garden.
As always, these photos are taken by me and unedited.
So there you go. A very wordy, very in-depth look at a year that was wildly unpredictable, insanely long, and honestly the best I’ve had in many, many years. I won’t pretend it was perfect or that it didn’t have its negative moments, but I can look back at 2020 and feel a bit fond of all that I experienced under these bizarre parameters.
Happy New Year, and cheers to a hopefully-less-insane 2021!