It’s now July 2020, shortly after my husband’s birthday. He ended up saying it was his best birthday yet, because we ended up making something happy out of a bad situation, which is a good principle for the pandemic, I suppose.
We’ve been here in California in some form of lockdown since the middle of March so that is 4 months, over 100 days. 140,000 Americans have died. My husband and I are from Vietnam and New Zealand; in those countries combined, the death toll is less than 50. It is a very odd feeling for both of us…neither one of us can go “home” because the other would not be allowed, so instead we are stuck here where life is still not anything close to normal (at best) and scary (on occasion).
In March, there was awful news coming out of Italy and New York, and Wuhan was just starting to come out of the worst of it. We locked down here, but that was to “flatten the curve” and there wasn’t actually a particularly high risk of encountering the coronavirus when we went to the
supermarket and so on, so we felt fairly safe. In some ways, people were enjoying themselves.Everyone was “alone together”, sharing and making funny videos online, experimenting with Zoom hang-outs and games, musicians and singers were giving balcony concerts, people cheered for healthcare workers nightly, all the advertisements were coronavirus themed, with uplifting messages. People were baking bread, going for long walks, and although we felt sorry for people in the hot-spots, in some ways I think many people decided to appreciate the change in pace. My friends and family in NZ were also locked down, so I felt that connection with them.
My husband stopped working but we received unemployment so it was ok. I did baking, finished my novel, and did a couple of simple paintings. It felt fairly wholesome.
But then it dragged on, and on, and on. The sense of unity disappeared. NZ conquered the virus, so everyone there went back to their normal lives, while I could only look on enviously from across the ocean. Vietnam pretty much managed the same. In the United States, everything about mask wearing and when to lockdown and/or reopen became more and more
politicized and vitriolic. Everyone’s creative output slowed down considerably, and the concerts stopped (of course, the poor performers were tired!). A clear example to me, there was a “mystery baker” who was making and leaving free sourdough starters in his neighborhood near
the start of lockdown. He had to stop, citing exhaustion and a house absolutely covered in flour and yeast. For myself too I felt the creative well dry up, drained away by the sheer monotony and length of the continued shutdown. I have no more urge to paint or colour or write, I can read
novels but not quickly, sometimes I only want to read the news + associated opinions on Twitter, blogs and so on. My husband and I still bake, cook and preserve and I do enjoy that. Maybe being able to eat the fruits of your labour keeps the motivation up!
California tried to reopen too fast, and the coronavirus spread. So just in this last week we’ve locked down more seriously again. My husband has started looking for work but so many people were laid off that there’s a lot of competition. Our patience for the situation and sometimes for each other is wearing a bit thin! But I know that we must continue to obey the lockdown, my conscience compels me to do so, otherwise we are indirectly contributing to the spread and therefore to the deaths.
In the meantime my hope is to not fall victim to loneliness, lethargy, or resentment. I hope one day all of us who lived through this will honor those who did not survive by making the world and environment a better place. Let us see what I might have to write after this second half of the year which we are just now beginning.
It’s now the fifth of October. Halloween month, and they are discussing the risks of trick-or-treating, so that goes to show how well the pandemic has been controlled i.e. not well! Many countries across the world are still dealing with ongoing outbreaks and/or second waves, depending on how well they got the initial outbreaks under control. New Zealand had to do a second lockdown after an outbreak resulted from some sort of transmission across the border, perhaps a lapse at a quarantine facility, but it is a mystery.
Perhaps this is not a sensible step, but my husband and I have decided to stop using contraception. I think my husband in particular is starting to feel his age, and I’m coming up on thirty myself. So far we are not strenuously “trying” to have a baby, but we are welcoming a pregnancy and I’m going to start tracking my cycle more diligently.
My husband has a job now, working from home, and I think that has made him a lot happier, and me as well by extension (happy husband, happy life! Wait, is that not the saying?). Although I don’t have paid work right now, I can do our housework and administrative tasks and feel as if I’m still at least contributing in some way. Working from home is quite nice, we have lunch together and play with or cuddle the dogs and sometimes he has a nap. That being said, my husband himself noted that “the grass is always greener” and that sometimes he misses being unemployed!
I reported in July feeling very uncreative, and I’m happy to report that my husband basically coerced me into doing some more watercolour painting with him, by buying me a notebook and brushes that I couldn’t just ignore! I sent queries about my novel to over forty agents and unfortunately have heard no positive responses yet. Maybe the market is just saturated, and I suppose my expectations were not over-high for a debut novelist with no formal training. Still a bit disheartening though!
The wind-up to the US election continues and the news cycle is ever faster and more crazy. In the last week, there was a debate where one of the candidates constantly talked over the other and the moderator; revelations that the same candidate had paid an average of $116 per year in federal income tax over twelve years; sexual assault allegations against the girlfriend of that candidate’s son, who is also a campaign advisor; and finally that the candidate and many members of his administration caught the coronavirus themselves due to an overreliance on rapid tests that were not used as intended and give a large number of false negatives. I call him
“that candidate” because I don’t like typing his foul name, but no doubt cross-referencing by even the most lax historian would show who I mean.
He was transported to hospital by helicopter, given experimental drugs, insisted on a propaganda drive around the hospital while putting his own secret service at risk, and is apparently being released back to the White House today. It is unclear when he first tested positive, or rather, last tested negative. Quite possible he was infectious at the debate, but so far the distance between the podiums has saved the other candidate from infection.
What effect this may have on the election, I have no idea. Perhaps it will depend on if he continues to recover, or suffers a relapse; or perhaps it will make no difference at all, given early voting and historic levels of turnout (high) and undecided voters (low). My 2020 musings will no doubt need another chapter after the election!
It is now Christmas Day so this is my last entry for 2020. As usual, the year has continued to be a wild, unpredictable and bizarre mix.
Of course the year has been dominated by the coronavirus so with regards to that, as the weather turned colder and people got more tired of restrictions, the number of cases went up, and up, and up, to levels not seen before. Where previously it took several months to add another million cases, it was soon happening in a month, then a fortnight, then a week. This
happened essentially all over the country simultaneously, so many ICUs were at capacity, especially in rural areas where there weren’t many beds to begin with. This means that states could not surge medical staff or patients to different places, so field hospitals had to open and criteria for admission had to be raised. This, of course, has the knock-on effect of more cases becoming deadly, and many people died. The winter surge occurred also in Europe and parts of Asia, and a new, more contagious variant emerged in England, leading to the EU and other countries closing their borders to the UK.
But as I said, the year has always been a mix! So although in the war against the coronavirus there has been much lost ground on our side, we also finished development of our new weapons of mass destruction; the vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine was the first to be approved in the USA, UK, EU and elsewhere, with Moderna following in the USA (and on the approval
schedule elsewhere); others are in review of their phase three results, and healthcare workers and some elderly have already been vaccinated. This is really exciting and should ease the strain on healthcare, with the wider population being vaccinated in the second half of 2021.
The election dominated October and November. November third was horrific as I watched Florida and most of the southern states go red, especially with their first-reported (in person) votes shown first. I went to bed miserable, but still with hope that the results would begin to look
better as more states (and absentee ballots) were counted. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all the same; things looked up for the Democrats, but many swing states were too close to call and therefore the election could not be called. Finally on Saturday morning we woke up to the news I’d been waiting for, that the election had been called for Biden/Harris; as to the Senate, it would all hinge on run-off elections in Georgia in January. We drank champagne at ten in the morning and were happy all day. Unfortunately, the losing candidate would not (and still has not) conceded, and turned to increasingly ridiculous lawsuits to try and overturn the
election. Then to even more dubious attempts, attempting to influence state electors and the certification process. Much of this is just a grift to raise money for the “election fight” but even the whiff of an authoritarian coup attempt is no good in this, the world’s longest-standing democracy.
The biggest news is that in the third month after beginning to try for a baby, I got pregnant! Our baby is due halfway through 2021. I already suspected by the time I took the test, but seeing that little stick that says “pregnant” is still really something wild! I kept laughing in shock and happiness. I really am looking forward to being a parent and having this little baby with my
husband. It seems likely (although not certain) that the baby will be born in America and live in a study-cum-bedroom for the first few months of life, which is not what I ever imagined, but really, that stuff doesn’t matter. Our own families and the family here that we live with were all very happy and excited.
2020 threw one last curve-ball at us of course, which was that, a couple of hours before I planned to tell my husband the news, he fell and broke his shoulder! I had to take him to the ER and of course that didn’t seem like the right time to announce my pregnancy- he was in a huge amount of pain, and I wasn’t even allowed in because of Covid protocols! So I had to tell him the next morning. He was too sore to give me a hug, but we shared a kiss. Ah 2020, you never fail to surprise.
I had my first scan at seven weeks. The baby was still tiny but had a good strong heartbeat which was amazing to hear. Little baby, I think you will be the best thing to come in 2021. I hope also life will begin to return to normal with a new administration and the vaccines.
2020, will we ever see another year as “historic” in our lifetimes? Whatever comes, please, let’s have a few quiet ones first!
Submitted by Rebecca W., Contra Costa County – Lafayette.