It seems impossible to sum up twelve months–especially the past twelve months–in a single blog post (insert Rent singalong here). But there are a lot of things I want to remember from 2020. So I’m going to do my best to try.
When I think of January, I think of waiting. I did a lot of waiting–waiting to see new doctors, mostly–and I also recognized that the entire year would likely be a season of waiting for me. The Diamonds conference happened and we saw Bandstand in Tennessee, both two things that hugely impacted me.
February I was very sick the entire month. On my 21st birthday I was alone all day, very sick with a fever of 103. I was so weak I could barely lift my head. I spoke with my hospital dietitian on the phone and she put me on a liquid diet (I remember defiantly eating Tostitos out of the bag at night, telling myself it was my 21st birthday and I could start the liquid diet tomorrow). My birthday was also the first time my dietitian brought up the idea of tube feeds. I was living in survival mode and taking one day at a time, constantly saying the phrase “I just don’t know what to do.”
During the month of March, I practically lived at the hospital for appointments and outpatient procedures. I pulled several eight-hour days at the infusion center and various doctor’s offices within the hospital, hanging out at the cafeteria in between. I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria eating lunch one day when I got a text from Kenna: First case of Coronavirus confirmed in our county. (My grandkids will get tired of me telling that story one day.)
In April we sheltered in place and it was a beautiful time. I spent lots of time with my family, lots of time at physical therapy, and lots of time outdoors. I felt relaxed and so happy. We ate cinnamon sugar donuts for breakfast, played silly card games, and I had FaceTime craft sessions with Kenna. I fell in love with washi tape and pen paling, worked on a YA contemporary novel, and listened to Lennon Stella 24/7.
Beyond some family news that took a while to process and a long-awaited medical procedure at the end of the month, I don’t have many major memories from May. Quarantine continued for much of the month, meaning more letters and more cinnamon sugar donuts.
When I think of June, I think of growth–the kind of deep growth that stretches you so much, you recognize it as it’s happening and can practically feel yourself growing day by day. There were some difficult situations and lots of changes happening very quickly. People were coming in and out of my life and I was learning and growing a lot spiritually. The song Hallelujah by Oh Wonder immediately transports me back to that month.
In July I was barely functioning. I’d started having an entirely new set of symptoms in June, and those new issues on top of all my usual symptoms completely knocked me out. The brain fog, weakness, and other symptoms were so intense I literally could not function most days. July was conducting Zoom interviews for my book, wearing my new Frey Life sweatshirt, lying in bed listening to podcasts (something I never do) with my eyes squeezed shut because I physically could not do anything else.
August brought lots of time alone, but some of the normal rhythms of life beginning again, too. I went through a major baking phase. I spent most of September anticipating and preparing for the final week of the month, which held a big medical appointment, a trip to Trader Joe’s, and a family vacation to the beach. I also became more and more obsessed with food during these months.
October was a full season of life. I felt like I was waking up. Brooke got married; I did a lot of things with a lot of people and thought big thoughts about the world (courtesy of Wonder by Shawn Mendes).
November found me excited and impatient for Christmas. I felt so grateful for the little day-to-day things. December was a mix of work, fun, and medical stuff, as it usually is. My Christmas gifts all revolved around either food or pen paling (charcuterie boards, kitchen supplies, stationery items, etc) which kind of sums up my obsessions from this year.
And now we’re here and the year is over. On to something new. We’ve all made jokes about 2020, but for the most part I don’t really like it when I hear people demonizing the year. There’s good and bad in every year and that was certainly true for 2020. I drove through Chattanooga at night with old and new friends, Stay Gold playing on the car stereo. I cried on my couch in disbelief at the news of a family friend passing from Covid. I found a piano painted with sunflowers in a park and sat down to play the theme from La La Land on a perfect September evening. I thanked God when I saw the photos of my grandfather’s house torn apart by a tornado and knew he had survived. I learned to do wings at tap and left the studio exhilarated. I sobbed at my kitchen counter for three hours when, because of my chronic illness, I was asked to not be part of something that I desperately wanted to do. I trailed my fingers through the water from the hull of my uncle’s catamaran, Hallelujah by Oh Wonder running through my head. I laid in bed with my eyes squeezed shut against the sheer pain and exhaustion. I giggled as our pets FaceTimed each other. I drove home from physical therapy doubled over in so much pain I could hardly see straight. I walked on a sandy, shell-covered beach under a purple sky. I cut ties with a group of people from a church whose theology I did not agree with. I slipped the surly bonds of earth and floated eye level with the blue horizon. I laughed and cried and danced and rested and wondered and raged and created. Good and bad, hard and easy, light and dark.
There’s both good and bad in every year, and the bad or hard things that happened in my life this year weren’t necessarily due to Covid. There was definitely a lot of hard in this year. But there was so much good, too. Recently my new life motto has become the phrase “Still good.” (I had a beautiful necklace made from Handstamped Stories by Stephanie with this phrase on it.) The idea behind this phrase is that no matter what happens, God is still good. That even with the bad and hard parts, life is still good. _____ is still good, even if it’s not the way you thought it would be. There’s good to be found in everything.
The biggest thing I learned this year was how to celebrate the little things. Ever since quarantine began in April and I realized how fortunate I was to be playing outside and eating cinnamon sugar donuts and generally having a great time during our shelter in place, I’ve become so genuinely grateful for every little thing. And as my health has deteriorated, I’ve truly learned how to celebrate the little things, finding sincere joy and excitement in small everyday things. When you have to live day to day, it’s easier when you recognize how beautiful the day to day can be. I’ve been greatly influenced in this area by the Freys and by my friend Kenna, and I really like this quality in myself; it’s definitely something I am actively trying to continue cultivating.
What else did I do in 2020? This year I read 174 books (more details here). As near as I can figure (I didn’t start recording each one until May), I sent 482 letters in 2020 (equaling out to $265 worth of stamps–not to mention the envelopes and washi tape and stationery, lol. Singlehandedly keeping the USPS alive). I received 282 letters from May to December. I watched 20 movies and a couple of TV shows; sadly, watching movies is something that became more and more difficult this year due to my symptoms, and I miss watching movies so much.
I had 70 total medical appointments this year, including procedures and physical therapy. I don’t have space to get into everything that happened medically this year, but my health was the worst it’s ever been in my life and it’s like a full-time job managing my chronic illnesses. And in 2020 I went to five states, taking a trip to see a musical, a couple of trips to see my respective grandparents, a family vacation to the beach, and a bachelorette trip.
I also paid my 2020 dues–that living-through-multiple-historical-events-simultaneously life. In the spring I was given a letter that told I was going to physical therapy, an essential service, so I could show it to police if I was stopped during our shelter in place. In the summer I laid in bed and read about the protests raging through my city and the army tanks just a few miles away. In the fall during the presidential election I watched my state flip blue. And in the winter I cried when a family friend passed away from Covid. So much of this year has felt surreal. This is the stuff of history textbooks, and here we are living it.
My journal from this entire year is like a broken record: I miss being able to be active and work out. I miss being able to be creative. I miss watching movies, I miss writing fiction, and I miss creating with people/dance/theatre. Not being able to really do these things has left a big void in my life. I hope that my health will allow me to create the way I want to in the future. But whatever happens, it will still be good and I will still be excited and grateful for the things I am able to do.
Moving into 2021 I feel peace and readiness. I’m so grateful for the hobbies I enjoyed, the friendships I deepened, and everything I learned over this past year. 2020 was still good, and I know every subsequent year will be, too.
This ended up being a massive post, so if you made it all the way through, thanks for reading! If you want a dose of emotions at the end of the year, check out this video and this video. What did you do in 2020? What were the highlights of the year for you? How are you feeling about 2021? Let’s chat in the comments! (Also, shout out to Kenna for being my personal photographer this year and taking all of the photos in this post!)