I’ve seen lots of posts about how 2020 was awful, expressing hope (or threats!) that 2021 will be better. I’ve seen other posts reflecting on good things that happened in 2020 amid the difficulties, expressing gratitude. I’ve seen month-by-month roundups that amusingly describe the increasing chaos of a year that left so many floundering. My year is more dramatic than comedic, with no embellishment necessary. (And this is the softened version…)
January: We wear N95 masks in Canberra while Australia is on fire; covid-19 lockdown begins in Beijing.
February: The endless lockdown means I gradually lose all my consulting work, which is a huge disappointment after finally building up a decent business.
March: My 3-week working trip to Thailand and Cambodia coincides with global changes to covid-19 responses; all my work and social plans are cancelled, and China’s closing border means I unexpectedly travel to Australia.
April: I adjust to life in a household of seven, five of us being “covid refugees” stranded in Australia.
May: I acquire a winter wardrobe from thrift stores and hand-me-downs. I meet my newest nephew (one day old cuddles!!) and am very thankful for time with both him and his big brother.
June: I slide into a deep depression, but have a wonderful GP who works hard to get me better care for my body and mind. Josh and I make the decision to leave China, as there is no end in sight to China’s entry ban. I will not get to go home, even to say goodbye.
July: I spend several weeks with my nephew and niece in Alice Springs when the NT border opens; meanwhile Josh packs up our Beijing home, taking on a hugely stressful workload by himself.
August: I am able to do a little consulting by zoom; we give up our lease in China and Josh moves to the US without me.
September: Josh and I are now 18 time zone hours apart, making it even harder to connect, and I’m counting down the weeks until I finally seeing him again.
October: I travel to the US where we are reunited after 7 months apart! We start settling into our new apartment, with deep gratitude for all the housewarming gifts sent our way by friends around the world.
November: We find a new rhythm and routine together, enjoy time with family, plus do a lot of green card paperwork. I also put a lot of energy into planning FIGT’s 2021 Virtual Conference.
December: We struggle with having so little time together before another long separation, but finish the month with lots of wonderful family time – and food!
And now, 2021 begins. I don’t have any excitement in me, and I can’t bring myself to express hope or other nice sentiments like that. Because in 10 days Josh and I return to living on opposite sides of the world from each other, 19 time zone hours apart. We don’t know exactly how long, but at least 7 months, and up to 12 months. I can’t return to the US until my green card is approved, and with the current situation it will not be financially viable for Josh to visit me in Australia (even if we got him an entry exemption and found him a flight). Upon my arrival in Australia, I’ll spend two weeks in mandatory hotel quarantine (at a cost to us of $2500 USD/$3000 AUD). Then I’ll return to my parents’ home in Canberra, it’ll be February, and I’ll try to find the mental capacity and emotional energy to rebuild and rebrand my business for a virtual world.
I have found silver linings along the way – solid silver, incredibly precious to me. But they don’t erase the huge thunderheads those silver linings surround. They have been moments of light in a year of draining darkness – which means right now they often feel like blips. And yet I know that those good moments are things that will remain, even after the darkness of this year starts to fade. Investments in my health and relationships will never be wasted.
As I watch the last hours of 2020 ticking away, there are no feelings of excitement or gratitude or hope or even relief. Because I know nothing will change for us, that this whole next year will be more draining exhaustion. So in the absence of hope, my tired trust and belief will have to be enough. Because I do believe that I will get through whatever 2021 throws my way. We’ll get through it together.