Year in Review 2021: COVID Part Deux

So here we go again! The annual trip down memory lane that forces me to pay attention to my life. The wise Julia Cameron said, “Our capacity for delight is directly proportional for our ability to pay attention.” What a challenge to look closely enough to find any joy these days when so many people are sick, antisemitism is everywhere, and it seems we’ve collectively lost our humanity. But I looked closely and found a few things to note. I hope you enjoy.

If you want to really deep dive, by all means: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014.


What did you do in 2021 that you’d never done before?

  • endured the second year of a global pandemic
  • swam with a sea turtle in St. Thomas
  • watched two people i love have a Zoom wedding officiated by a judge across town
  • Snuggled a baby kangaroo
  • Got shat on by a hedgehog
  • Had an ear infection
  • DM’d with TJ Lavin
  • Pretended like COVID didn’t exist for a brief weekend in Nashville
  • Kept ELEVEN plants alive

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t have any, and I won’t make more this year. Resolutions turn out to be unachievable goals that I  can use to self-sabotage and feel shittier about myself. However, here are the things I really want to do in 2022.

  • Take singing lessons
  • Do more art
  • Read more books!
  • Establishing a better work-life balance as my home office is eleven feet away from my couch
  • Throw. Things. Away.
  • Move into a new apartment
  • Become a foster mom for cats

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Marisa grew an entire human during the pandemic. His name is Hugo and he’s one of the happiest babies I’ve ever been around. He’s an easy laugh, which is one of my favorite qualities in a person, regardless of age.

Did anyone close to you die?

After two of my aunts died within 4 weeks of each other last year, the universe gave me a break this year and kept everyone alive. My mom had a horrible health scare that involved her being in and out of the hospital but she’s okay now. The scariest moment of 2021 was when my father–who was at my mom’s bedside in the hospital–had a “heart thing” and went down to the emergency room, where he was admitted to the very same hospital. So for one absurd night this year, both my parents were in the hospital at the same time.

In the time it took me to write this recap, my sweet beloved Auntie Ro passed away. She’s my sister-in-law’s aunt, and has been in my life for twenty years. She was an incredibly sweet, generous, lovely woman. One of my favorite memories of hers is staying at her house once, and perfectly arranged on a lace doily on the bedside table, next to a glass of water, were one each of all the Hershey’s miniatures. And it’s a metaphor for her personality – just in case you needed something sweet and comforting, she had you covered.

What countries did you visit?

I traveled to St Thomas for what I’m calling a “come up for air” trip with college girlfriends. After 13 months of hunkering down, we were all double-vaxxed, tested negative, and starting to lose our shit. We hopped on a plane to recharge in the Caribbean. It felt very luxurious and came with a pang of privilege-laced guilt that I still can’t shake, but it really became the air that would get me through another six months of uncertainty and anxiety.  

Thriving.

What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?

I didn’t lose anything additional in 2021, but I want my life from 2019 back. I’m tired of taking COVID tests, tired of the fucking masks, and tired of that mind-fuck phenomenon of asking, “but why don’t we just do XYZ??” before remembering that everything is ruined because of COVID.

What dates from 2021 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

July 18: I swam with a sea turtle!

First, a little background: Waaaaay back in 2004, I spent a week in the Caribbean and got “resort certified” to Scuba dive while I was there. An hour in an empty dining room learning about oxygen and regulators + an hour in the pool learning how to clear your mask = that’s probably good enough.  In retrospect, I realize how incredibly dangerous it was to then join a boat with six or seven other folks and a dive guide, and just, you know, plop into the ocean and sink to 40 feet.

To feel weightless and experience silence was no short of a transformative experience for me. It was like going to another planet to see the benthic landscape, tiny darting flicks of colored fish and spiky foliage swaying to a slow jam. The deep, slow, compulsory breaths the regulator forces you to take are literally meditative – some ujjayi-breath-of-fire healing. I absolutely loved it and vowed to get “officially” scuba certified so I could repeat this experience.

But then life happened. I switched jobs and was poor. Then I gained weight and was too fat to do it. Then I was so focused on my career that I didn’t take vacations anyway, so what was the point?

But since then, I have understood the feeling of belonging to the ocean. This summer when we went to St Thomas, we did a lot of snorkeling. As soon as I dipped a toe in that gorgeous, still Caribbean water, I remembered why I love pretending to be a fish. I’d much rather stand waist-deep in the water than lie on the sand. This picture is an accurate representation of my bliss.

One afternoon, after all the girls had grown tired of bobbing about and had returned to their chairs to let the sun dry them off, I Iet myself float. I was above of a sandy, grassy area about 10 feet below me when I saw a perky little sea turtle swim right below me. I had been waiting the entire trip to see one, and all of a sudden, it was within arm’s length. I lifted my head out of the water and spun around to see who else was there, but everyone was gone. I yelled “TURTLE!” to the girls, but they were too far away to understand.

I put my head back in the water and swam with that turtle for about 10 minutes. I watched as he nibbled tall sea grass, came up for air, and breathed a few times before taking a big gasp and floating back down to nibble some more.

After a while, it started to feel voyeuristic, like I was creeping on a regular turtle dude having lunch, so I silently thanked him for reminding me that there will be so many amazing experiences again when the pandemic is over, and swam away.  

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I broke up with TWO therapists this year because I deserved better treatment. Please recognize how hard that is. I know people who avoid a Starbucks because they had a weird incident with a barista once. Telling someone with whom you’ve been your most vulnerable that their level of care just isn’t working anymore feels impossible. Especially if one of the reasons you sought care is that you’re not great at advocating for yourself.  So yeah. I did that shit twice. And it felt magnificent.

I also polished up my finances, organized all my 401(k)s, and improved my credit score –WHICH IS A SCAM AND I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TALK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW..  

What was your biggest failure?

I didn’t fail at a fucking thing. I managed to sidestep COVID (although that was pure luck). I made my job my bitch (specifically, I turned a shit-sandwich of a fundraising program around and beat the online revenue goals for 2021 which ultimately means more help for people with addiction). I reconnected with an angel of a human (Nina!!!) who grounded me to a part of myself I hadn’t connected to in years. Sure, I could have done some things better, but I’m not calling them failures.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

Ear infection. Non-COVID COVID. Another ear infection. I threw my back out once. A return of the stress-induced face mange. But!! My depression wasn’t the worst it’s ever been, which was nice for a change.

Alas, the worst thing was the return of the Boob Thing. (Spoiler, it’s fine.) Since 2018, I’ve had mammograms like I’m supposed to, and it’s like deja vu all over again. Here’s the process: I have the screening mammogram, I go home, then I get a call mandating a diagnostic mammogram b/c they’re “concerned”. At that appointment, a tech does the mammogram and then a radiologist looks at it on the spot in case they need to take more pictures or do a sonogram, which happens every single time. Every other time, it’s nothing serious, and I’ve been sent home with an order to come back in six months. Rinse. Repeat. (I can’t really remember how many times in my life this has happened. Four? Five? Six, maybe?)

In April, the radiologist who performed the sonogram at my diagnostic mammogram didn’t like what seh saw and ordered a biopsy. A few weeks later, I had a stereotactic core needle biopsy, but this was done with my breast (the right one this time!) pressed in between the mammography plates. Only women people who’ve had mammograms will appreciate this, but it took about 30 minutes of manipulating my breast between the plates, again and again, to find the small spot needed for biopsy. Once the breast was finally in place, it took about 45 more minutes to numb the tissue, insert the needle, and extract the tissue.

It was the most painful procedure I’ve ever had, and the angriest I’ve EVER been to anyone trying to help me. At one point, I shouted, “STOP ASKING ME IF I’M OKAY AND JUST GET THIS DONE, PLEASE.”
(That sounds like a perfectly normal thing to say/demand, but for me, it was the equivalent of screeching FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU to everyone in the room.)

It was benign. I go for my follow up in two weeks.

What was the best thing you bought?

JVN’s air-dry cream. If you have wavy-not-sure-if-it’s-curly-and-it-needs-some-style-but-hate-crunchy-hair, get this.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

Simone Biles. Y’all. She actually chose her mental and physical health over winning an Olympic medal. She actually chose what was in her OWN best interest instead of what was better for other people. She put herself first. She knew she would endure incredible backlash, and did it anyway.

As the meme says, if she can quit the Olympics because she needed a mental health day, my bosses need to simmer the hell RIGHT ON DOWN if I need to skip a dumb ol’ meeting because my depression is interfering with my concentration.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Same as last year: The non-mask wearers. I really cannot understand how wearing a mask became a political thing. What has happened to us?

Where did most of your money go?
Delivery of all things.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
That turtle, man.

What song will always remind you of 2019?

Probably that Willow Smith song “Meet Me at Our Spot”. I cannot stand the way she sings this song – her pronunciation and tone seem forced. But the song is magic.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I had done more stuff when I had the chance before Delta and Omicron shut us all down again.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Same answer as last year:
TV, Computer, phone. Big Internet, medium Internet, tiny Internet.

How did you spend Christmas?

My COVID crew and I spent EIGHT days in West Virginia: movie marathon, new recipes, old traditions, games, dogs, and #friendship. I had to work a bunch, but it was still pretty damn fantastic.

Did you fall in love in 2019?
Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa nope.

How many one-night stands?
None. Celibacy is the hotness for another year. Matt jokes that my vagina is probably covered in cobwebs and white spiders. I’m too scared to ground-truth this.

What was your favorite TV program?
Do you know how many times I’ve been intrigued and tantilized by a new show, only to get about halfway through the first episode to realize I’ve seen it before? Like, so many.

But Mare of Easttown was really great. And I finally got Apple TV+ (which is huge for this Google/android girl), and Ted Lasso lives up to all the hype.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nah.

What was the best book you read?

I’ve tried to think of a way to “spin this” so I don’t sound like a flailing dirt bag with an English degree who loves reading but watched TV for the second year in a row. Marisa even read this yearly post last year and said, “NOT ON MY WATCH” and loaned me three books that are judging me from the bedside table right now.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

Another two people I found on Tiktok whom I love! Lawrence the Band, and TeddySwims.

What did you want and get?

To have no one I know die of COVID. To see my mom stay herself even with some really shitty health stuff.

What did you want and not get?

To see the end of the pandemic.

What was your favorite film of this year?

Late breaking entry into the race – ENCANTO. Such a charming little movie with a great soundtrack.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned FORTY-SIX and spent a week in Delaware with my COVID pod (Erica, Matt, and Patrick). We sang karaoke nightly, cooked and fed each other delicious meals (except for that one bean dip that looked so much like poop we couldn’t eat it), and sat on the gorgeous screened in porch for hours.

So I grew up in Louisiana, and the year I moved they had just filmed Steel Magnolias. I went to see it in Reston, Virginia a few months later and I cried my eyes out because I was so homesick. I quote it ALL the time, and not just the famous ones. Here are my faves: “Open your eyes, open OPEN your eyes!” and “I promise that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair” and “I can bake almost anything. Just not snakes – I don’t have the counterspace.”

The morning of my birthday as we were cooking breakfast, Matt shoved a gift bag in my hand and said, “here!” What I found was a t-shirt that said, “we’ll sell t-shirts saying, ‘I slapped Ouiser Boudreaux!’”. And when I looked up from the package, Erica, Matt & Patrick has removed their sweatshirts and robes to reveal that all three of them were wearing the same shirt! What a hoot. I love these fools more than my luggage.

<Tangent>We visited one of those awful roadside zoos. I hate that I actually patronized it and I really hope none of my IFAW friends are reading this. These places are absolutely awful in general and wild animals should stay in the wild. However, all the animals we saw were surrendered from private owners who couldn’t take care of them anymore, and they had pretty decent living conditions.

The thing I absolutely LOVE about zoos (sketchy roadside ones or not) is their ability to let you get close to animals. Exposure leads to investigation, which leads to education, which leads to advocacy. Animal welfare is one of the most heartbreaking, preventable needs, and while I know these zoos are part of the problem, I hope they can be part of the solution, too.</Tangent>

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Less COVID.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?
Maxi dress! For many years I thought I couldn’t wear them, but this year I really leaned in.

What kept you sane?
My new psychiatrist Wendy.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Simone! (see above)

What political issue stirred you the most?
The consistent attack on Roe v Wade.

Who did you miss?
I miss strangers in bars. I love meeting new people and I haven’t been able to organically strike up a conversation with anyone new in two years. I hate it.

Who was the best new person you met?

My next door neighbor Rhiannon. She has a hairless cat named Cholula. I could describe her with so much more detail, but I think that last sentence sums it right up.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.

I learned this lesson in 2020 and I’ve tried to embellish this but I can’t. It’s really THE lesson of ALL lessons, right?

Things actually CAN get worse, so hold on to the laughter and joy that you have and make it last.

(Also, if you live in an apartment, have a way to get outside and have sunshine on your face without a common hallway, or having to use an elevator or stairs.)

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I know you wanna let go of the reins here
But it’s gonna be a long ride
-Long Ride, Indigo Girls

 

3 thoughts on “Year in Review 2021: COVID Part Deux

  1. Wonderful! Wish we lived closer. We could be great friends. Make America Blue!

    Wonderful writing. I know you are grown but your parents must be so proud of you.

    I’ve got a therapist too. I’m 65 and still getting better. But we are both perfect just as we are. I’m visiting our kin in AR first week in May. Can’t wait. Hang in There as we used to say in the 70’s.

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