2020: A Year To Remember..

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… and a year we want to forget.

It is December. It is mid-winter and the darkest, bleakest time of year. And it is 2020 – a year that we will all be very glad to see end.

lake in winter this year

Way back at the beginning, we remember thinking how awful things were for people in Wuhan.

We were shocked at the draconian measures imposed in China….and then .. Italy… and then it was the UK… and everywhere else.  The world has come to this. 

Lockdown: full, partial and tiered, came in waves and in the UK was confusingly set differently for each of the four countries. Stay indoors. Don’t mix. Don’t meet up. Work from home, live your life on Zoom, educate your children at home, ‘Happy Birthday’ as you wash your hands. No singing… no partner dancing… no team sports.

stormy winter skies this year

Since then, we are living a half-life wondering what is open… what is closed… what are we allowed to do and what not? 

Covid-19 did what pandemics do best –  it went ‘viral’. And so, in every country across the world we all learned what it is to live through a pandemic. Island states such as Taiwan, New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong coped incredibly well to keep their fatalities low. Some countries hoped it would just go away.

It is the same virus (in various mutations and strains) but around the world we see it being  managed in very different ways. 

Covid-19 continues to rage. As a result, it is massively disrupting our daily lives and causing deep-set financial and emotional problems – on top of rising fatalities and long-term ill health.

This year is a situation as bad as any of us could ever imagine. It seems like it should be a sci-fi movie – except that it is real life, and it is happening now- on top of Brexit.

Even with the (very) good news that we have a vaccine that works, we still have to get through the winter. The additional pressure on hospitals and hospital staff is so intense, it is likely to be overwhelming, and take us to the brink

The pandemic has left every country teetering on the brink of economic turmoil and recession. Imposed restrictions designed to keep us all safe, kept us at home, away from people – away from friends and family. But no matter how severe the measures have been, the virus just won’t go away. It keeps re-surging. And it is all down to us – because we just want to be sociable.

With the vaccine, we all hope we can return to life as it was, or at least a life that is more relaxed and sociable and less anxious. But nothing is certain.

We know things will never be quite the same. The fallout of this could lead to widespread mental health problems, that is because we are a society suffering not just from trauma but also, poverty, fear and isolation.

landscape of sea and mountain

This time last year, who could ever have imagined such a thing?  

This is the 21st century. With all the new technology (AI, AR, VR, IoT) that has emerged in this 4th Industrial Revolution we think we are invincible and powerful and more and more in control of our world. Undoubtedly, the combination of science and tech have enabled us to collect data, co-ordinate the pandemic response and fight back. But ultimately, this virus has shown us just how vulnerable and exposed we really are. 

Covid-19, a microscopic virus, has demonstrated it has the power to wreck communities, jobs, health systems and futures. And so, it seems we are not quite as powerful as we would like to think. 

2020 is a leap year with 366 days. But because of Covid-19 it is a year where we postponed and cancelled events and sat at home – a lot. There was nowhere to go and when we did go out there was always a worry that the virus was out there to get us. Other people were dangerous to be around, and crowds  – or even just a few people – to be avoided. 

Throughout the year, with attendance at funerals limited to only a handful of people it is heart-breaking that our loved ones did not get the send-off they deserved. It makes our bereavement more of a loss; so much more sad.

For all of us, we have to recognise just how much this year has been an assault on our emotions and well-being.

seascape in winter

And so, in 2021 we look forward to making plans for a proper memorial and celebrations of lives lived and lost. That is, on top of all the parties and get-togethers and weddings we weren’t able to have this year. It’s going to be a very sociable year – we hope. 

But... right now, the Government rules for who we can bubble with over Christmas period mean we may have to make some difficult decisions.

Who do we leave in, who do we leave out? 

Which family member needs to be with us more than others? 

Who will be most offended if they are not included? 

For sure, there will be no parties, no big social events, no festive people randomly dropping by and no trips to Santa. But, for many people it also raises ethical dilemmas. 

If you have a terminal illness, do you have everyone over – because it might be your last Christmas? Or, do you keep everyone out  – because it might be your last Christmas?

Is it really worthwhile to travel from a different country for ‘celebrations’ in the middle of a pandemic.  (Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah) were all affected/cancelled  by Covid. 

Noticeably, Christmas trees went up earlier this year than usual. Our lives have been so drab, and dull and boring we craved that boost of festive colour – and glitz. We desperately needed the joy and kitsch of sparkle and glitter, shiny baubles and decorations to make us feel happy.

It is is mid-winter and the streets are lit up like Las Vegas. Christmas is the one time of year that you can transform your home into something playful and whimsical. It seems that this year people really have gone to town to distract themselves from everything that is going on – and the darkness. It’s more than just a few lights, some tinsel and a tree. It’s about re-discovering your inner child- and being kind to yourself. It is one ritual that hasn’t been banned and over which we still have some control.

On the 21st of December the sun will rise in Belfast at 8.44am and set at 16.00pm.

Gradually… we will see the days get longer until we reach the longest day in June. Then, in 2021 the cycle, the seasonal ebb and flow, begins again like it does every year. And that is good news.

From this darkest point, things can only get better.We can only hope.

Follow Nuala Rooney:

I am a creative professional and award-winning author, currently developing original ethnographic design research. With over 25 years experience in Higher Education my interest lies in exploring distilled thinking and design as lived experience.

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