The year 2020 and a promise of a perfect year. I had a new book in the works-my sixth full length novel, was singing in a ladies’ barbershop group and a community choir, a documentary accepted to several film festivals, a screenplay up for an award, club meetings planned, workshops and a poetry festival to attend, and hope of travelling about the country in a new to us RV. I figured my Mama in Heaven was happy I was safe and happy. Being raised by children of the Depression, I am familiar with bad times. There was hope in the air and life was good.
Then came COVID. Boom. Lockdown. Everything was cancelled. People feared each other’s germs like never before. For me, as my husband said, that really cramped my style. No line dancing. No group singing. No club meetings. No big book launch party. Credit given for the poetry festival and the line dancing workshop. The message: wait and see if we can have it in 2021. Home delivery of groceries. How thankful we are we live in the country where we have room to move around, small businesses which are ready to serve, and, a key point: we didn’t run out of toilet paper.
Even when things loosened up around the end of summer, it was still dangerous to go out in public. I haven’t been in WalMart in months, not necessarily a bad thing. But we got that travel trailer and tried it out at a nice RV park we knew of in Central Texas. They have the coolest pool built right into the rocky outcrop near a large lake. It was closed. The pool, I mean. Neither could one go into the office and get a Tshirt. But the lake was open and nice. It’s hard to shut down an entire lake.
And the mandatory mask rule really altered life. Photos taken with masks. Who are those people? Trying to talk through masks. Muffled conversations. It became normal to walk into the liquor store with a mask on. Who’d a thunk it? I guess as long as the masked person isn’t pointing a .357, everyone is OK. The 41st presentation of the Messiah in which I’ve sang many years was cancelled. It’s no wonder that whole situation weakened my stomach lining.
Back in February 2020, I applied to be a Census Field Supervisor. I got a call in early March and was hired. Then an email came that the whole operation was on hold. Toward the end of June, I got an email to attend training for one week. They squeezed two weeks of info into that one week…through masks. Then two weeks later, back to that place for another week to train the “field enumerators.’ I called them the door knockers. There, a whole day of training was squeezed into three hours. Through masks. Then the operation went live. Quickly, it appeared the system had not been thoroughly tested.
There were duplicate records, bogus addresses, and a high percentage of the cases had obviously incomplete addresses. Instructions: find “Hwy 67, Stephenville, TX” and do an interview. Right. You wanna narrow that down a bit? And no names were on the records. It was a big, hairy mess and no one could seem to do anything about it. The Census wheel comes around only every ten years, and one can imagine said wheel must be reinvented each decade. So experience didn’t help much.
Then the powers up in Washington D.C. shortened the open period one whole month. Panic ensued. Overtime was approved where before it was forbidden. Every day something new and uglier seemed to happen to the point one just said, “Whatever.” Such is working for the Federal Government, I suppose. But the money was good and they said we could draw unemployment. It went down to the wire, and the job got done. Stress I didn’t need, for sure. But I needed the money. It’s weird being cash poor and asset rich. It was awful having another layer of your stomach lining affected.
The next thing which helped ruin 2020 for me was that unemployment thing. I applied, did everything I was supposed to do, but got nothing. Not an acceptance or a denial. Nothing. But I went through the motions for the next two months, calling the 800 number and getting no one, filing my payment requests, but receiving no news. Then I was ill the week of Christmas and I missed the request date by three days. The website said, too late, you have to start over. Crap, say I. But I did it, just because, dang it, I am due those benefits. To date, some three weeks later, still nothing has happened and I still can’t get through to a person on the phone. Oh, and all the negativity of the 2020 election and hate spewed about the country didn’t help. Between the two, the tummy lining was in grave danger.
That illness I mentioned above manifest itself into a raging, burning pain in my left abdomen right after Thanksgiving. At the same time, I suffered rampant diarrhea. I couldn’t eat much, lost weight, and woke in the night with both the pain in the front and pain in my back. Spasms attacked me from both directions so much they often met in the middle of my body. It was horrible. The doctor finally decided it was likely a pre-ulcer and prescribed an antacid and said stay away from spicy food and let it heal. His words were, “treat it like a skinned knee.” Don’t pick off the scab.
Thankfully, now looking at the end of January 2021, that horror seems to be behind me, now. I’m still healing, but am a lot better. This year will have to be better. I will strive to not let things bother me. If stress creeps in, I will ignore it’s bullying and maybe it will go away. It is safe to say most of the world was glad to see 2020 fade into the past. Unfortunately, the long range look at 2021 isn’t looking a whole lot better. But I will recover, we all will. And maybe be able to sing and dance and launch that book, and finally make my mama happy by ending my “bellyaching!”