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Journaling

Capture Your Memories of the Pandemic

Dear friends,

When you think back on this unusual year, which memories of the pandemic stand out for you?

If you haven’t already done so, perhaps you’d enjoy capturing some of your recollections while they’re still fresh in your mind.

Who knows? Your experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and the events of 2020 may someday be the tales you share with your grandchildren. 

You can jot your memories in a good old notebook, oron the Notes app of your phone, or record your recollections using a voice recorder, or create an album or a Dropbox to save photos, or find a method that works best for you. 

I started a small journal in early March just to record the happenings created by the coronavirus. Here are a few of my thoughts and some questions for you. I hope they spark your own memories and encourage you to capture your unique experiences of a year unlike any other. 

First Impressions

 

memories of the pandemic

 

Where were you when you first realized that COVID-19 was going to be a serious, life-altering event? 

On Wednesday, March 11, as I drove to meet a friend for dinner I listened to a radio address by Colorado Governor Jared Polis. By the time I arrived, I was sobered by his words that we needed to prepare for a full-on pandemic. My friend had been listening, too, and for the first time we didn’t hug. During our dinner conversation, we tried to imagine how our lives might be impacted by this new coronavirus. We had NO clue what was coming.

Driving home, I listened to the news again and learned that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had just been diagnosed with COVID-19. Holy cow! Anyone could catch the coronavirus. It felt very contagious at that moment.

The phrase “social distancing” entered our collective vocabularies. We were told that staying six feet apart and washing our hands often was the best defense against the virus. There was a national shortage of masks and protective gear.

Did you start checking a resource like the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map

Closures and Cancellations

 

cruise ship during coronavirus

 

Remember how everything started closing and cancelling? My son’s school announced it was closing on March 13th, 2020.

Italy went under quarantine. 

The NBA suspended the season.

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo were cancelled.

The Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 were postponed. 

Broadway shows and movie theaters went dark. 

Disneyland and Walt Disney World closed.

Vacation plans were scrapped, and people were stuck on cruise ships.

Easter celebrations, weddings, proms, graduations, funerals and more were all shuttered due to the virus.

How were you affected by cancellations and postponements due to the pandemic this year?

Home Sweet Home

 

3 pairs of slippers
Decisions, decisions

 

Were you under any “stay at home” orders? If so, how did that change your life?

At our house, sweatpants and slippers were no longer relegated to just evenings.

I tried various grocery and pick up services. I planned meals for every night and we cooked at home. Restaurants were closed, so we got very creative with meals from the pantry and freezer

We planted two vegetable gardens.

Everyone in my neighborhood seemed to be decluttering. Each weekend things would shuffle from one home to another as ads were posted. “Free entertainment hutch.” “Used patio furniture for sale.” “Looking for men’s bicycle.” 

In March my son and I started episode 1 of The Office, and watched every episode over the next couple of months. Now we’re watching The Middle. Our nightly TV routine is a memory I’ll cherish, along with all the other ways we’ve gotten closer this year. 

What did you especially enjoy while spending more time at home? Did you try cooking any new foods or tackle home improvements? What was your favorite space in your home? Were there aspects of home quarantine that were very challenging? 

The Sounds of COVID-19

 

Pigeon

 

In late March, I stepped outside and was struck by the silence. A peaceful quiet enveloped us as few cars were on the roads. I remember the sweet sound of birds singing as spring arrived.

The quiet seemed to amplify the wailing sirens of ambulances racing to a nearby nursing home. 

Nightly human howls filled our neighborhood at 8 p.m. for several months. I howled, too, and it felt strangely cathartic.

On Memorial Day, our windows rattled as the sound of a military helicopter punctuated the quiet morning. The Colorado National Guard did several flyovers to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, health-care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’ll remember music and laughter in our cul de sac as spring shifted to summer and my neighbors and I socially distanced and spent time together. We have become so close this year, another blessing 

Do you remember any particular sounds from this time?

A Brief Pause for The Earth

 

Pink Moon and memories of the pandemic
The pink Supermoon

 

As we humans tried to grasp what was happening, the earth continued to turn in reassuring cycles. For a short time, the environmental stresses on our planet lessened.

Do you remember the pink Supermoon on April 7, 2020? 

The sight of crystal clear water in the canals of Venice?

Did you read that some people in India saw the Himalayas for the first time as air pollution eased? 

Did you notice that the air seemed cleaner?

How did you feel when traffic and pollution returned as restrictions lifted?

Pandemic Stress

 

journal with memories of the pandemic
A page from my journal

 

How have the challenges and changes of 2020 affected you?

My adult daughter became very sick in mid-March. Not being able to care for her was a killer. I left supplies outside her door and prayed constantly. After being tested and waiting two weeks for results, she was told the test had been contaminated. Later an antibody test showed she’d had COVID-19. Perhaps it was a blessing that we didn’t know at the time.

My son got sick right at the beginning of the shutdown, too, and I remember the crazy impossibility of trying to keep everything disinfected while caring for him. One afternoon while I was cooking dinner he came in the kitchen and sneezed, and after that I gave up trying to keep our house sterile. 

I remember feeling shocked and anxious the first time I saw bare shelves at our grocery store. We got low on toilet paper and I wondered how we would cope. Masking up and going out in search of toilet paper was a thing I did for a few weeks, until I found a 48-roll case at a restaurant supply warehouse. 

I’ve never experienced much anxiety, but watching the news every night I realized my stomach was in knots. I gave up the news in April. 

What have you done to find reliable news and information? Have you experienced anxiety? And if so, have you tried new ways to deal with stress? 

 

George Floyd's death and memories of the pandemic
Street art at the George Floyd protest, Minneapolis MN

 

And then George Floyd was killed by police on May 25, followed by protests and demands for reform. I watched the news again for a time so I could be informed. I read, listened to online discussions, wrote about processing my own experiences with racism, and vowed to educate myself and take action against this old, old problem. 

Has 2020 caused you to spend more time standing up against racism? Have you learned any new history this year that you hadn’t been exposed to before? 

The divisive politics of 2020 have often felt unbearable. And yet there is a disconnect between what I read on the news and social media, and the real life experience.

My neighbors, family and friends — people of all political persuasions — have been exceedingly kind and helpful during this time. 

This year has also been an ongoing lesson for my Type A self that worrying about the future is pointless. I’ve discovered that I feel calmer when I try to trust God, stay hopeful, and just take things one day at a time. 

Quirky Times in 2020

 

2020 memes and memories of the pandemic
Meme from April 2020

 

How did you feel when you heard that Murder Hornets might be headed our way this year?

Ironically, at exactly the time when many of us were homebound the price of gasoline dropped to $1.49 a gallon.

A survey reported that 38% of beer drinkers wouldn’t order a Corona beer. 

Coins stopped being circulated; resulting in a nationwide coin shortage.

Many salons and barber shops were closed. Did you let your hair grow longer? 

Did you watch Tiger King on Netflix?

Were you affected by the Giant Sahara Dust Cloud in June? 

How about the weird microscopic virus picture below? Most of us had never seen it before 2020, and now it’s used to illustrate countless news stories.

What has been the most surreal aspect of 2020 for you?

 

microscopic COVID 19 and memories of the pandemic

 

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feeeelings 

 

Write your memories of the pandemic now

 

How have you felt during the past six months? How have you processed your emotions? 

I’ve felt gratitude and concern for our health care workers and first responders. 

I’ve experienced a deep yearning to feel united as a country and world, and go through this together.

When going to the grocery store for weekly groceries in March and April, I felt weary.

I felt empathy and heartbreak hearing about people whose loved ones passed away alone in nursing homes.

At times it felt confusing to figure out what was safe, and how to best protect ourselves. The mixed messages were often frustrating. 

It felt surreal when our family gathered in masks in a parking lot for 15 minutes in June to wish my niece happy birthday. 

And did it seem weird to you to see actors on TV crowded together, unmasked, standing close?

Additional Prompts to Capture Your Pandemic Memories

Here are a few more questions for you:

When did you first realize that COVID-19 was turning into a major pandemic? 

Did you or someone you know come down with the coronavirus?

Did you experience any shortages?

How did you respond to spending more time at home?

If you received a stimulus check, how did you spend it?

What has been the best thing about this year?

What has been the most challenging aspect of this pandemic?

Has your faith grown during 2020?

What made you laugh hardest this year?

What are you most grateful for?

How have you grown personally during this time?

When we’re on the other side of this, what changes from 2020 do you want to keep?

Will You Share Your Memories of the Pandemic?

When you think back on the coronavirus outbreak of 2020, what will you remember? 

I’d love to hear what’s on your mind right now, and invite you to share some of your recollections and memorable 2020 moments in the Comments section of this post.

Wishing you peace and good health now and always,

Signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. If you’re on Pinterest, here’s a handy pin to save or share this post: 

Journaling prompts to help you capture your memories of 2020 | #journaling #writing #writingprompts

 

Grateful thanks to Edwin Hooper for use of the wonderful World Theater photo above, Jasmin Sessler for the empty toilet paper roll image, and Bonnie Moreland for use of the lovely Pink Moon photo taken at the Pine Mountain Observatory in Oregon.

Eliza Cross is the author of 15 books, including recent titles like Bacon Beans and Beer and Small Bites. She blogs at ElizaCross.com and is the founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society. Her articles have appeared in publications like Sunset, Parents and Writers' Digest. Eliza lives near Denver with her family.

4 Comments

  • Kathleen

    Thank you Eliza, for your wise, insightful and timely reminder to remember all we have come through, we might still have more to come through, but we need to also remember where we’ve been and to give thanks, there is always something to give thanks for! This was in my devotion this morning and was powerful to remind me of where I place my thanks and trust.

    “No amount of regret changes the past, no amount of anxiety changes the future (I needed that one), but any amount of gratitude changes the present. In stressful times, seek God. In the painful times, praise God. In the terrible times, trust God. And at all times, thank God!” Ann Voskamp

    • Eliza Cross

      Kathleen, thank you so much for sharing your perspective and these beautiful words from Ann Voskamp. I love the reminder that gratitude changes the present. My mom often reminds me to praise God in all things, and I especially need to remember during uncertain times. I appreciate you, my friend. xoxo

  • Cat

    Didn’t worry about parents catching Covid – both of them already dead. Daughter not working during pandemic so didn’t have to worry about her. Have had to worry about Freddie Tutu – we’ve been trying to rid him of a pseudamonas infection in his right ear for almost a year now. Little bit of a scare this week – thought Gent might have diabetes – but no. Life is very self centered right now – and self isolated – I go out for groceries, doctor, dental appts and pedicures since I can’t reach my own feet to cut my toenails. Why, I don’t know, but my fillings are falling out at a tremendous rate and need replacing as they run away to the tooth fairy. Spend my nights cuddling with the cats and spent my August adoption of another homeless animal on adopting a broken violin. By the time I find strings for it and another bow, I’ll have spent nearly the same amount as I would have on an animal, but the ongoing feeding and maintenance will be much less – although I expect that lessons to learn to play might run a little bit.

  • Eliza Cross

    Cat! It’s so good to hear from you, and I’m glad you are hunkered down with your feline friends and taking good care during this strange time. I LOVE that you adopted a violin! What an absolutely perfect new endeavor to explore during a pandemic. Gent and Freddie will be the purrrfect audience for your first performances. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you and your loved ones stay happy, healthy and well. xxoo

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