2020 In Review : The Lost Year

I kissed my partner when The Ball dropped for 2020. A few short weeks later we celebrated our one year anniversary and then I was on my way to Mexico for an annual retreat. The Kansas City Chief won the Super Bowl, and I headed back to Hawaii from Tulum.

While on my retreat, I received a call from my mother that my ex-husband was in the emergency room for a manic episode. He is bipolar and had quit his medication over a decade before hand. His girlfriend at the time had no idea of his mental illness, so she was completely caught off guard. I decided early on, that my personal boundary would be up to the point to take of my children. This was not my mess to manage anymore.

After I arrived back on Oahu, in the early morning my ex-husband ran away. As he was not a danger to himself or others, the ER released him into his girlfriend’s care a few days prior. He was awaiting outpatient care which happened to be that day. I remember waking up to the news, then shortly thereafter he had been spotted. My parents and I headed to his neighborhood. He was on foot and running from his girlfriend.

As I approached him, he told me he wanted to die and to leave him alone. As I was following him through the neighborhood, I was calling 911 for assistance. As soon as he heard the emergency sirens, he took off through backyards. I did my best to keep up with him, fortunately first responders arrived, and were able to detain him safely.

At that point his girlfriend, ex-wife, and ex-in-laws were there to support him. My ex-husband spent the following week in a psychiatric ward in Honolulu. The plan was to detox him from alcohol, get him on medications, and set up outpatient care. His girlfriend at the time was completely clueless to everything that was happening. I spoke to my ex-in-laws more that week than I did in 15 years of marriage.

While in the hospital, he was getting better. The medications were working. My ex-husband was released into his girlfriend’s care and within hours all hell broke loose. I spoke to my ex’s family and my children, we were all in agreement that he needed to get away from his codependent alcoholic girlfriend. That evening my parents and I had an intervention.

(My family background is unique. My parents met while working in a detox unit. They are familiar with these situations and conditions. Mental health issues are prevalent in my life and I am very cognizant of their attributes.)

My ex felt an obligation to his girlfriend. She felt blindsided and did not want to lose him. That made sense because he was supporting her financially at the time. We left him with the option to go to his mother’s for care or to stay with her. The following morning, he reached out to my mother and said, “Please help me. I need to get out of here.”

All of our AA training kicked in, and we got him out of there that night. My father escorted him back to the mainland. My mother handled his finances (per his request) and I handled his property. My ex wanted to “do right by” his girlfriend, so we managed that as well. My kids were able to spend time with their father before he left. Although they did not want him to go, they knew it was the best way for him to heal.

During all of this, my partner was beyond supportive. He came with me to visit my ex in the hospital. He helped moved furniture. Not once did he ever question my loyalty to him. And he become the father figure to my children. I was so fortunate to have such an understanding and secure man in my life.

Other than that insanity, late February and March were filled with “normal” activities such as family, school, and work. I was looking forward to Spring Break with my kids on Big Island. Unfortunately my partner could not join us last minute, so St. Patrick’s Day and my 40th birthday were spent solo poolside.

While my life was in full swing, I heard about a virus in China. It raised a bit of a concern because Hawaii is a hot spot for tourists. Most of the health professionals I spoke to said not worry, it will pass quickly. When we arrived on Big Island all eyes were turned toward the mainland. This virus, less deadly than the common flu, was quickly turning into a full pandemic.

Each morning my mother would watch the news as cities and states began to shutdown and enforce quarantine mandates. I decided we would take it day by day and hope we could make it back to Oahu safely.

Our last full day at the resort, the area began to shutdown. Restaurants closed for dine-in, everyone was told to make their way home ASAP. The following morning we left for Oahu and began to prepare for a shutdown. My spa took us in for manicures and pedicures. I hit Safeway and Target for supplies. Then the rest of 2020 unfolded upon us without hesitation.

Like many people, I thought great I can get some things done at home. However, that was not case. First I was furloughed from my job, I was a bartender. Then I had to file for unemployment and I filed for aid from various restaurant industry foundations. Hawaii was so overwhelmed no one was getting paid. Fortunately my parents were able to help, but that was short term.

In April, my anxiety shot through the roof. I was up at odd hours. I slept on the couch and delved into Netflix documentaries. I started reading again, something I had not done in ages. I loved reading recovery novels; the twisted stories of people’s rock bottoms soothed me. I prefer non-fiction and I was not in the mindset for spiritual guidance.

In April my children returned to school via distance learning. Fortunately their private school was able to make the transition, unlike many public schools across the country. Each weekday they logged onto their iPads to meet with their classmates via Zoom. We became introduced to a new way of doing things. Little did I know how quickly we would adapt to tele-health appointments and Zoom meetings.

By May my unemployment came through and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. It was about this time I began to miss my “normal” life. Going to work everyday, my coworkers, the regulars, the beaches (Hawaii closed the beaches.), my spa, my daily routine. I started to feel a loss and the depression resurfaced.

As June approached we watched the mainland start to open back up. Some too soon, and others were cautious. Graduations across the country were disrupted and had to be reconfigured, including my son’s transition from elementary school to middle school. The year prior his sister had her moving up ceremony from 5th to 6th grade. We all gathered at school for a ceremony and then in Hawaiian tradition we lei’d the students with beautiful leis of flowers, candy, and ribbon.

This year the educators did an amazing job recognizing the kids. In addition to an online ceremony, they did a drive-by celebration for each student who won a special award. We did the best we could at home. I still bought over $70 worth of leis and my son requested a special meal. This was tough, not only is my son one of the youngest in his class, we are ohana. We are family connected by circumstances rather than blood. It was unusual not celebrating together as we had done before.

Hawaii was being extra cautious with the state wide shutdown. Near the end of June we were eager to get out of our homes. I had mastered online shopping and home delivery services. I would go to Safeway, Walgreens, and a local bottle shop called the Village, but nowhere else. I had developed a nice case of agoraphobia. Eventually businesses began to reopen.

The beginning of July was an interesting time. Some places were open, others were still closed. Tensions were high. Mind you Hawaii has a very limited number of ICU beds. In fact Oahu services the outer islands, American Samoa, and Guam for medical care. This began a new way of life. The COVID rules were in place and they changed periodically.

By August my children returned to distance learning. My son transitioned to middle school very differently than his sister. Unfortunately the fall did not unfold into a gracious winter. We did our best to adjust to the new way of doing things.

My partner and I began to look for a home together. We even discussed marriage. My partnership was looking good. Then the hardships came. Our politics and ideas for the future clashed. We had a few tense nights, but each time I was hopeful. I felt we were growing together as a couple. That was important to me.

By the end of October, I was no longer pleased with the distance learning. I gave my children the option of leaving their beloved school for an alternative way of learning. My daughter opted for homeschooling while my son opted to stay. Then the election that would never end began. I watched multiple news stations for over 24 hours. It was exhausting.

The holidays came upon us quickly. The housing search was rough and it took a toll on my partner. Just before Thanksgiving he called everything off, including our relationship.

As we approached Thanksgiving Dinner, I thought we reconciled. It was my understanding that we were going to have a future together. The details would come later. We continued with the holidays as planned. My children enjoyed Hanukkah as my daughter and I prepared for a mini stay-cation nearby.

We had an amazing couple days to ourselves at the Marriott Vacation Club in Ko’olina (the place of joy). Unfortunately prior to leaving I learned my partner was not on the same page as me, let alone the same book. I feel we reluctantly spent Christmas, my daughter’s birthday, and New Years together. I do not even think we kissed at midnight.

Hindsight is 2020. It truly is. Looking back over the year I can see all that I lost. I lost my career, my friends, my daily independence, and my relationship; a partnership I had been building for almost two years. Although I am not bitter, I am sad, hurt, and tired. Last year took a toll on me. I know I am not alone in this. I am emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. That is perfectly acceptable. Within a short period of time parents, mothers across the country became 24 hour educators and care providers all while working through a global pandemic. I am more fortunate than most, however 2020 was the year I lost. The year that never was.

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