The Untold Story

The date? January, 2021.

The place? The magazine rack of my local drugstore.

The topic? A retrospective on COVID-19 in 2020.

The next steps? None. I’ve stopped. I can’t walk and hold this thought in my head at the same time.

What thought?

That’s the worst magazine cover I’ve ever seen.

Year one? Year one? That was not the COVID-19 headline I wanted to see in January of 2021. One of these is more what I had in mind.

Good riddance: Moving past COVID-19
Better days ahead, experts say
One and Done

Yet “Year one” proved to be only too accurate as 2021 saw us slogging through repeated waves, new variants, ever-changing regulations, and ongoing restrictions, along with the ups-and-downs of vaccine availability and real-world efficacy. COVID-19 defined not just its breakout year but also this past year. I fully expect Maclean’s to issue “Year two” in the coming weeks. Yup, the sadder-but-wiser girl — that’s me, at least in this context.

What of next year? More of the same, I expect, although I can’t begin to guess what form it will take exactly. But I hope that Year three will mark the start of less focus on COVID-19.

My hope is bolstered by this fact: In our extended family, 2021 was not just “Year two.” It was also the year of one high-school graduation, one family move, the safe arrival of four babies, and countless smaller-but-joyful events. Looking ahead just for our family, one young person will mark 2022 as the year they graduated high school, three couples will forever remember it as the year they married, and three folks (that I know of) will celebrate milestone birthdays. And on it will go, although I can’t begin to guess what form it will take exactly.

Sadder-but-wiser usually means a low-expectations way of being in the world. Sadder sort of goes with the territory of living, but maybe I can also be wiser: just wiser, not sadder-but. Wiser enough to realize that all the years and all the days in them are defined by more than the calamities and uncertainties in the news.

I’m not sure that “The untold story of the pandemic” is really what Maclean’s was offering in that year-end edition. I expect it will be years before we have any idea what the real story was: what really happened and why.

But 2022 is also an untold story. Life keeps on coming: the bad, sure, but also the good. While COVID-19’s Year three is unfolding as it will — Did *you* know that someone has to fold-up the year? Yikes. — I can work to make 2022 tell the story I want it to.


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6 Responses to The Untold Story

  1. Bravo! Of course, the pandemic year saddled the rest of the world with the sort of isolation and forced self-reliance brought upon our family by our move to rural Ontario decades ago. In some ways, what has happened during the pandemic is a throwback to times when modern means of transportation and communication were in their early stages of development. Certainly, people have their computers and phones, but with lock-downs and remote learning and reduced socializing there is so much less to talk about. We’re back to sharing recipes and highly personal goals while communal enterprises struggle to tread water. Viewing 2021 as a type of re-set, I like your invitation to be creative about 2022.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – The internet has been a lifeline for many, and not just or even primarily for work, but its users’ ability and tendency to ratchet-up alarm has also worked against us. I hope we can move ever so slowly towards a little more balance.

  2. barbara carlson says:

    Re the untold story —
    John and I were watching a promo for a documentary on WWII promising to tell the REAL story, and John jumps in with, “… we lost.”

    I’ve been asking people what good came out of the last 2 COVID years for them, and there have been plusses — content with being alone is one of them. And no more frantic pace for me: “that was insane.” Reports of being able to concentrate better, make lateral connections. Or wearing comfortable clothes every day; no make-up…
    Realizing I have ENOUGH of so many things, one friend said.
    For me, no more client phoning (my extra BIG job for the last 35 years)!
    A chance to read over 100 new books outside my usual fare. They were drop shipped to me from my friend Bill every month — 8 or 9 — like a CARE package.
    It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, as they say.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – That sounds like an excellent list. I’d give mine but it’s nowhere near as impressive. 🙂 I guess I did learn to stop working, although that was hardly covid-driven.

    • barbara carlson says:

      Actually the the documentary promised to reveal “the secret about WWII” — when John said “we lost”.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – Well, I heard commentators (maybe in the 1970s) comparing the economy of the USA to those of Japan and Germany and saying that no one who’d missed it would believe that they’d lost the war.

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