What we lost

Photography Simon Folkard
Photography Simon Folkard

At the beginning of 2021, we need to reflect on what and who we lost. We lost too many people in 2020, yes. But we also lost our routines. We lost some insight in each other. And, we lost patience.

The year 2020 was so unique, I decided to make notes of everything that happened. I call it my 2020 bingo-card. It is simply an overview of what news pieces struck me most each month of the year. Reading back, it feels like a bad movie script.

So much happened, I could not wrap my mind around each individual event and reflect on the enormity of the consequences because the next weird thing was already breaking in the news. And so it went, the whole year through. A rollercoaster that did not allow for a moment to breathe.

Having been quarantined since mid-March, my life has changed. When our university signaled a second spring break, we knew. The academic year as we knew it, was over. It might be years before we see it back the way it was with activities, workshops, conferences, and live performances. So here too, life went online. Classes, meetings, fitness, talking to family and friends, and, not being able to celebrate precious moments in person, not being able to give that bear hug to someone when it was needed most.

Because we all needed to start life online, it seemed to turn us more inwards, isolate us, and at the same time, I somewhat felt more connected. I don’t think that I ever used social media, video chats, and text apps as much as I did in 2020. Because of those platforms, I was able to stay in regular contact with family and friends. But, not meeting the people I used to see throughout the week in person, made me aware of the isolation that the pandemic has caused.

My isolation is nothing compared to what others experience. I am in quarantine, yes, but I live in a safe home, with a full refrigerator, heating, the ability to buy items and chat online, and luckily we have enough space here for everyone. But many are not that lucky.

Learning how many people became food insecure because of the pandemic, how many students in public schools do not have an internet connection at home, how many had to take classes and do homework only on a mobile phone, was heartbreaking.

Being home gave some people the idea that everyone now had more time to do things. It was as if for some, going online, was not an excuse for less productivity. The fact that productivity was going to change fundamentally, didn’t occur to them. No sane person feels great during a disaster and it took a long time for that to really sink in. We were not all doing ok online and keeping your sanity, mental health, is key.

We have to let people set up new routines without judgment, so they can prioritize and combine work and family routines. The expectation that people would produce the same amount of work ‘from the comfort of their homes‘ is not just wrong. It is dangerous. It ignores the fact that for many, their professional and private lives changed fundamentally.

The push to be productive during a pandemic was not helpful. Personal example, some thought that I would have more time to dig into cases, write more, review more books, etc. I didn’t and I couldn’t. I may have had more time as commutes were eliminated, however, I could not be stretched more psychologically or emotionally. Last year, I received more online and email harassment than ever before. As a result, I have removed my professional work from several online platforms. My sanity matters.

On Christmas Eve, I spent a few hours on Twitter and joined Sarah Millican‘s yearly #JoinIn. It works like this: search the hashtag #JoinIn, and chat with people who are alone over the Holidays, who are having a hard time, etc. To many people, social media is just a noisy newsfeed or a superficial chatterbox. But sometimes, that superficial chatter can lift someone’s spirits as they realize that they are not alone. Everyone knows that there are many people lonely and alone especially around the Holidays. To see how many people actually joined Sarah and sat down to reach out, to chat with complete strangers, to help them pass the time, was heartwarming. Thank you, Sarah for this initiative.

I spent quite some time chatting about books (Sherlock Holmes, anyone?) and movies and recipes and winter photography. So many people just wanted to see that others cared even if they were strangers and not even from the same country. I came away with the determination to do this again next Christmas. If you use Twitter, I encourage you to join us then. In fact, I have saved the hashtag search so I can easily check every now and then to see if anyone is around.

The pandemic is not over. With the vaccine, we have an extra tool in our arsenal to fight back. However, it came too late for too many people. Every day in 2020, the words that I wrote most often on social media were ‘deepest sympathy.’

We cannot bring back the ones we lost, no. But we can ensure that the ones who are still around, make it. Having a vaccine helps. Kindness helps too. The impatience, partly due to the misconception that ‘if you can do it from home and online you have it easy‘ has led to negative consequences for several who work tirelessly in the field of cold cases.

Book reviewer bashing (yes, that is a thing), attacking people on social media who critically evaluate an unsolved case (and disagree with a popular opinion), and the stream of hateful emails was prevalent in 2020. The harsh rhetoric, on several levels in our society, has harmed us in more ways than we realize. The full extend will surface in the near future.

I am grateful for my readers and the people who keep returning to my website for information. Grateful for all authors and publishers with whom I worked in the last year. Your wide variety of books has broadened my mind. I especially thank you for paper copies/books. I need as much time away from screens as possible.

Gratitude to all who shared memories, pictures, and information. Gratitude to all who sent me a quick grammar/spelling correction (I mean it, I am not territorial and English is not my first language), and as always, grateful for the friendship and working relationship with Jacques Soudan. Jacques built DCC more than a decade ago and to this day, he takes care of hosting, security, and everything that happens behind the scenes.

I am also grateful for my Writer’s Group. Due to the pandemic, we cannot sit and write together. Thanks to chat apps, we still talk at the same times that we used to meet. Pieces for editing and links to interesting articles are exchanged by email. Once a month, we zoom and update each other. Despite the pandemic, we have been writing and contributed to each others work. I appreciate you all.

My deepest sympathy goes out to all who have lost a loved one in the past year. My gratitude goes to all front line workers, especially in the medical field. My thoughts, as always, are with the families and friends of the victims whose cases remain unsolved. My dedication remains with those who cannot speak for themselves anymore. My hope is that I do you justice in 2021 and beyond.

I wish you all the very best for 2021.

*reblogged from my professional website Defrosting Cold Cases.

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