The 2020 Experience: A Personal Reflection

If there was ever a year that showed the difference between “on paper” and “in reality,” 2020 was it.

How so? Well, here is my personal 2020 on paper:

* My novel The Last Emperox was a New York Times bestseller, got three starred reviews from the trades, was named one of the best books of 2020 in a number of places, and won the Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel;

* My audiobook novella Murder By Other Means also topped the charts for Audible Plus and was in the audio book fiction bestseller list for several weeks;

* Love Death and Robots, which featured three episodes based on my short stories, won Emmy and Annie Awards, the latter for one of my episodes — I didn’t win the award, to be clear, but it’s still pretty cool;

* I wrote two television screenplays which are currently in production (and that’s all I can tell you so far);

* I was Guest of Honor at DragonCon;

* I co-wrote a Christmas song that actually got some radio airplay.

Plus this site had its best year in a couple of years in terms of readership, plus my family is largely doing well, plus I was not consumed by a bear or other large woodland creature, etc. 2020! Pretty great! On paper!

In reality, of course, things were a lot different.

On a purely business level, from mid-March through mid-December I found it very difficult to write worthy pay copy. In the first half of year I was busy promoting Emperox and myself, which was not a problem. I knew I would be doing that with my time and had budgeted for it, because I had assumed that in the second half of 2020 I could focus on the novel. Then the second half of 2020 happened, and… well. You were there, you know how it went. Plus in my case there was the pretty-sure-it-was-COVID that turned my brain into jelly starting in November.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I wrote tens of thousands of words on this novel. The likelihood of you seeing any of those particular words without a substantial overhaul is low. The book will get done, and it will be good. But, yeah. When it does get done, it won’t be because 2020 made it easy.

I’m frustrated, angry and annoyed about this. These last few years were hard on my focus, as the various acknowledgement sections of each novel since The Collapsing Empire have made clear. But going into 2020 I genuinely thought I had acclimated to the chaos. I thought I might be able to keep my head down and do some solid work this year, not just on this novel, but on some other projects I wanted to do.

And in January and February, I did! Finished Murder, wrote those screenplays, whomped up a novel synopsis so I would have something to work from instead of just winging it like I usually did, had some meetings in LA about current and future projects and prepped for my book tour. Then with all that accomplished and feeling pretty damn smug about it, if you want to know the truth, I went on the JoCo Cruise in early March, with the assumption that the momentum would keep rolling when I got back.

Then I got back and, oh boy: Pandemic and quarantine and economic collapse and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and anti-maskers and the election and the Stupidest Attempted Coup in Modern World History and 300,000 people dead, and so on and so forth, and think about what that and so on and so forth means, since any one of the things that might be in there would be a major event in a more sane year. 2020 was the year I had to go onto Amazon to buy emergency fucking toilet paper. Plus people I know got sick, and at least a couple died. And then I got sick, and while I didn’t get anywhere close to dying, thank goodness, I wasn’t in a good place for a while there to do meaningful work of the sort I usually do.

I thought I had acclimated to the chaos, and 2020 was all, lol, y’all watch this.

Like I said: frustrated, angry and annoyed. But not, I should note, feeling like I should beat myself up about not being able to focus for much of this year. 2020 was a king tide of terrible. It swamped me and nearly every other person I know, whether they were someone working in a creative field or not. I suppose there are some people who were able to function close to their normal this year, but I think they would either have been apolitical hermits to begin with, or sociopaths who think the chaos of this year is civilization living its best life. In either case that’s not a “normal” I would care to emulate.

Between March and December of 2020, the sum result of my public creative output is: one song. And know you what? For 2020, that is a complete and unambiguous win. I will take it, thank you. You know what else? If you were able to do anything this year above the level of “just get through this,” that’s a complete and unambiguous win for you, too. Feel good about it. And if “just get through this” was all you did for 2020, guess what? Another win! 2020 didn’t make it easy for you to do that, and you did it anyway. Well done, you. Basically, getting to this point in 2020 feels like a monumental achievement. Take a damn bow. You deserve it.

I will note that while this was a terrible year, objectively and subjectively, for me it was not as terrible as it was for many. Aside from the professional highlights above, the day-to-day experience of my life was as good as it could have been. My family was at home with me so the quarantine was not hard to endure. We were and are financially secure and never had to fear losing our home, or worry about whether or not we could pay our bills. We were mostly healthy and when I and Athena got sick, neither of us were seriously physically incapacitated. I missed people but I was also able to stay in touch with them online and through other means. We were and are both fortunate, and lucky. It’s perhaps strange to say that 2020 reminded me that I and my family have the luxury of a margin between us and the gulf. But it did, and I will go ahead and say it.

In spite of 2020, I have hopes for 2021. We will have a new administration and we have a vaccine. Neither means a hard reset of the damage that 2020 did, but they do mean some problems are on their way to being solved, or at least being managed better than they are now. I won’t say 2021 is going to be easy. But I can hope that it will be different, and that this level of different makes it easier for me to get back into my own head. We’ll see.

As for 2020: On paper, a good year for me. In reality, I would have traded all of the “on paper” for a better year than we all got. Every day, and twice on Sunday, of which there are no more for this year. Come on, 2021. Can’t wait to meet you.

— JS

47 Comments on “The 2020 Experience: A Personal Reflection”

  1. I think we all had highs and lows. My wife and I became grandparents at the very end of 2019, but our ability to see and be with our new grandson has been very limited because of the pandemic. And we moved into a house in the woods which was great, but I also lost my mother to lung cancer in February, right before the whole pandemic thingy slammed into us.
    I am glad for your accomplishments and the fact we can enjoy your work. 2021 will not much different from 2020 except that we have a little light at the end of the big tunnel we’re in. And on January 20th we get a new president. Which will be a huge improvement.

  2. I just found out that “Death to 2020” is trending on Twitter this morning. Somehow, reading this “Whatever” blog after realizing that seems totally appropriate.

  3. It’s perverse, but I find your post about how hard 2020 was to be encouraging. I began a new, very difficult, very stressful job in mid-November 2019, one that has multiple deadlines every single workday. I was just maybe kinda sorta getting the hang of it when the pandemic hit and totally screwed up how my employer functioned. And as my brain was occupied with worrying about the pandemic — on top of the worry about Trump and the election — it was extremely difficult to hit all those deadlines. There were lots of very, very late nights and a lot of missed deadlines. But to hear the specifics about your own troubles makes mine feel much more normal and forgivable, and I think you for that, very much.

  4. Ha. Yeah.

    In 2020, I won a Minnesota Book Award, an Edgar Award, and a Lodestar (“Not a Hugo”) Award. I was a finalist for the Nebula, the Thriller, the Anthony, and the Dragon. I finished revisions on a book and turned it in, and I wrote a couple of short stories. My family stayed healthy and safe.

    I was also late turning in my book revisions because as I got close to the end of the book, which includes fictional riots in Minneapolis, Minneapolis was on fire. We had some teenagers come stay with us because their parents were so terrified that their neighborhood, near the epicenter, was going to be burned down by the white supremacists that no one outside the city seemed to even believe were real. Someone I knew died of COVID. Lots of people I knew got sick, some very seriously. I volunteered for the election, and we won, but the Resident in Chief STILL has not given up trying to enact a coup and we’re just going to have to wait to see how bad the long-term damage is.

    Every few days I still get this jolt of realization: we are in a pandemic. We’re in the timeline with an actual global pandemic. This disaster that lurks constantly in the back of my head isn’t something I read or wrote or saw, it’s the world I’m living in. I don’t know how this keeps surprising me, almost a year into it? But it keeps surprising me.

  5. Thanks so much for this.

    And yes, “2020 was a king tide of terrible” for so, so very many, and I’m hoping 2021 will bring some measure of healing for everyone who has been touched.

    Like a lot of folks, I am bone tired of politics.

    The emersion in politics and political…discussions has resulted in a more misanthropic Sara Marie, one who now has physical reactions to conservatives, Trump supporters in particular.

    I may be in the minority, but I charge politics with the lion’s share of the devastation that covid has wrought in this country, from the association of masks and other preventative measures with liberal tyranny to the all and all assault on science, facts and expertise.

    I’ve held my breath as the guardrails that are our democracy and institutions were tested and bent and breathed a tentative sigh of relief as they held.

    Here’s to a 2021 in which we can all go back to criticizing policy rather than worrying about whether or not we’re going to wake up in a banana republic.

    Here’s to a 2021 in which people can begin working on friendships and family relationships gone to shit because politics.

    Please, pretty please let 2021 be the year of the competent, intelligent and sane.

    Bring on the damn recovery.

  6. 2020 frustrated me as well. I far outstripped my word goal for February and hoped to carry that forward. March was okay, but I saw the writing on the UK’s wall. April was my 25th anniversary, which was meant to be spent on holiday. That didn’t happen, and my mental health got a little roughed up. The rest of the year was hit-and-miss. I republished a novella I love, but nothing new. I had my laptop wrecked not once but twice, and it’s still out of commission. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about 2021, however. I will absolutely be getting the vaccine as soon as it’s offered.

  7. I’m just so glad I started dating the man I’m dating in February. I don’t know what 2020 would have been like without him in my life and I really don’t want to find out. We’re both back at work which is more of a blessing than I’d ever have thought simply having a job is. As far as we know we haven’t had COVID, though I did have a flu-ish bug that earned me a test a few months ago. My parents (in Florida!) remain well, and my stepdad has gotten the first vaccine dose as he’s a hospital volunteer.

    I don’t want to get into the politics except that January 20th cannot possibly arrive soon enough.

    Now I need to go wash my work masks. 2020 can bite me.

  8. Much of what was terrible was how false information was disseminated on social media regarding the topics you list above. Were we a more rational society with better leaders this wouldn’t have happened in such an extreme manner. Sadly it resulted in more fatalities and property damage to innocent people. I don’t have high expectations of the new administration at all but it’s still better than what we’ve been saddled with for four years. Anyway happy 2021 to all and let’s try for more understanding and less rhetoric.

  9. It was a year when amazingly productive days alternated with ‘I will curl up under a quilt for the rest of eternity’ days. I participated in the Clarion West Write-a-thon, submitted half a dozen stories to various places, made headway on my fantasy novel, and launched my website. I also watched approximately 18,478 episodes of British and New Zealand murder village TV.

    Paul Simon wrote a song for Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Mass’ which includes the lyrics: ‘Half the people are stoned and the other half are waiting for the next election…’ Half of us are wearing masks, half of us are waiting for vaccines, half of us just need it to be 20 January 2021 so we can breathe again.

  10. I would like to nominate “2020 was a king tide of terrible” for the understatement of the year. I think that it was more like “the tsunami that happened right after the asteroid hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs.”

    In all seriousness, Thank You for writing this – it caused me to reflect on the past year and what I WAS able to accomplish during what might have been the lowest ebb of my life. I have a wonderful wife who was able to keep working remotely, no one in either of our immediate families was killed (though we do know people who died of Covid), and I was able to do some creative work (though not as much as I had hoped for).

    I hope that 2021 is better for all of us.

    Best and Happy New Year.

  11. ‘Apparently the Washington Post ran a write-in competition for the best summary of 2020, and the winner (a nine year old from the mid-west) came up with this totally accurate description:

    “2020 was like taking care to look both ways before you cross the road, and then being hit by a submarine.” ‘

    I think that says it all.

    I stole the whole quote from Charlie’s Diary (i.e. Charles Stross) featuring a quote from the Washington post.

  12. I know some who have perished, alone and in agony.
    I have entire tranches of family with whom I am no longer on speaking terms.
    I have friends who have survived encounters with Covid.
    And, because they DID survive, now discount its effects.
    And who continue to believe that hospitals, doctors, and fucking FUNERAL DIRECTORS (yeah, logic THAT shit, if you please) are inflating its importance and its devastation.

    I did not go hungry.
    I did not lose my home.
    Or my car.

    But as a result of the health calamity, the infuriatingly inept and corrosive lack of leadership, and the astonishingly tribal and ignorant responses to these, I no longer believe in the goodwill of my fellows, my neighbors, or the random guy I see on the street.

    Empires fall.
    There are no exceptions.
    Usually via rot from within.

    I am sad.
    And that’s it. That’s my take on 2020.

  13. In my worse moments (and 2020, for all the shit-storm it turned out to be, wasn’t even close) I learned that if I could just maintain a sense of humor, I’d be ok. Yeah, my sense of humor is rather oblique but it amuses me.

    The funniest thing is that during 2020 my PCP keeps telling me to lose weight! LMAO as I watch cooking videos and waddle to the fridge.

    Positives – continuing to learn how to use spreadsheets, created a few memes, actually came up with an idea for a book, and got some writing done. Whether I’ll ever finish it is moot; for now I’m jazzed.

    2021? Bring it!

  14. Thanks for your thoughts.

    I was wondering if your ‘malaise’ might be related to a mild case of clinical depression (or whatever they call it) brought about by external influences?

    In my case: I am retired, so normally spend most of my time at home, with occasional visits to family (out of state) the normal yearly activities. We were able to attend my mothers’ 100th birthday party (in Jan), and saw just about all family/extended family (around 150 descendants of my mother), so that was good.

    We had planned a family vacation (with kids/grandkids) at a cabin in Truckee CA in July, but sadly that got cancelled.

    But day-to-day was mostly normal. Outings to get food/medicine (with masks and hand sanitizer), no church attendance, but otherwise normal. No panicked trips to stores for TP/etc – I had a good supply of that stuff as a normal practice.

    We did take two trips out of state in Oct/Dec, with proper precautions, to visit grandkids. One properly distanced visit with my mother (still active!) in Dec. And I self-published my second Classic Western book, along with creating and updating several web sites. So was able to keep busy and productive.

    YMMV, of course (and did). But think maybe it was possible that you had a mild case of clinical depression that may be part of the cause of your ‘malaise’. (I am not a doctor, of course.)

  15. I worried for you that your brain fog would persist. I hope it has fully cleared.
    Perhaps turning over the blog to Athena for a month and you turn off news from the outside world.
    Clearing your mind to rewrite this summer’s gibberish.
    Two scripts in production! Why do you not have a “Stan Lee” clause so your family can appear? Your wife is “The Elegant Women.”
    Athena is “Charming College Student.”
    You are “Krazy yelling cat guy standing on a soap box in the park.”
    Smudge and Zeus plays themselves.
    No make or acting classes required! ;)

  16. rickhellewell:

    “I was wondering if your ‘malaise’ might be related to a mild case of clinical depression (or whatever they call it) brought about by external influences?”


  17. Writer-wise, I wrote four books this year. The trilogy was composed in a white heat of Covid isolation and denial for the first part of the year. and the fourth book was a more leisurely process, taking up the last half of the year. Trilogy ran to about 270,000 words, the fourth book is at around 114,000 and at the editor right now. For some reason I find it easy to write near-future agripunk corporate soap opera dystopia. Selling it? Well, I’m trying. The new Amazon feature which allows grouping of series is really helpful in that respect.

    Personally? The son and his girlfriend had a spectacular breakup and moveout during Covid. We haven’t left Wallowa County at all since May, when we drove out to get horse grain at the feed store in the neighboring county, took one look at the crowded parking lot, and bugged out (as it turned out, a week later there was a Covid hotspot there thanks to one of those Pentecostal churches that kept on holding services with no social distancing or masks. Wise move. And the horse likes the grain I get at the local feed store better).

    We’re in better shape than most because we’re retired and don’t have to go anywhere, so we didn’t. But…we could get out of the house to go to the woods. Stunning morel and huckleberry crops this year. We also ended up ordering a LOT of stuff from Amazon because, welp, no Instacart or other delivery services out here in the boonies. Our household joke is that we’re reverting to our farmer ancestors who bought stuff mail order from Sears or Montgomery Ward. Only today it’s the ‘Zon. I spent a lot of time riding my 20-year-old horse and she liked both the attention and our long road rides up to the fringes of the woods. Old mare is a busybody and she likes to snoop. She was in a pasture with other horses whose owner only saw them 1-2 times a month, then by herself for a couple of months, so minimal Covid exposure there, yay.

    But the son lost his job because he had a non-Covid health issue and he got screwed over by his company on that one (I’m still pissed that they wouldn’t let him take FMLA for a health safety leave related to Covid because that set him up for this discharge). I suspect they really didn’t want to have to go the extra mile to accommodate him because he’s immunosuppressed due to Crohn’s medication. He’s been looking for work but it’s slow.

    Covid is starting to catch up to my friends and relatives. A niece has had it. Another one is dealing with a difficult pregnancy and is freaked out about going through birth alone. My horse trainer of many years is in the hospital with Covid and cardiac issues and really struggling. A friend’s husband is going through a lot of non-Covid hospital craziness. So far the cases and exposures have been incredibly capricious. A friend works in the ER at Evergreen Hospital in Renton (? That area, Ground Zero for Covid in Feb/March). She got her first vaccine yesterday, and fortunately has managed to avoid it so far.

    Still not sure but I may have had Covid either in December or February. I had two really bad illnesses that didn’t feel quite right–one was a gut bug that did not have any puking or nausea, with fever. The second one was more flu-like, and I actually hit a temp of 102.5 through that one. Was also hitting my asthma rescue inhaler pretty regularly and using my peak flow meter to check my breathing. What I remember being odd was that it took me a lot longer than usual to recover from both illnesses. At the time, I attributed that to being seriously sick for the first time in my 60s. Now I wonder. And both bugs were clobber illnesses–one of those where you stop, and realize that you need to lie down. Now.

    Despite living in a red area things have been pretty calm here. There was a flurry of protesting and posturing from the Trump supporters in the summertime, but now that it’s winter (temps were 9 degrees F this morning) the focus is on getting livestock fed and dealing with wintertime stuff.

  18. I’m an asocial hermit-curmudgeon, does that count?

    I don’t have much of a life, but 2020 STILL managed to cover me with tire tracks.

  19. I tell people that I feel like I’m on a luxury cruise ship, eating lobster at the midnight buffet, but when i walk out on the deck I see the ship plowing through the survivors of a tusnami clinging to wreckage, begging to be rescued as the ship plows on. And there’s nothing more that I can do to help beyond throwing them some water bottles and protein bars.

    Things have been so dysfunctional that when POTUS vetoed the defense bill and said he was going to veto the bill to help those devastated by COVID and keep the government open it warrranted no more than a “meh, ops normal, what’s the next story” from me.

  20. Thank you for reminding us that it’s ok if we are just here. 2020 has been a giant juxtaposition of good things and super horrifically dumpster fire things. Good things: after 2 years I had two different surgeries to fix all the things and give me a great quality of life back (weight, hiatal hernia, heart issues). Then in October our world fell apart – my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And just like that, what was a mild smoldering of garbage turned into a giant explosion contained in that dumpster. Trips to the ER, long hospital stays, medications, watching my hero lose weight so dramatically, being his care giver, keeping family informed, changing everything from what we had known to this entirely new “normal” ALL ON TOP OF A PANDEMIC… yeah. Making fund raisers to help with bills, asking co-workers and strangers to donate time so he can keep getting paid and keep a job he loves (and needs for medical care) – and still trying to keep some sense of humor and normal in my life while I am a cheerlet for his life. Nothing has been normal about this world for almost a year. And many days I struggle just to keep my head above water, I fight the feelings of inadequacy, fear, worry, pre-emptive grief, anger, and complete loss of any goals or ambition – all tempered with a serious case of WTF am I doing and am I doing anything right or well. Your words made me realize that by breathing today, by being by his bed side, by keeping up the tree until he comes home, by simply drinking coffee, I am doing the best I can right in this minute. Thank you for the good reminder. And thank you for brightening this world with your creative awesomeness. Once my Warrior King is out of the hospital, he will get back to listening to your books on audible, and that always makes him smile.

  21. On paper versus real life. Yes, on paper we did quite well, financially speaking. In real life, probably had covid in April, but had cancelled classes for the entire quarter, so could be sleeping in peace. And sleep I did. It was like having mono with chest pain. All trips cancelled. The kids were planned to launch, but fell back into the nest before they could clamber to the edge. This was great for us, because we didn’t have to feel so isolated in lockdown. I do suffer from depression, so the return of teaching via zoom was a real blessing. It was good to see humans, albeit virtually. (Learning zoom was its own trial — not intuitive for me!) Skype and zoom and rarely out of the house — I still managed to catch a cold over Christmas! (Pesky viruses!) As far as Christmas went, I really didn’t even try too much compared to normal years, but we did have a tree and some presents and the bare minimum just about worked. Like many others here, I know people who have died from Covid, but my immediate family was spared, so far, and I do hope that the vaccine will bring down cases to the point where this virus disappears in the summer. I imagine, though, that we will be getting shots for mutated versions like we get the flu shot for decades to come. Because of the on paper good year, we gave away more money to food banks and other places to aid our fellow Americans than we ever have and still feel like it was not enough. So we will keep upping the giving. What a year!

  22. I was able to function very close to normal this year, and I am neither a “apolitical hermit(s) to begin with, or (a) sociopath(s) who think the chaos of this year is civilization living its best life.” WTF? Much of how this year affected us depends on our individual circumstances, and being far away from chaos doesn’t mean I think chaos is good. I acknowledge how lucky and privileged I am. Jeez.

  23. I feel it… it’s so frustrating to be able to see what’s going on out there and be able to do pretty much zip/nought about it… every twitch and cough is scary… I used to think it was a little like being in jail… ok, comfortable jail… but lately I realised, no, it’s more like being a POW… people in jail know when their time is up, they can count the days…
    We don’t know when this is gonna end… if it ever really does… and where the vulgar reproductive explitive are we headed… and what’s with the handbasket?

  24. We might have turned a corner, but there are still a few things that really worry me:
    * we won’t know how much Christmas travel increased infections and deaths until late January
    * the new government will make some things better, but a lot of people will continue to struggle
    * the backlash against government neglect, corporate exploitation, and systemic oppression could be a lot bigger next time
    * the next coup attempt will be smarter and more organised
    * storms, floods, and fires will keep on getting worse, because we’re still burning huge amounts of fossil fuels

    There’s still a chance we can turn things around – and that we can use the energy of the next big backlash to do it. But we’ll need to do a lot of hard work to make that happen.

  25. I’m in the same third category as K, I think: people with a temperament that lets them work steadily even when the world is on fire. My partner is in this category as well: we both were able to work from home, and while i can’t speak for her, I had possibly the most productive year of my career and didn’t miss any deadlines.

    I am not a sociopath (as far as I know) or an apolitical hermit. It’s possible that rage was one of the fuels that got me through this year.

  26. The biggest problem, the one that kept reoccurring through all of those listed things is the total incompetence of the response to every single problem. If just one of those things had been handled competently we all would have been able to find some hope.

    That lack of things to find hope in, other than volunteering for the betterment of humanity, made the world a lonely planet and things just grew darker.

    One of the worst things was how far my opinion of the unwashed masses has fallen. It wasn’t particularly high to begin with, but the bottom dropped out of it. That and being let down by local government entities that just swept me under the rug.

  27. Some slightly disconnected thoughts raised by the post and some comments.

    Two weeks back, I got a good scare about a potentially very serious accident involving a loved one. And a huge relief when everything was okay after all. That put all kinds of things in a different light.

    I try to fight the tendency to wrap all this stuff up as “2020”. After all, it’s all been brewing up for a while, just that this year happened to be the one where many things boiled over. And things will keep moving, so we better stay engaged. With the level of political activism you guys currently have over there in the States, you might be able to get progress on some long-needed systemic changes – hoping you the best of luck!

    And thanks to our gracious host for reminding us that yes, if we got anything at all done in these months, or if we even got through them, that’s a win, that really is.

  28. My highs have been lower than usual, and my lows have been lower than ever. But I’m not sick, and none of my immediate family are sick, and those friends of ours who have gotten sick have not died. Three of them have moved away, which at certain moments feels like ‘we will never see them again,’ but we are all alive.

    And we are doing things. The yards, houses, and pets are being kept. Those of us who still need to work are still able to work. My employers have stopped saying ‘when we go back to the office,’ but the work is still rolling and the home workstation is pretty darn good and I do not miss the commute at all.

    Still writing, too. In spite of everything I published 5 new novellas and a novelette, plus completed and published six new novels, plus wrote another three new novels for publication next year. It’s good to look back on the log because from day to day it feels as though I accomplish nothing. But there it is.

    Here’s to all of us, keeping on.

  29. I’m neither an apolitical hermit nor a sociopath. I am, however, a very late diagnosed autistic person and diagnosed with PTSD/cPTSD primarily from a … chaotic childhood and early adulthood.

    This trash fire of a year has been hard. But then, in one way or another, pretty much every year of my life has been hard. I know how to push through until I can’t, then somehow collapse, gather myself again, and push through again until I can’t anymore. I saw a lot of autistic adults share a similar experience with this year.

    And then, of course, there’s my ability to find a way to do the next thing when everything is on fire. The challenges with affect regulation (blending with autistic struggles) are no fun. Neither are the experiences of dissociation or shutdown. But the world feeling like a chaotic and unsafe place? That’s my normal. I know how to find and do the next thing in the midst of it. I saw others with cPTSD especially express similar thoughts online. It has felt like the rest of the world has stepped into our reality but without the tools and defenses to cope.

    So, I had a typically high performing year at work? Completed a number of different demanding efforts? Juggled priorities and accomplished the things I needed to accomplish.

    I also educated myself deeply on things involved with the pandemic, read published papers, sifted, sorted and organized data, and tracked local data in places with family members closely. Developing as accurate a picture of the world as I could helped me feel … somewhat stabilized. Acquiring and organizing knowledge deeply is sort of what my brain does to help it feel better. And I conitnued with therapy though I don’t know that I’ve accomplished much more this year there than get through it.

  30. I want to seriously thank you for this piece
    2020 has been a hard year for m in addition to the pandemic level events
    my employer of 20 years eliminated my position in Feb and I was unemployed until the beginning of Dec when I finally found a new position
    so I consider that as you said a definite success

  31. Thanks, this piece makes me feel a little better. I worked really hard to keep my bookstore going. I also write a children’s series, but couldn’t get that first draft done. I did get two short pieces done for another bookstore and their store cat, and I got a non-fiction book written, but not out. Non-fiction was easier to write, because my characters stopped talking to me.

  32. I hope you and your family get over the Covid soon. This is a strange disease, it has hit our family a couple times. Luckily it didn’t put anybody in the hospital. But it doesn’t seem to really go away. It makes it really hard to have the ambition to get any thing done, and then Trump sucks all the air out of the country. Remembering the friends who have died in 2020.

    Hopefully 2021 will be better for us all.

  33. I keep trying to sum up this year and keep failing. My two bright spots are 1) that I’ve trained for and run several 5ks at home and 2) I was able to keep my long term subbing job from February to May. We had to pivot to online learning very quickly, and I have absolutely no facility for technology, but we successfully finished the units I wanted to finish with my 6th and 8th graders. Some of my students did not do as well as I would have liked — or as they would have done if we were in class — but others did surprisingly well. Overall, it was a win. This fall has been dismal due to lack of work, and the 24 hour news cycle being a garbage heap, but I am starting the new year with cautious optimism. I do plan to yell Jumanji at midnight though, just in case.

  34. I read “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel at the end of February. I think it helped set my expectations and make me aware that 2020 was not as bad as it could have been.

  35. Being retired, my income (annuities and Social Security) didn’t change. What I really miss is bookstore browsing. Rereading the ones I already have instead. Sure you can order anything online to be picked up locally, but that only works for books that you know about.

  36. Eridani, E-bay is a great source of cheap used books. I just received a package of four nice thick ones for all of $13. A couple are re-reads of books I left behind when I moved to a smaller place several years ago, so not ‘new’ but good enough for bed-time relaxation.

    ‘Goodreads’ is a great site to find quotes and reviews from readers, great for perusing books and authors that you may have heard of but haven’t seen on the shelves yet.

    The problem I have is that I don’t sell on e-bay, and nobody locally wants used books. I may plant a few…

  37. Thanks for this, John. The pandemic and politics together flattened the part of my brain that usually carries on writing even when I’m doing something else. It still worries me, but it helps to hear that others have had the same experience.

  38. Dorothy, recently I watched an interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, she talks about writing through depression (basically, don’t, but if you must…) and she assigned herself to write just three sentences a day. I’ve found it helpful when the blizzard outside the window is blowing brown instead of white ;-)

  39. I really appreciated hearing that just getting through this year was an accomplishment. Thank you for that. We have taken a hit to our income and would be unable to pay rent if a relative hadn’t stepped up to offer us lodging. My husband had a stroke, which he fortunately recovered well from. Various efforts to create things or find new work haven’t come off. All of that on top of a pandemic, a crisis in police injustice, an assault on our democracy, and let’s not forget, increased intensity of disasters from ongoing climate change, and more. Not a good year for us, even on paper.

    We did take some time to appreciate good moments. We’ve baked more and done more handcrafts, and that can be surprisingly comforting. We are together.

    My greatest hope is that the terrible rifts and vulnerabilities this year revealed will inspire us to work on solutions. There have been problems. 2020 made them very obvious.

  40. I wrote a novella over the summer and finally looked over the draft this month.

    It’s the single worst thing I’ve written since becoming a professional. It didn’t feel like it when I was writing it, but clearly my brain was not firing on all cylinders. I wrote other things that weren’t terrible, even sold a couple of short stories. But this novella… I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I’m just going to blame 2020.

  41. We’re in a similar position to our humble host. Maintained our jobs, me working from home almost 100% since March, my wife generally working from home one day a week and otherwise in her lab at NIH. (Because you can’t really set up a blood processing lab at home. Or at least, shouldn’t.)

    The biggest challenge for us has been needing to pay a nanny to watch our son for more hours than we would have anticipated at the start of 2020. Which has been especially annoying the last third of the year since we also enrolled him in a small private school for children with learning and emotional disabilities. So we’re paying double – school tuition plus nanny to watch him. Luckily we have the financial resources to manage, plus received some assistance from our parents.

    I don’t think I know anyone personally who passed away from Covid, but four well-known members of the filk community died this year, two of them took their own lives.

    There have been silver linings. I’ve been participating in bunches of virtual conventions and filk circles and streaming concerts. I can argue I’ve seen more of the virtual cons and “attended” more concerts than I would have live, given the challenges of dealing with our son.

    Definitely hoping for a better 2021, even if I’m not likely to get vaccinated until the summer. Early 50’s, no known co-morbidities, currently able to work from home…depending on whose guidelines you look at I’m pretty much towards the back of the line.

  42. I just sent an Amazon CARE package to a friend I’ve known for 3-4 years online. He’s disabled and self-employed, and between the lack of government assistance and his regular gigs falling apart, his situation went from survivable to “I hope I can keep a roof over my head”. That’s one of the many bad things about 2020, that so many more people ended up on the breadline who ordinarily wouldn’t, and the margarine (no real butter left) has to be scraped that much thinner over the bread.

  43. Weirdly, 2020 ended up seeing me finally get some projects done I’d always meant to. I got my giant tub of Legos I’ve had since I was a kid nicely sorted and am midway through sorting my collection of Magic cards into a card catalogue. These were the sorts of projects I always pushed below the line, but with WFH I’ve taken to using my lunch hour to work on them a little every work day.

  44. I suppose there are some people who were able to function close to their normal this year, but I think they would either have been apolitical hermits to begin with, or sociopaths who think the chaos of this year is civilization living its best life.

    I understand the temptation to think so. Who but a hard-hearted, closed-off misanthrope could have gotten through 2020 all “business as usual”?

    On the other hand, there are close to eight billion people in the world. Of these, some fraction will have had a lived experience of 2020 not markedly different from their lived experience of 2019. I’m willing to believe that this is due primarily to happenstance, as opposed to defect of character.

    It has felt like the rest of the world has stepped into our reality but without the tools and defenses to cope.

    This same thing has also occurred to me, Scott Morizot. I am a late-diagnosed autist and lifelong introvert. When the isolate-in-place orders came down, I thought of the gossiping groups of people no longer suffered to clog every street corner and supermarket aisle. “Welcome to my world, neurotypical assholes!”

    This feeling did not last long. Being reclusive does not make me impervious to human distress.

    My greatest hope is that the terrible rifts and vulnerabilities this year revealed will inspire us to work on solutions. There have been problems. 2020 made them very obvious.

    Too right, annaparadox. As we said in my youth, an injury to one is an injury to all.

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