This time last year I was already doing workouts from home and holding my breath on the subway into class. During my train trip to Heidelberg in January, I even switched cars because someone close to me had a cough.

I have always been a worrier. I worried about all the could-be pandemics that never came into existence. I was thorough and diligent in my ruminations; it was my duty. Lay awake. Worry about this one hard. Do it justice. Still, some part of me could conclude that I was being slightly irrational. Everything would be fine because everything usually is. Nothing tremendously bad ever actually happens. I just have to give it some serious concern, and let it free. Then, last March came, and this one was different. I didn’t handle it well.

NPR asked people this month the moment they realized last year that their lives would be different. I read them this morning and many made me cry. I was taking a walk around the old city canal in Utrecht by myself, listening to music and reflecting on what was happening in Italy. It felt inevitable, the closing of things, shutting in. At the time, I reminded myself to be grateful of the blooming flowers and the balmy weather. I didn’t anticipate then how incredibly fearful I would become in the weeks to follow. How I wouldn’t leave the house for almost a month, how I’d panic and cry every time groceries were brought into the house that we laboriously cloroxed for what felt like forever. How I wouldn’t touch mail, wouldn’t open the patio door for friends, wouldn’t let the windows be cracked while people walked by.

Yesterday, two friends came over and sat in the sun in our backyard, drinking tea and eating merci chocolates from a bowl. It was such a nice afternoon, the kind of pleasant uneventful time that I have grown to appreciate even more in this last year. I remind myself: we’re not missing anything. I am not in a rush to get anywhere. Although I am still nervous, there is a calm contentment that I have this season that contrasts so sharply to a year before. Nothing really has changed out in the world. Things are still closed and locked down. Keep distance. Limited guests. Now a curfew. But I have settled into this life in a not unhappy way. Nuzzling in like my cat, who finds the oddest places to sleep and be comfortable. We’ve made a new home, a new normal. Something slower and less exciting, but not without sunny moments. Here is to next year being even brighter.

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