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41/224 - 2020 in Review

2020 in review

The other day someone was going through their own review of 2020 and all I could think was “wait, we’re actually considering the possibly of 2020 coming to an end?” but also, “I should probably do one of those, for future memory”. And so it is that we’re here, doing just that, or trying to.

Before I go in to what’s definitely going to be a dark account, I want to write down why I’m doing this and what I hope to achieve as everyone has a 2020 story to tell - or ten - and me, personally, David the Human, really really can’t complain if we do the math of: all my arms and legs are accounted for, I don’t have health issues that I know off, I’m not worse off financially and I’ve got some paths for me to explore in 2021.

But still, all the events here are relevant, one especially so and I want to put them down in writing, saved in a file across a few servers in the hope that this - My Dear Diary - resists and that I can come back to it some day, or my kids, or a friend, or someone I haven’t met yet that might take some value of my experiences - or aliens!

So the things I want to achieve here are:

1. Bacteria be gone

Had I a habit of writing I would have, at the very least, a post called “2019 in Review” and in it, I would have a section called “Welcome, the entire Bacterial Population”.

Now, that section would start with …

London, September 30th 2019: Had a great meeting, we know the product we built in and out and these demos always turn out great and people are impressed. Dinner was lovely too, they took us out to a nice restaurant, I had <something that I really don’t remember right now>, had a very large beer and we took the taxi to the hotel near the airport as we had flights in the morning.

I settled into the hotel room and put the kettle on. Wifi was - as per Hotel Standards - only there in name, so I went to bed and turned on the TV to enjoy some good old UK programming. I started to feel cold, and noticed the window was open, so I closed that and turned on the heater.

Funny, I am colder still, as in, shivering, but I’m also sweating, this is very unpleasant, I’ll try to get some sleep.

I can’t get seem to be able to sleep on account of all this vigorous shivering my body is performing surely, for my self-entertainment. I also feel sort of an urge to go to the bathroom but I better get this shivering under control.

Never mind that, I’ll go to the bathroom them. Oh what’s this, pain like that of knifes suddenly teleporting somewhere into my insides, how quaint. And what’s this, blood and other gooey bits coming out of me, oh boy, and I thought the meeting was the highlight of my day, I’m so glad I bought the All Night Entertainment package.

Suddenly it’s morning and I have my flight, better take a shower and gently exfoliate the remainings of the evening. It’s interesting that each step I take is accompanied by some mild pain, which is good as it makes walking less boring. After breakfast and some pills offered by a concerned co-worker that seemed to have confused my name with “Oh My God You About As Pale as Hell Irish People In General What’s Wrong With You” - my name is David by the way, I really didn’t understand the confusion, but I went with it - I set off to walk over to the airport, passing by a Pink Tesla Y that I surely looked on the outside how I felt on the inside, very confused but eager to show off.

The Airport was nice, I got to sit and walk and visit the Pins and Needles Room - or Bathroom as we normally call it . I saw Jeremy Irons, I swear I did, and that was nice, and with that I settled into the airplane and left London heading south this time, instead of West. The plane landed nicely and I followed all the nice people and arrows pointing to places over to where I would collect the car, where my wife met me and she also confused my name with something longer and involving questions and then she drove me to the hospital, where a number of things happened and medicine was given with instructions, that all felt nice so I went to sleep.

A week later .. no, sorry, a month later, it happened again, almost exactly like it did before, by sheer coincidence on the same day I stopped taking the month long dose of antibiotics. How odd, better ask the experts then. Oh you see, that antibiotic might not have been the most suited, here take this one instead while we run the tests again, so I did, and I knew I remembered that name when I started to notice a rash on my skin, it’s the same one that had given me a rash decades before, so I went to the hospital to try to get them to swap for something less rashy, please sir!

As luck would have it, there I was waiting for the doctor to call me again when I get an email from another doctor at the same hospital, something in the lines of “URGENT PLEASE HEAD OVER TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM”. And I thought, well this is convenient given I’m here already, let’s go find this doctor then, so I went, and she was very nice in explaining how none of the antibiotics would work on this new bacteria the same way it did on the first one - seems like I was having a party down there - and so I would need hospital grade antibiotics and she wanted me to stay for the duration, but there were no rooms and she would have to direct me somewhere else. Well, but can I take them in the hospital and go home after? Well, I suppose you can, but you have to buy them and come back here every single day for at least 15 days, so I said Yes and we all rejoiced.

30 days later and whatever works out at 100 something Euros a dose, my arms fully versed in the art of having needles permanently attached to them and with me finally finding a place to read a book for one hour each day undisturbed the bacteria seemed to be doing very well, so this other nice doctor that I had since started seeing was scratching his head and asking loads of questions and asking me to pee into a bucket with a timer to see what world records I would break. Upon which he said “ah-ha, Eureka” and we all rejoiced, and then he said he would have to insert tubes and cameras into my no-no parts and I rejoiced slightly less.

So THAT happened and it was every bit as nice as it sounds, especially the part where he said - right, plan B, we need the rigid metallic tubes and the cutting bits - oh how we all laughed there in that tiny room, me pantless, the floor bloody and the nurse seeing me at my absolute best - we did, or I did, I swear I laughed all the way through it, and when it was all over I had earned a new toy. A little bag attached to me, via a tube, which meant I could play computer games for hours and hours without ever having to go to the bathroom and a date with the surgery room in two weeks time.

Oh how fun it all was but by Christmas time I was done, I had done it all and after another comedic moment whereupon a nice gentleman thought he was dressing a wound only to find out he was removing a tube from within me, which he did and we all rejoiced and I went home, a new man, with the urinating power of a fire hydrant and life was looking up again.

Except I woke up a couple of days later with a fever and everything started again and there wasn’t much rejoicing, but instead some tests were done as quickly as some bacteria can be nursed into a nice bunch and then scientifically analysed. I held my breath when they call, as I wasn’t looking forward to hearing my Antibiotic Resistant friend was, indeed, resistant to antibiotics, so when they named my tenant and I found out it was in fact a NEW one, there was mild rejoicing, followed by - more - antibiotics, and suddenly it was February and I stopped taking antibiotics and ………. it held. I was once again, master of my domain!

By then I thought, well, at least 2020 is starting to look up, 2019 was really nasty.


2. A World Pandemic

Fresh out of my own predicament, news started making the rounds that a weird pneumonia like disease was hitting China in a non trivial way. And by the time we collectively finished saying the words “ahhh that’ll never come all the way here” governments were ordering lockdowns, closing down schools and generally checking calendars to confirm that, in fact, it’s been just over 100 years since the Spanish Flu pandemic, so we’re due a new one.

As you can expect, as someone working full time in a company operating on the online Accommodation Business, I had some reservations — only to see them all cancelled thus reverting all revenue from the previous months and obliterating almost all future revenue and with it, minor things like, site traffic, tea and cookies, office space, pay checks, full heads of hair, etc.

We of course reacted quickly, we grabbed kitchen and / or gardening utensils and proceeded to cut all costs we could possibly cut, stopping at the point where we have a functional web application, continue to provide customer support - and by then there was a lot of it - and give us a fighting chance for the future.

With all boxes ticked, it was left for each of us to individual deal with the aftermath and with the fact that all our salaries took a hit. So each of us went away to deal with it, and I dealt with it by working both my butt and my head off from that point on by taking on a second, large enough, project.

3. My heart was broken and forever incomplete

By now it’s July and the kids needed a break from all day home, to all day home but with a nicer view. We decided to drive south for a week, or two, we would see, so we packed everything and set off. Before leaving my phone lost access to the network, seemed like my number (Irish) was having a hard time with the Roaming service and I assumed it would just be a temporary thing. Just before leaving my wife got a text from the nursing home where my mother was - this was a huge part of 2019 and why it was such a crappy year, but I’ll leave that for another time - where they told us that she was having some very mild respiratory symptoms and given everything that was happening they felt it was better to take her to the hospital, but it was all routine and we shouldn’t worry, a couple of days would do it.

I’ll add a note here, for memory sake, remembering that in February my mom was taken to a hospital in Lisbon, and for a while it looked like there might be a solution to the neurological problems. I visited her every day, she had some lumbar punctures done, fluid drained and we were hopeful, but in the end she came back, tired and as she was before, only to see the Pandemic roll in and visits being forbidden. I saw her once or twice since, from afar …

So we settled in to our “vacation spot”, I of course brought my work with me but the kids at least could go to the beach and relax a bit in a different set. I couldn’t really complain as the temperature was nicer and having the cool breeze come in from the sea really balances things out. We phoned every day to the hospital, by then there were no visits of course, and they told us she had a little bit of pneumonia and she was taking antibiotics but was doing well, eating well and generally ok. This went on for a few days, every call the news was similar, she’s doing well, all is good.

Then on Saturday we called again, my wife called because she had built a repertoire with the nurses and we couldn’t really speak to my mother, so it was the same, but this time her tone of voice dropped and she said “sorry, can you explain what you just said” and I knew things weren’t well, and it wasn’t going fine and everything was not ok. By then they told us she had taken a sharp turn to the worse, breathing was extremely hard and there was nothing they could do but provide “comfort measures”. Everything sank and the next day, when the phone rang around 6am, no words were necessary, the woman that brought me to life and that was a part of me forever had left and my life would go on from that day without her.

We packed and drove back home, and I had a new project in hand - taking care of all the bureaucracy, funeral, taxes, banks, but most of all, MOST of all, prepare the rest of my fathers life, a man who had lost the daily presence of my mother for a little over a year and now lost everything…

I worked almost every day,I worked on the day my mother was cremated and we said out last goodbyes, I never stopped, I really couldn’t stop as a deadline was looming over and the team really couldn’t get it over without me, but mostly I worked so I didn’t have to think and that, sadly, worked.

We had a year to prepare - not for this, this was completely unexpected and came out of the blue - but we had a year to get used to the fact that my mother was entering another stage of her life, too soon, too fast, too helplessly and there’s nothing good here, there’s no moral to this story - maybe a couple of cautionary tales, but definitely no moral - and as I read through some of my moms notes and books, as I read how happy she was to visit us in Dublin and seeing how we were, how happy she was that Sara and the kids would be coming back with me following after only to have shit after shit event come down and ruin everything is one of life’s little injustices that only reflects that there’s no narrative to life, there’s only context, opportunity and life changing events until one day there’s nothing.

This is the single most sad event in my life and sadly we all know it’s just the beginning.

4. Plans delayed

With all this and all that’s going on, the plans I had have by now, been all severely affected. None having come to fruition, all necessary steps having collapsed one way or another, so if I take anything from 2020 - well, it’s exactly the same I took after 2008 when bankruptcy was imminent and I had to shift gears - plans are fragile, hopeful things.

Nothing is done until it’s actually done and strategy falls apart and is replaced by pure tactic and sheer willpower. Be ok with letting go, learn to deal with frustration, do whatever you have to do to keep things afloat and buy yourself time to get back to a place where plans can once again be made. I’ve been forced to use this recipe more often that I would have liked by now, I keep saying that “I fail where others succeed” and while I say it half-joking, I can also look at certain key points in my life where left turns could have been right turns and everything might have been different and while I generally deal well with frustration, it has also changed me, in ways that I don’t necessarily appreciate.

I’ve become distant, cold. I have difficulty relating to people, engaging with people. I was never a small talk person, but I’ve done so much focusing and heavy prioritisation in my life to accommodate all the workload and emotional stability I’ve been stripped of all non-essencial conversation.

Lately I’ve been contrasting myself with my long term business partner, we went through the same things, we both made sacrifices, we both had to deal with threats and potential loss of property and while people are fascinated when he tells it, they seem uninterested or annoyed when I tell it. Which is not necessarily odd, he practices public speaking, he’s naturally outspoken and has no issues expressing feelings, wants and even showing fragility when required, while I’ve become a professional Stoic Block of Salt and I assume that reflects a bit :)

I guess if there’s any New Year Resolution is that I might need to pick a different outfit, possibly Stoic Block of Ice would be a nice improvement, at least it doesn’t suck away all the humidity around me.

I’ll practice, I’ll use Twitter - what I call The Wrong Tool for This Job - as a litmus test to how well I’m doing in the category of “Human Interaction”. That is my plan and I welcome you to help the hell out of me in this endeavour, here, I’ll apply some Digital Marketing to this and name the hash tag #MakeDavidHumanAgain the official tag line for this - not to be confused with David from Prometheus (or is it?)