It Wasn't and Yet It Was...

Brenda Elsagher talks about what we’ve lost and gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It Wasnt and Yet it WasImage

Read Brenda’s story about how resilience and creativity helped us get through 2020.

Many people call 2020 the year that wasn’t. It wasn’t our usual routines, like working out at the gym or meeting friends for happy hour after work. Our jobs changed, we had mandatory family togetherness, some of us had health challenges, and vacations became nonexistent. We all had to adopt new habits because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Washing our hands frequently, wearing masks, working from home, and social distancing became the new normal.

It wasn’t that hard in the beginning when we were told it was only going to be about two weeks that we needed to isolate from one another. It wasn’t fun, and many of us panicked over toilet paper and hand sanitizer not being available. It wasn’t natural to avoid other people. It wasn’t good to not visit our parents in their care centers, or play with and kiss our grandchildren. It wasn’t easy to give up watching sports, or for students and athletes to stop participating in them.

Parents said it wasn’t easy to stay at home and make sure their children did online learning, while they themselves navigated their own employment challenges. It also wasn’t easy for people who lost their jobs because of COVID-19, or for the essential workers who had to go to work in spite of it. And it especially wasn’t good for the families who lost precious loved ones.

Oh, but we are resilient people, and creative people at that. We found new ways to cope with isolation. Some people took up cooking or baking, and soon there was a run on yeast for sourdough bread and jokes about gaining the COVID 20. I can speak to that; I made pies, bars, cookies, fried chicken, and an assortment of home cooked meals as requested by friends. Other ambitious and amazing people began exercise programs or organized their homes.

It seems like we as a nation woke up to our living situation and started painting, redecorating, tearing down, or building up. We cleaned out our house after 27 years of accumulating things we thought we couldn’t live without. Why did I keep that bowl from Greece with a chip in it? Was there an olive shortage and we had to have 10 jars of them? After a four-week turnaround of exhaustion, we moved to another city. We unpacked and re-evaluated why we thought we needed this much less “precious” stuff in our new home. I know – our kids will thank us later!

There was a long wait for putting up fences because so many people adopted puppies in a short time. Humor also helped us cope. People posted funny videos of games with their kids or dogs, and of their families singing karaoke. It was a new way of being. Life as we knew it slowed down and that was nice for many of us. It was good to rediscover board games, family meals, and paying attention to one another. There was joy too in small celebrations that were meant to be larger – like weddings, baptisms, and graduations. It was OK; we were finding new ways to cope with what seemed like impossible situations. Neighborhoods reached out with offers of grocery shopping and yard work. It was a time for helping each another.

Many of us with ostomies know what it was like when we struggled with bowel diseases, cancer, or other issues that affected our health. Life wasn’t what we knew it to be anymore. We thought it would never be OK again. It wasn’t anything we wanted to live with. Circumstances changed, our health became worrisome, and we had to learn how to manage life with an ostomy. And we did. It was easier to live with than we thought. It was a new normal. Ironically, it was our key to living life to the fullest. We could participate in sports, dance again, and dream big dreams for ourselves. And just like with what is happening in our lives during the pandemic, we made something out of the difficulties. We are resilient and we will get through this together. The year 2020 was a good year after all.

Brenda Elsagher has been living with an ostomy for 25 years. International speaker, author and comic, you can find out more about Brenda at, and follow her on Facebook @BrendaElsagher.

Financial Disclosure: Brenda Elsagher received compensation from Hollister Incorporated for her contribution to this article.