It is difficult to know where even to begin writing this morning.
I have my coffee on the front porch. I am sitting in my rocking chair – my writing spot of choice. I’ve had almost 8 hours of sleep. I’m off from work today.
All of these ingredients usually line up and bring together the creative space where I can reflect and ponder.
And I always take some time to do just that on New Year’s Eve.
But, ironically, in a year defined by the abnormal, this morning’s attempt to summarize my thoughts on the outgoing year isn’t going as planned.
“And yet, I smile.”
My daughter gave me a mug for Christmas with those words.
It’s a nod to one of our favorite shows to watch as a family: The Walking Dead.
It seems morbid to write it down in black and white. And, certainly, the show isn’t as good as it was in its prime. But in our current times, which have felt a bit apocalyptic this past year, the gift, and the words, seem appropriate.
2020 has been the kind of year where smiling, happiness – these seem indulgent, even insensitive, when the long months leading up to its end have been full of heartache and frustration and loss for so many.
As I looked back on photos this morning from previous NYE outings and experiences, my instinct was to feel disappointed that the husband and I wouldn’t be sipping a cheerful beverage, walking the streets of Mobile tonight, watching the Moonpie Drop with some of our favorite people.
When our daughter was little, it seemed she was sick every New Year’s Eve. The first decade of our marriage had us typically administering fever-reducing meds and getting naps between her coughing fits as the clock rolled over into a new year.
As she got older, grew out of her asthma, and was typically away for New Year’s, he and I made Mobile a destination for the last days of the year.
Last year, in the middle of construction on The Reverie, we opted to stay close to home, taking in a Burlesque show downtown. “There’s always next year to resume our excursions to Mobile.”
As I looked back on our optimistic faces from the photos taken a year ago, I smiled.
There was complete ignorance of the stress that lay just around the corner.
The pandemic was still just a far-away notion of an eventual possibility that we might one day experience on our shores.
Racism and political divides have always been present, but they seemed tucked into dark corners, at least to those of us who now realize how privileged we were to not see their very real prevalence in society, in our communities, in our closest circles, until 2020 brought all of the ugly into full view.
It has indeed been a year of loss. Loss of lives – over 300,000 of them, due to COVID-19.
Loss of experiences. From the graduate who didn’t get a senior prom or the opportunity to walk in a cap and gown to receive a hard-earned diploma, to the family that missed the trip they had planned and looked forward to for months. The family that couldn’t be present for the birth of a first grandchild to the Kindergarten student that will forever struggle with school now that this critical time in their education has been so marred and disrupted.
I could go on and on about what we’ve lost. Individually. As families. In society and communities.
And it is a right and necessary thing, I think, to reflect on loss. To examine it. Mourn it.
I’m a firm believer that there is no “normal” or “correct” way to grieve.
I only know that, as human beings, we were not designed to live in grief indefinitely.
As I said, so many of the things we now know exist, and the possibility of their recurrence is now a part of who we are as individuals and the world.
We cannot go back to a time before – an easier time for some of us – when we could live in ignorance of what we now know to be true. Even if these are uncomfortable, even inconvenient, truths.
But for all of the sorrow 2020 brought with it, there has been great resilience. Great joy. For both individuals and for society as a whole.
Nothing brings out a person’s true colors like refinement. And this has been a year of sifting for the whole planet, it would seem.
I would ask you, my dear readers, what is it that has risen to the surface in you?
Has it been empathy, love, and hope? Or has it been anger, defensiveness, and determination to never change.
If it is the latter, the losses of 2020 continue.
If it is the former, there is no reason at all to approach the birth of 2021 with trepidation. If we stop looking forward to better days, if we stop attempting to grow and become the people we should be, then we are allowing our losses to define us in ways they were not meant to do so.
Trials and changes and outright falls on our faces are not meant to defeat us. They are meant to strengthen and change us. To increase our capacity for joy and hope and empathy for our fellow man.
That is the ultimate test of our farewell to 2020.
Will we simply be relieved that it is no more, or will we carry the lessons of it forward, resolved not only to lose weight on our bodies, but the weight of pride and selfishness in our hearts?
There is still time to decide. To reflect. To resolve. The light is just over the horizon now.
May we all choose to walk in it.