Bye, 2020: a reflection

No one will miss you. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Thanks for the memories, even though they absolutely sucked. And every other snide insult that comes to mind.

To address the obvious: This was a hell year. Not a “hell of a year,” but just plain “hell year.” The collective grief and suffering we have endured is truly difficult to comprehend. Most of us didn’t anticipate experiencing this level of compacted, global-scale pain and trauma in our lifetimes. (Not that anyone ever does — the feeling of living through history is, in reality, awful.)

I saw a tweet yesterday that asked, “What is the moment in 2020 broke you?” Each of us has our own list, with some moments exceptionally tragic. Relatively speaking, I got off fairly easy. The days it took to (mostly) recover from the New York Times front page when the U.S. reached 100,000 covid deaths. The horror of continued, unabashed violence executed upon people of color in this country. Waves of grief and fear, of loneliness and helplessness. Empathy so sharp it cut straight to the quick. Nights I cried until I had absolutely no energy left. Days it was all I could do to get up.

Each of those moments was real. But then, so were the moments of joy, and relief, and love. Watching a garden grow from seedlings to harvest. Every quiet breath when a hummingbird paused outside my window. Getting to see my creative work in print and getting paid for it for the first time. The long drives I took for a few deep moments in nature. The full delight in improving someone else’s day. The first hug in the evening after my spouse got home from work. Realizing that certain things are true, even if it took me a while to see them. The work I’ve done for my mental health that I am so proud of, even on the hardest days.

Next year will bring its own hardships, as it always does, but I cling fast to the hope that they may be a little less acute, a little less thunderous, a little less isolating. And I nurture the hope that each moment of good — a hug, a laugh, a warm meal, a deep breath — lasts a little longer and carries us a little further. That we may see beyond our own perspectives and pain, reach far enough toward our neighbor to offer comfort and work toward healing. That we may delight in our differences while striving toward equity and justice. That even in the dead dark of winter, we may remember that none of us is ever truly alone.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But we can hope.

So here’s to the new year.

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