I’ve been thinking for quite a while about what I’ve wanted to say to close out this terribly challenging year. I was reflecting on the very start of 2020 – before COVID became our reality (though it still seems like a really bad dream at times). Like so many, I’ve come to look at pre-pandemic life as almost foreign and like a fantasy – the freedoms we had to go out, embrace, connect. I looked back to my blog from this past January, talking about the year ahead in such a light and airy, hopeful way. Funny enough, though, I also saw that the three things I put out there to the universe as my New Year’s Resolutions seemed eerily relevant in the unfathomable months ahead, what I called the ‘three As’ – Accept, Adapt and Aspire. Things we’d all have to dig deeper than ever imaginable to achieve.
I couldn’t know back then just how much we’d have to accept as our new reality this year: unbearable number of COVID-related deaths across the world, social injustice atrocities unleashed around our country, worldwide wildfires and other climate catastrophes. It’s like everything that’s been brewing under the surface for years came to the forefront in the most overwhelmingly simultaneous way.
Top of the list for me, in the adapting realm, has been changing the way we all act, work, play and live, to try to stay safe, even alive. And I’m sensitive to the fact that so many people have had it MUCH rougher than me and faced illnesses and deaths that they probably can’t begin to accept, much less adapt to.
But the third ‘A’ is, for me, still the most important for those of us lucky to be healthy and be able to look toward the future. I’m talking about aspiring. And, really, I’m talking about faith and hope.
One of my biggest heroes in life, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) founder Bryan Stevenson, said “hopelessness is the enemy of justice” in a recent podcast I hope you’ll take time to listen to, called Love Is the Motive. The basic premise is if you can’t envision a positive outcome, you can’t work toward it. Barack Obama, of course, wrote a whole book about ‘the audacity of hope’ and talks about those themes in his latest memoir. And decades ago, Wayne Dyer wrote, “I’ll See It When I Believe It.” So it’s not an original thought by any means … but one I cling to. The ability and desire to see the light at the end of the tunnel … or, maybe better put, to know it’s there even when you can’t see it yet.
The bible talks about it – and the Byrds sang about it – a season for everything. I’ve treated 2020 as a season to plant seeds that I’ll look to sow later. I’ve tried to keep my sights on better days ahead. Thanks to a vaccine and, for me, a promising national election outcome, I’m much more confident about the future than I was several months ago. I’m staying patient, cautious and planting seeds of friendship; meaningful, post- pandemic work at my new job; trips and chances to see (even hug) family members. I’m planting them in my brain and also doing what I can to make them happen, when the time is right.
A new friend, who I feel so lucky to have met and connected with (a bright spot in a dark year), took me on a labyrinth walk the other day, right there on the university grounds where we both work. Cathrine explained that the most meaningful way to follow the circular path was to have an intention in mind. What came to me, almost immediately, is going to sound really ‘dorky’ maybe, so forgive me, in advance. But I just thought and sort of said in my head, over and over again, with each step, that “I just want to be the best person I can be.” That’s it.
There are steps we can all take to make the world a better place. I truly believe that. And even amidst all the horrible things we’ve all faced this year, some of them have also brought out the best in us. The flip side of the tragic health crisis being the selfless health workers and the scientists uncovering cures and treatments. The flip side of discrimination and social injustice being the people rising up to fight it and even try to unite people. The flip side of the natural disasters being the heroes working to stop them and even prevent them in the future through science. The flip side of all of this being our common bonding and humanity in the midst of, again, unimaginable circumstances.
So, my New Year’s Resolution for next year? In the spirit of controlling what we can, I want to be, in a single word, kind. More than anything else I can think of, kindness is a choice. My other special friend and piano teacher is the inspiration for that … thanks Jen!
Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy, (much) better-than-2020 New Year.