I used to write a journal entry or blog post every year around New Years, to evaluate the year and what I wanted to change or keep in my life. It was a way to try to stay focused on what matters most.
This year started with an impeachment and ended with an election the outgoing president has refused to accept.
And of course, COVID-19, now synonymous with 2020.
So many people are hurting. Sick and dying. Behind on rent/mortgage and fearing homelessness. Out of a job and praying for relief that hasn’t come. It’s hard to find a silver lining in this mess.
But I’m a big believer that painful experiences teach our souls, and I do think (hope?) we have learned a few things as a result of this dumpster fire of a year.
First, I think we have seen how it can devastate a society when conflicting groups cannot agree on basic truth. When each group believes they know the truth, and the other side is wrong or brainwashed or whatever. (More on this in a moment.)
Second, Mars and I spent much of this year studying racism. My white privilege allowed to believe for years that societal racism largely ended with desegregation, but the problem was front and center for most of 2020. And that’s a good thing. We cannot make our society truly egalitarian without first facing the inequities.
Third, we learned this year that much of what we do just doesn’t matter that much. In March, our ordinary lives crash landed and burst into flames, but the sun still came up every morning (at least for most of us; my heart breaks for the three-hundred-thousand-plus who died from COVID or were disabled, not to mention their grieving families). Many of the activities with which we filled our hours turned out to be non-essential, at best.
For me personally, it hasn’t been a bad year (and yes, I know that’s my privilege speaking, and I have done what I could all year to help people who aren’t so lucky). I have so much to be grateful for.
For instance, I LOVE Fairbanks. I am so lucky to live here. I should have moved here twenty years ago. I love the snow and cold. I love the constant change in light (even when the change is moving toward three and a half hours of sunlight a day). I love that Fairbanks is a small town, but with my better shopping alternatives than most small towns. I love the people here. Etc.
I’ve also found I really like the much slower pace of the COVID lifestyle (though an occasional restaurant would be nice). My inner hermit exults in this social distancing. No pressure to look a certain way or live up to someone else’s standards. No overstimulation. Much less running around. We bought a new car when we moved here in September 2019, and we’ve only put five thousand miles on it!
I started reading again this year. I mean, really reading. I’ve been a big reader my whole life, but the last few years were so stressful that I haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to read a book. But now I’m sucking them down again. So grateful.
I’m also writing again. I’m about halfway through a memoir about my painful relationship with my larger-than-life father (who died a year ago December 9).
But I have set it aside for the moment to write a new novel. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how a society is affected when two polarized groups cannot agree on factual information and each side believes the other side is the one with “alternative facts.” Eventually my thoughts became a story. And it’s going very well. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the first draft.
So. Here we are. On the cusp of a New Year (or slightly over it). I think we can pretty much all agree that 2020 can just piss off! But personally, I’m taking a few things from it with me into the New Year.
In 2021, I want to watch the sun rise and set. Often. I want to meditate more and spend more time in silence. Conversely, I also want to make music more. I want to spend more time at home and less time running frantically about (though I do want to see my grandsons!). I want to read books, lots of them. And I want to finish my current works in progress, and start shopping them to agents and publishers.