Goodbye 2020. I’ve been reading many fine perspectives on the past year as we gather up our collective skirts and make a run for 2021. I bounce between describing this past year as either an exhausting, unmitigated shitshow, or a begrudgingly grateful forced discovery of what really matters to me as the distractions and daily bustle were stripped back. It has to do with point of view of course. I’m sorry if you lost a loved one in 2020. Many of my friends lost their moms and dads this year. Losing parents, uncles, and aunts is partly due to my generation’s advancing age of course. We cannot hold onto not being orphans forever. However. I’m sad that at current count over 300,000 deaths could have been avoided if everyone had taken wearing masks seriously. Living in country where people sneer and in mocking tones ask, “why’re you wearin’ that diaper on your face for?” during a global pandemic has shaken my hopeful world view this year. I am a mask-wearer out of respect for others. I don’t like wearing masks. I feel short of breath, and my face breaks out and my glasses either fog up or fall off. I wear one in public though, just like I put on a bra every day I go outside my house. Because it’s just not all about me and my comfort. I suppose it’s heartening to know I’m not that selfish after all. Plenty of people are, though.
I can understand initial denial at a deep level. I can jump into denial about things. How often I really need to go to the dentist, for instance. Or that croissants really are about 600 calories apiece.
However, continuing denial that the virus is “not that bad” in the face of proven science and the mounting dead stuns me. I had someone who was getting worked up about “fake news” tell me that a 1%, 2%, or even 3% mortality rate was “just the way it is, they would have died anyway.” They continued with their charming rationale by saying, “those folks” were “old, fat, and diabetic anyway, their own damn fault, no wonder they got it.” And here I thought Scrooge’s comment in “A Christmas Carol” about “reducing the surplus population” was an outmoded Victorian idea that no longer existed.
It made me ill to hear that opinion from a person I’d thought of as a friend. I had held a higher opinion of both them and my discernment. Realizing how wrong I was about some people has been a bitter pill. It’s my greatest loss of 2020 I think; needing to let go of people I’d thought of as friends, but who profoundly disappointed me with their attitudes. There were other disappointments as well. The dear and lovely “You Can’t Take It With You” I directed for Garland Civic was canceled a few days before opening. My new play didn’t get its premiere. My youngest son didn’t get a real graduation in Washington DC from college, just a lame virtual one. Many fun travel plans were cancelled. My creativity took a hit, and I found myself unable to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard for many months.
So those were the things lost. I’m not sure that the things found 2020 brings the scales into balance, but there were some bright bits and realizations. Here are a few, along with generally being grateful for clean water, baking, and a roof over my head.
1. Our rescue doggy who we think is somewhere around 14 or 15 years old made it through 2020. She’s slower on her walks, and sleeps a lot these days. But she’s still with us, her tail ready to wag, to be part of our pack.
2. I got the gift of “Master Class.” I love learning about all sorts of things, and this is a very digestible way to do it. And plenty of time to watch it too.
3. Having our youngest son move back in with us instead of going on to a post-college job was an adjustment for everyone, but we treasure the extra time with him. He’s a good cook too, albeit on the spicy side. I love that he kept his knees bent, and opted to do virtual grad school when all the job prospects went on a sustained hiatus.
4. Finding out that I can easily be by myself for days on end was a gift too. Being an only child pre-disposes one to happy solitude perhaps, but the quarantine months were not particularly hard on me emotionally.
5. I rediscovered the long walk and the jog. I still prefer swimming, but there sure is something about putting one foot in front of the other, waving at the folks passing on the other side of the street and saying hello, and circling back towards home that is deeply satisfying. We are built for it I think, the walking, the returning home, and being friendly to those we see along the way.
I hope your 2020 brought you at least a few things that were good, and that your 2021 will be like a nice long walk that circles into fun and interesting places and then safely brings you home again.