The opening of a post I read today by a blogging author I follow began that way, “Dear Reader,” and touched me; it’s how I feel about all of you.
I love writing that. And you are dear to me, more than you will ever know. Without you, I’m talking to myself… I so appreciate you stopping by, reading what I write…”
Heather Lende lives in the tiny town of Haines, Alaska, where tragedy struck earlier this month in the form of a massive landslide. I have long loved her blog; and her heartfelt writing as the sorrow in Haines unfolded made me grieve with the inhabitants as if I knew them. In appreciation of her, I just ordered one of her books I haven’t read—Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs—and I ordered it through the Haines bookstore to help their community in a very small way.
Heather also wrote Find the Good, about her work as an obituary writer. It’s hard to find the good in 2020. This has been a terrible year. I can’t really say I’ve experienced anything personally hard: I’ve not been sick (not even a cold since January); no one close to me has died or even been sick (though my cousin has recovered from mild Covid and her husband died not of Covid, nor unexpectedly, at the same time and that’s real grief on top of fear for her family); my sister’s retail business has not failed (and actually had a really good December); family members have not lost their jobs (though my son and daughter-in-law in essential jobs have not been able to isolate at home and that makes me anxious for them and difficult for my grandsons out of school without parent guides, and my son’s work as a school resource officer has changed with schools being closed and that is hard). There haven’t been any mudslides or tornadoes or hurricanes where I live (though the wind is certainly howling today and still tonight and I don’t like wind).
So I guess the fact I haven’t personally experienced anything devastating is one really big good thing.
There have been changes in my life, like in everyone’s. Any hoped for travel didn’t happen, including getting to see my North Carolina family. My yoga studio of the past eight years closed forever (at least in its beautiful location). For the first time in close to twenty years, my weekly coffee shop date with myself hasn’t happened for the past ten months (that is probably my biggest felt loss). My Airbnb has not been open since March, other than a smattering of guests over the summer, cutting my annual income by nearly thirty percent (but I’m financially okay). My Seattle family has been living with me weekdays since late August and I have been Crisis School Guide (there is some loss there—especially for them—and mostly gain for me. Emma said Adrian missed me over the pre-Christmas break and wanted to know if I was going to visit. That warmed my heart).
So why the occasional aching in my chest, the sometimes tears that gather in the corners of my eyes, the sense of doom and fear that floats in and out? It’s the collective loss. Of course it is. We all feel it. We’ve had a terrible president for four years. I don’t want to start an argument (not that anyone who would disagree reads this blog), but it is just the truth. We’ve had a terrible leader of the Senate majority and that is maybe more terrifying than the terrible president; and more mystifying, assuming he’s not mentally unstable. Maybe that’s too much assumption. There has been racial unrest, which is not an entirely bad thing; discrimination and hate need to stop, and unrest brings change.
There’s a lot of heaviness this year, and we will be lugging it for a while. But we will find ways to make it lighter, starting with finding the good. Starting with kindness.
During the school break and the stormy weather, I’ve been hunkered down in my study, cozy in front of my electric fireplace, working on my book of World War II letters written between family members. I’m remembering what my 100-year-old mother told me when I asked her questions I couldn’t ask my gone-too-soon father. “I don’t know,” she said, “we never talked about it after he came home. We wanted to forget it and move on.”
We cannot “just forget and move on” from this year and return to the way we were. That would truly make 2020 a lost year. Eventually the pandemic will end: it will be safe to go out again, to hug again, to have meals with friends, to sing in church, to travel without fear, to grocery shop without fogged up glasses. But we must not forget this gap year and just put it behind us. It will take every one of us to find the good, in our own lives and collectively, because of this year.
I’m going to spend time on the last day of 2020 looking back, finding the good, making a list of what I want to hang on to; maybe along with what I will gladly leave behind with the departure of the year from hell. I challenge you to do the same.
Then on New Year’s Day, I will look ahead; focus on what I want to give birth to or nourish in the new year, personally. How I can move forward. What I look forward to. Also what I can do to promote change collectively. That bit sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be big. Order a book from the Haines bookstore, or your own local bookstore, instead of Amazon. Give it away. All of us, collectively, making small changes will make a big difference. I think that’s been proven in a negative way in 2020—small hates and what divides us made a huge difference. Can’t the same be done for the good?
I invite you to explore the questions my friend Joanna Powell Colbert poses here for use with a tarot deck, or just a journal.
The closing of a post by a new-to-me blogger also touched me today (2020 Has Been Like Living in a Hieronymus Bosch Painting: Bring on the Renaissance, We Could All Use a Rebirth of Kindness!):
“Our hearts have been filled by the kindness of these strangers behind their masks, our hands warmed by the love of neighbors who offered help. Each day brings us closer to a new administration, to the possibility of a national rebirth of empathy and civic kindness. We have not yet reached the shore, but it is in sight.
“I’d like to close by wishing that all of you may find safe harbor and be blessed with kindness in 2021, as I have been by the many virtual friends this blog has introduced to me in 2020.”
I am grateful to all of you who read my ramblings, so I’m not just talking to myself. Happy end of 2020!