Closing Out 2020: Finding the Good

Dear Reader:

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.

“Dear Reader,
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.

A WWII postcard from my Uncle Walter to his in-laws, my grandparents, Thanksgiving 1944.

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.”

Walter writes: “everyone is raring to go at getting this war finished so we can all be home to celebrate the next one together.”

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.

Lena finding the good.

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!

10 thoughts on “Closing Out 2020: Finding the Good

  1. I do enjoy your writings. I have written a lot of different genres through prompts from my writing teacher, Bryan Willis. We haven’t been about to meet in person for this year, and I miss that. He teaches out of Panorama, and says they may not be open to people coming in right now, but he is looking into other venues to use if things lighten up just a little.  You have wonderful memory material through all your mother kept. My past is a bit muddled. But, I can use imagination to write…good for me. Thank you,Patricia.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An essay I read this year talked about “normalization bias” that we think about “getting back to normal,” however, our lives never “go back.” It is difficult to think “forward” and realize that changes will affect us as we continue on. We hope and pray that much of what we want will come back, such as being able to get coffee or go to family gatherings but? Meanwhile we just hang on for better days of being able to get vaccinated and have more freedom of movement.

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  3. “Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.”    -Pema Chödrön

    I read this (again) recently and it seemed ever more relevant. We just don’t know. Maybe what we see now as losses will be the things with the greatest rebound. We just don’t know.  Her book has been a godsend in so many ways. You have been too. Your steady, true voice. You have kept me inspired and in awe and I continue to be grateful for your presence in my orbit. May we all thrive in the coming year ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The writer in me honors the writer in you for so much…your commitment & consistency to thoughts, words, articles & book(s), and the ways that you reveal yourself through all you write! It’s no small thing! Thank you! Here’s to the best new year!

    Liked by 1 person

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