I hear this year’s anthem of our collective grief over and over: “2020 sucks.” I find myself dumbly nodding and it feels like a betrayal. It isn’t that I’m blind to the suffering and losses of this year. I’m not. Or that I fully escaped suffering. I didn’t. Or that I don’t feel the heartbreak. I do.
But I also know that life is too beautiful and finite to write off an entire year. We cannot turn a blind eye to joy and gratitude–not even in a pandemic. Perhaps we feel we should as an act of solidarity with those in grief’s most terrible grip. Choosing misery on behalf of others is not compassion. Being present and alert is. Attention shows us what we can do and guides us to a deeper presence with and for others.
Attention has another job, too. With alertness we scan for beauty and track it in our lives. We keep the light on for it. We train our alertness into an alacrity for grace–and then we welcome it when it shows up. Yes, even in a pandemic. Where was the beauty this year? How did grace show up? In what ways does 2020 not suck? What goes on the list?
My list includes the opportunity to learn new things that make my world bigger in a time we can’t travel. It includes online groups of thoughtful readers and writers. Each Zoom window zooms in on one good thing about 2020. This includes my teacher (once upon a time my student) who, through Facebook Video, teaches me stretches that lead to better balance and strength. Then there is the Book Group with readers bundled up, masked, and six feet apart in a park. And friends and porches and fire pits.
Also on the list: I feel creative a lot of the time. I have never felt healthier. I fall asleep and wake up every morning next to someone I love deeply. My cooking is off the hook. “Who lives here?” I wonder when I open a refrigerator full of yellow lemons and bright green herbs and mason jars full of homemade soups.
Add to that: The books. The streaming. The playlists. Yes, yes, and yes. Grateful. The phone calls where I have time to actually listen rather than multitask while I act like I’m listening. And what about the blankets on the porch with low lamps and tiny lights? Or walking in the woods at sunset every day with Ben and our dog. Add to that: Face Time with grandchildren and family and learning how to play in a different way.
I am grateful for the blank page where I show up to write every morning like a runner at the mark. I move through paces with words and spaces, the said and the unsaid running side by side. On the page, I live the good moments twice.
I love the walks and talks and meditation. Zoom coffee hour on Sunday Morning. The sense of home and place that I have longed for is right here, right now. I take off my shoes and step barefoot into the pools of all I’ve yearned for throughout my nomadic life. I listen to Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans while I cook– as the daughter of a piano player, it sounds like home. I cook soup in my mother’s soup pot and it smells like home. I sit in front of the fire with my husband and our dog and I am home.
I am grateful for the resolution of the challenges in my own life this year.
I am grateful for the ways that we have found to help each other and protest together and inspire each other and campaign for the things and people we believe in. I am thankful for Christmas. We were much smaller in number this year, but it was merry and bright. We were able to let our hearts be light. A granddaughter and I set up a jar and strips of paper so family members could write good things about 2020 throughout the day. We had a farewell dinner for 2020 and passed the jar around. We took turns randomly pulling a strip from the jar and reading it aloud, reliving the moments of happenstance happiness. Each strip of paper was a reminder: “Love Your Life.” Some years are really hard. Every year matters. Leave the light on for beauty. Roll out the red carpet for grace. My prayer is that a happy and healthy 2021 will be full of both. And that we will notice it everyday. Here is to 2021. And here is to you.