I saw a post on Instagram this morning that was a sidewalk square that had been chalked. It read “2020 was the year that I was going to get everything I wanted, but it turns out it was the year that I learned to be grateful for what I have”.
There is so much truth in that one statement, a year ago today I stared down the nose of 2020 with big plans, lost of excitement, with PTSD finally getting itself under control, the depression of the last 10 years was lifting, my book was finished (aside from the final edits) and was soon to be published. So many things that I had my hopes pinned on, so many things that I was looking for. It was going to be ‘My year’.
The book, finished, was released on March 31st, just a week or so into the first lockdown, I went from planning book launches and speaking engagements to figuring out how to homeschool my boys, I went from being excited about the future to trying hard to find reasons to be excited about waking up, and then, every night thinking to myself ‘we got through another day’. Monotony took it’s tole, boredom threatened my sanity, worry for my kids mental health and social growth kept me from sleeping. My favourite season of spring was filled with big questions, big uncertainties, and the news became my enemy as everyday it tried to fuel my fears, tried to take my fragile, new, healthy state of mind and bring in the chaos again.
We sat and watched racial tensions rise, we watched as cities burn, our brothers and sisters of colour ache with the pain of hate and fear, we saw death counts on a daily basis, (still do), with the occasional (very occasional) good news story thrown in to ease the pain and keep people watching. I turned the news off, I stopped watching the case counts, I stopped believing in what we were doing this for because it just went on and on without end…
I watched businesses threatened (I continue to see this everyday). I watched some of the small businesses close, years of work destroyed in less than a year. I saw how fleeting it all was.
I watched families torn apart by abuses, separation, divorce. I saw people with no families ache for the touch of another human, for the love that comes from interaction. I saw people crumble under the weight of it all and submit to death, depression, drug abuse..
We saw Easter, birthdays, mothers and fathers days, Thanksgiving and now finally Christmas taken away from us in any of the traditional ways we have known them.
…. and yet …
I saw people rise up, I saw creativity flourish. I saw love spilling out through artists who entertained their neighbours, as churches used the talents of their community to build a new and stronger version of themselves online. I have seen as families in need were met by other families. Neighbours helping their neighbours, bringing food to those in need. Giving LOVE where love was needed in a whole host of beautiful ways. I saw children learn the value of loving people of all colour, white boys learning that girls and people of colour were born equal, I saw the hurt on the faces of kids who couldn’t hug their grandparents, or friends, and yet they rose above it and wore their masks and found new ways to show love and compassion because that’s what they do. They rise to the occasion, even the painful ones. I saw teachers go back to school, I saw them find creative ways to continue teaching with love and compassion, I saw them put their fears aside to care of my sons, and their friends.
I saw Pastors take on the bulk of the worries of their community, and turn deeper into their faith in order to accomplish all that needed to be accomplished. I saw mothers and fathers discovering the value of spending quality time with their kids, I saw siblings discover that their brother/sister isn’t just a family member but they are actually each other’s best friend, the one person that can be counted on to play with them. I saw many families become stronger, more aware of the gifts they have to offer each other. I saw friendships become valued, no longer taking each other for granted.
There is a lot to grieve this year, and I could leave it there… I could bemoan all that I didn’t get in 2020 but it would miss all that I did get, all that I always had but hadn’t fully realized.
I have a strong friendship with my husband, one that saw us living in lockdown with our kids and enjoying each other (not every single moment of course – but mostly). I saw that my kids are a gift, even when they are driving me insane with homeschool, fighting, boredom and general frustrations that I have to navigate for them as well as myself. They are all a gift that I have taken for granted.
I have food on my table, I have connection via the internet with the world, and more than anything else… I have the hope that this too will end, in time this will end, it will ease, things will get better, the sun will rise. We will come out of the this time with a better understanding of what we have, a stronger feeling of connection with our friends and community, a closer relationship with our families. We will come out of this with a new value placed on those who are now essential where they were once the lowest on the latter so to speak. We will value our artists more, we will be more considerate of the small business, we will be more compassionate of the needs of those who live close to us, we will strive to help those with mental health issues, help the homeless, heal the racial divide… we can do all these things because we have all been through this together, but we have to choose to see the gifts we got in 2020 instead of bemoaning all that we didn’t get.
Choose to see the ‘And yet..’ and 2020 will one day be seen as a gift and not the year that didn’t count, because it did count. It counts so much more than any other year. Lives were lost, heroes made, people recognized… that counts.