2020 was one hell of a year. But, if you’re waiting for a sparkly new one to start, well, you might have to wait awhile.
An unrelenting pandemic. Shocking violence in the US Capitol. Devastating forest fires. Desert locusts. Murder hornets and the craziest, scariest year of politics anyone has ever witnessed. No wonder we’re jonesing for whatever will stop our brains from melting, even better something to ground our souls. It doesn’t seem to matter what the calendar says. From everything we see and read, 2021 looks a lot like the same stuff, different day.
With COVID-19 still raging across the nation, especially after holidays where masks and mandates were often ignored, the virus isn’t even close to being controlled. The early days of 2021 make clear the real loss of jobs, businesses and savings, as well as the scope of food insecurity in our land of plenty. In the face of all the grief, loss and disillusionment, we badly need to find the flip side – and hope it’s a whole lot better.
“The world is on a bumpy journey to a new destination – and a new normal.” Mohamed El-Erian
In a country where a pandemic is still a runaway train, every day is a challenge. Vaccines are here, but hardly everywhere. Oh, sure they’re rolling out but more like a stagecoach than an Acela. In fact, even after you get the mighty jab, you’ll still need distance, masks and hygiene to complete the COVID puzzle. To people who have hissy fits over mask wearing, get the heck over it – now. We all want our lives back. But, living ‘normal-ish’ again will take a lot longer if we continue to set virus forest fires by still living large instead of adhering to pandemic mandates. It’s more than time we understand the simple fact that what hurts one, hurts all. If we don’t, a spanking new, COVID free year will be a long time coming.
So, what do we do in the meantime? When everything seems bleak, even the smallest positivity seems a heavy lift. It’s weird to feel torn between yearning for family hug marathons and being Pollyanna-resigned to the nest of my house but, there you go. What would a positive reset look like? And what could we do to help it along? We could start with thinking out of the box —and outside of ourselves. Nengajo might be a cool first step. Say what? Cousin to our Christmas cards, this nifty Japanese thank-you custom is a nice way to show gratitude. Sent to friends and family at the beginning of a new year, these colorful notes express our appreciation for all they’ve done to look out for us with kindness or help during the shitshow year we just put to bed.
“What the new year brings to you may depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.” Vern McClellan
After a year when everything was unpredictable, scary and turned on a dime, New Year’s resolutions don’t seem to be a go-to ticket. Then again, why not? Sure, we make enthusiastic goals every year that, sooner rather than later, get littered by the side of the road. Even when we expect them to have a short shelf life, their demise seems depressing. But, what if we call them ‘intentions’ instead? We’d have something positive to work toward, and lose the stress of not ‘succeeding’ if it doesn’t make the finish line. After all, as our mothers always told us, it’s the though that counts, right?
Exercise more? Absolutely. Eat healthier? You bet. Get organized? Yep. Budget. Explore new hobbies. Save money. Get more sleep. Read more books. Whatever it takes to live well in a fraught time like this, do it. And while we’re at it, maybe we could take inventory of what’s happening in the world outside our own bubble and how this past year has affected them. How many have spent the past year alone and lonely, lost a loved one to the virus – or to so many other illnesses that plague us even in COVID free years? Thinking beyond “I” to “we” is the one everyday intention we all need going forward. Maybe it’s the most important one of all.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Living through a pandemic was definitely a wake-up call. More than ever before, we felt helpless to change our every day circumstances, let alone the trajectory of a rampaging virus. Still, we made promises to be more productive, kinder, more aware. And even when we lamented how we couldn’t ‘go anywhere’ or ‘do anything’, we innately wanted to do something ‘real’, something to make a difference. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to lose weight or bake more bread (if we even started). What we thought about at the end of the day, were the missed chances we might have had to make the tiny world around us even a tiny bit brighter.
A pandemic is a great equalizer. Sickness and death reach into every pocket of humanity. Tucked in our worlds of curbside pickup and Amazon orders, social distancing and lack of touch, it’s hard to believe we can change much of anything. But, as we help one another, from simply wearing masks and distancing to offering food assistance, even an ear or shoulder, we help the world become a healthier, better place. No one person can control a pandemic. But, like the Butterfly Effect, everything we do affects everything and everyone else like ripples across the world.
“Embrace uncertainty. Some of the best chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” Bob Goff
We’ve only taken a few baby steps into 2021, and already our feet hurt. It’s hard to imagine who we’ll ever make it to year’s end, when every day is basically a crapshoot. Like every other year, some days will be exhausting, some exhilarating, but most they will be just ‘a day’. Each day is another chance to be our best selves even when we haven’t seen anyone at all. Set your ‘intentions’ – loosely. Do less doom-scrolling and more positive thinking. Laughter is in order – go for it. Express gratitude or Nengajo for the good we have because far too many others are not that fortunate. Show gratitude to those who help us have that good. Stay in the moment.
2021 is here to stay. Have at it.