2020 strikes again. #COVIDSUCKS. It is what it is.
Yeah. I know.
But I’m kind of done with it. Not done with acknowledging that life right now is Hard. Different. Divisive. Heartbreaking. Exhausting. Those things need to be acknowledged. Sweeping problems under the rug is no way to do things. But I am done with staying stuck there. With not putting my big girl pants on and doing something about it. With letting a year plaster its unofficial mottos of negativity and helplessness over every moment that happens to me.
I can’t say I haven’t felt huge heapings of both self and communal pity this year. Nor will I lie and claim I haven’t dwelled in that pity for enormous, and I mean ENORMOUS, chunks of time. 2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges. I have been in a pretty deep existential limbo most days. It has colored my behaviors, my motivation, my feelings, my decisions, my parenting, my interactions, even my writing. And that’s not really how I roll normally. (Thankfully.) I mean, it’s no coincidence that two separate people gifted me stuff brandishing the saying, “It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Because that’s how I prefer to operate: I like to just make everything fine and move on. Lately, however, I’ve had a pretty tough time doing that.
But you know what’s worse than existential limbo? Refusing to pull yourself out of it.
The other day I was watching The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and one of the characters said something pretty timely: “It ain’t it is what it is. I think it is what we’re gonna make it.”
That doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge shit is going down. Because it is. But how we let it consume us matters. Hell, those folks in The Walking Dead are living in the damn zombie apocalypse. They have undeniable problems. Collapsed societies. 100% unemployment rates. Brain-eating undead. Zero toilet paper. But they don’t sit around pouting about it. I mean, maybe some people did. But those are probably the people who died right away. The rest of them were like, “Okay. This is life now. Time to sharpen my foraging and katana-wielding skills and entertain myself by rating the hotness level of passing zombies.”
Fact: 2020 has sucked. It has also not sucked. And I can be over here confronting my existential limbo while also appreciating every day that has been gifted to me, no matter what that day brings. So that’s what I’m doing. Right here. Right now. In this blog post. I am writing down what I have been grateful for in 2020. When I look back on what has happened, I choose for these things to be what defines this year for me.
I am grateful for my family – immediate and extended – and that we are healthy.
I am grateful for driveway socials.
I am grateful for beer. And Fireball. And for sometimes when beer and Fireball come together to have a spicy little baby. Also, wine. And signature drinks.
I am grateful for the ability to do 330 kettlebell swings after years of struggling with an elbow injury.
I am grateful for friends who never disappear, even if that means having to stay present over the phone, text, or Zoom. And also the ones who maybe disappear for a little while, but still love you and can pick right back up with zero pretense or bullshit or hurt feelings.
I am grateful for the kind of people my children are and those they are becoming.
I am grateful for feeling the passion to write again – sometimes for people to read, sometimes just for myself. And for *almost* finishing the manuscript for my next book. And for all the people who helped guide me in that process. (But don’t ask when you’ll be able to read it. Because the answer is “I don’t know.”)
I am grateful for that one day I did a better bear crawl on the balance strip than Adam. Don’t worry about who Adam is. Just know that he should be better than me at bear crawls on balance strips.
I am grateful for boxes of entirely extra toasty Cheez-Its. And for the discipline to not let them rule over me completely.
I am grateful to wake up next to my best friend every morning. Except when he’s traveling. Then
I am grateful to have the bed all to myself.
I am grateful for the week we fostered the most adorable mini Yorkie puppy. Because he liked me best and loved on me so hard. Also, because fostering gave us the trial we needed to know we aren’t ready for another dog yet.
I am grateful for smart, compassionate, and honest doctors. Especially ones who help you fight insurance companies for your daughter’s knee surgery, and ones who take time to read your book manuscript to make sure the health info you discuss is accurate, and ones who have watched your kids grow and always provide you with advice you know you can trust.
I am grateful for unsolicited text messages with sweet notes and funny memes and thinking of yous.
I am grateful for being able to find the perfect card or gift for someone.
I am grateful for free coffee from a new friend.
I am grateful for long walks.
I am grateful for fire pits, and decks, and hammocks, and the rocking chairs on my front porch.
I am grateful for finally taking everyone’s advice and watching Schitt’s Creek. Simply the best.
I am grateful for Pope Francis and the writings of Fr. Richard Rohr.
I am grateful for the restorative and reflective power of music. Especially for the artists who have kept me company pretty consistently during runs, walks, dinner prep, car rides, and mood boosts in 2020: 90’s hip hop and alternative rock, Tom Petty, and Debbie Gibson (don’t hate like “Out of the Blue” doesn’t make you happy). And The Monkees. Always The Monkees. *heart emoji*
I am grateful for my children’s schools, the administrators, the teachers, the staff, the maintenance and custodial crews, and every person who has played a part in nurturing their minds, informing their hearts, and keeping their bodies safe regardless of whether they are doing it in person or through the computer.
I am grateful for the McDonald’s drive-thru by my house, where the guy at the payment window told me I had beautiful eyes, then the woman at the food window complimented my jacket. And then I got to go home with hot french fries.
I am grateful for the experience attending my first Black Lives Matter protest and for fully – finally – waking up to my own complacency about systemic racism, among other injustices in our country.
I am grateful for the humility which allows me to admit all the hard truths I denied or ignored out of fear, discomfort, or pride…and the willingness to continue learning and understanding.
And more than anything, I am grateful for the hardest parts of 2020…including the ones I am still in the thick of with no expiration date on the horizon. Because I believe, even amidst the uncertainty and existential struggles I find myself staring down, the other side will yield growth and positive change. A move toward authenticity instead of expectation. It has to. Otherwise, 2020 just becomes an arbitrary scapegoat upon which I can continue to heap blame instead of taking personal responsibility. A symbol of how I simply let life happen to me instead of making life mine to live. An entire 365 days I bemoan and wish away instead of appreciating the gift of both pain and joy.
There is a quote from poet Rainer Maria Rilke which I keep in a notes section on my phone. “Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” Too often, we let ourselves get stuck. When terror happens, it can be so easy to stay there sometimes. Because staying there gives us something to blame. But we can also become erroneously stuck in beauty as well, turning a blind eye to the terror, which is uncomfortable and messy to deal with. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that both terror and beauty are necessary, and they often can – and should – be present simultaneously. The terror keeps us aware that we must continue evolving. And the beauty discourages us from falling prey to writing off entire years of our lives.
I refuse to write 2020 out of my story. So should you.