Another day. Another year.

hope-1Time continues on its slithering way. I wish flipping a calendar page could somehow flip the status of life, but all moving from 2020 to 2021 means is another day, a human-invented artifact intended to give meaning to endings and beginnings.

Although there is little worth remembering about 2020 (like 2019, for me 2020 was a year to persevere through), there are things for which I’m grateful: my daughter survived the coronavirus; my son smashed his first semester at UMBC; I’m writing again and had a few small successes in the writing world. I am grateful my mother passed away two years ago so she didn’t have to experience this world. I’m grateful for my dog which makes me get outside several times a day, and that my new home has a private backyard and deck, essential for my emotional survival.  

By nature an introvert, this pandemic has strengthened that tendency, as have the endless zoom calls of work. Circulating conspiracy theories don’t help, either. By evening I’m all talked out, all thought out, all freaked out, and want nothing more than to become the couch potato I never was before. There is an ease to succumbing to slouching before the television, to eating mindlessly through boredom and stress. Life feels like a chapter from Brett Easton Ellis’ LESS THAN ZERO, sans the sex and mind-altering substances. It’s the ennui. The beginning of not giving a damn. Of giving in.

Yet I’ve begun to reach the limits of my introversion; I find myself not only alone but lonely, and settling into dangerous habits. A bitterness streaks through me these past few months, and a hardness I do not like. The political and cultural schisms on top of a global pandemic have made me skittish and mistrusting (though they also helped mobilize me off my butt and into political action). If I visited a shrink she would most likely diagnose PTSD. And why not? Between fears of a novel virus, a profound failure of leadership at all levels, the dismantling of our public health infrastructure, food and toilet paper insecurities, a disregard for science, racial injustice, violence in our cities, weeks upon weeks of fireworks pounding the skies, fears of an autocratic takeover, and the ever-looming possibility of civil war, of course I am fucking traumatized.

Indeed, we’ve all experienced collective trauma. Even though today marks a new year, that trauma will continue. And despite my increasingly entrenched tendencies, I am going to dig deep and choose to hope for a better year. To believe I can find joy and, yes, peace, in this New Year. Which means changing behaviors and thought patterns. Which means reaching out to friends and family members first. Which means joining groups of like-minded individuals on zoom calls. Which means brushing my teeth after dinner and shutting off the television before midnight. Which means parking my doom-scroller device away from my bed. Which means prayer and meditation and expressing gratitude for all the small—and big—things I take for granted: my home; my stocked refrigerator; my utilities; my health; the health of my loved ones; my job; my colleagues; my urban and exurban walks; sunny, windless mornings when I can drink coffee outside; another day; another year.

I choose hope.

May this year treat us all more kindly. Peace…


candlesI don’t do resolutions–they’re as ethereal as lit candles on a birthday cake. Or wishes on a shooting star. But I do like the idea of starting anew, which is why I do spend time reflecting on the last year: what worked, what didn’t, what I could have done better.

What did work was listening to others, mostly my kids. Not giving my children my ‘fix’ helped improve our relationships. As my daughter says, “Mom, sometimes I just need to vent, not get therapy.” Sure, sometimes their words hurt, but not taking their stuff personally was the #2 thing I achieved this year. It’s tough having a Velcro exterior that captures anxieties and fears and hurts, then instantly morphs into armor. The third thing that worked was spending time by myself traipsing around Baltimore neighborhoods and checking out independent coffee shops where I could write. Becoming comfy with myself.

What didn’t work was my sloth vibe. Even my doc expressed concern about my sedentary ways. I’ve ordered a standing desk for work, and I’m sure the ‘it’s a new year and a new you’ gym specials will fill my mailbox tomorrow. And I’ve joined the Instant Pot Nation, so healthy, home-cooked meals are a button-push away. What also didn’t work was worrying about work. Work is work, and only work–it’s not me or my life, just a place I go and do what I need to do to get the money to pay the bills. Actually, I love my job, but this past year I let politics and pettiness rule my enjoyment of the people and process. So, yeah, better balance is required.

Lots I could have done better. But why beat myself up? Live and learn, my son says. I think I’ll listen to his wisdom.

How are you greeting the new year?