What Did 2020 Teach Me?

Plans, schedules, habits, “the way things are,” are just illusions. Life can be turned upside down first slowly and then all at once. When we learned of COVID-19, we weren’t sure of anything — we thought you’d catch it when flying, so I stopped all traveling on February 28. By March 15, following the statewide shelter-in-place order for California, we wore masks everywhere (well, really only to the grocery store since thats the only place we went), disinfected everything before it came through the front door and washed our hands incessantly.

And then came the realization that these 1,000 square feet plus the yard was the boundary of our life. For the foreseeable future. This taught me to try to slow down and become more aware and present each moment — reduced busyness is actually a good thing.

The boundary between life and work became blurred which required me to decide that work happens only in my office between the hours of 7:00 am and 4:00 or sometimes 5:00 pm. All day zoom calls are exhausting and the mental energy it takes to stay “on” and remain self-motivated is hard. Even when I have the luxury of no kids at home to care for, a comfortable home with a separate office. Being a leader and motivating, comforting, listening to others is taxing for sure.

So, happy hour became my go-to off switch. And it’s gotten a bit ahead of me. Too often I depend on the instant steam release of a dirty martini…and then another. So, January will be a dry month. No alcohol at all. And, Peloton movement every day. I’m ready for this reset. 2020 taught me to be more careful about my drinking so that it does not get ahead of me.

The pandemic, the wildfires and power outages have revealed our deep vulnerability as a species and a society. Strangely, the global experience of COVID-19 and its ensuing pandemic was a collective and simultaneous experience that brought us together even as social media and manipulators worked to pit us against each other. What happens to our social fabric and individual interior landscape when we come to really know that all of humanity is suffering — from the pandemic, from climate chaos?

The one thing that will ensure our survival is our very togetherness. We need each other. For emotional support. To share what we have. To teach each other what we know or what we have learned that is helping us survive or even thrive. We share strategies and inspiration. I learned to take the time needed to maintain and nourish relationships.

I think I’ve aged more than I’d like to admit this year and I want to make peace with that. I also want to combat it with a healthier approach to eating and moving. So. I’ll give it my best in 2021.

I’ve learned how blessed I am. I have a good job, a solid plan for retirement. We have a house that has increased in value and provides rental income. We have close friends who keep checking in and are willing to take the extra efforts to stay safe while staying connected. Our family is exactly the same. The kids are willing to quarantine, take COVID tests, drive for hours to be able to spend time together as a family. I am so grateful for both their diligence and willingness. This is also true of Mary’s family and those who care for her 88-year-old mom. All of these active commitments to staying safe bring me comfort, joy and security.

My patience has strengthened this year. As the pace of life simultaneously slowed down (no social activities) and sped up (work became relentless), I had to learn when to simply allow life to just BE. I did this by turning to my internal clock to understand what I was capable of, what I needed, what I could set aside. It helped on weekends when I was agitated by being cooped up and it helped me dig down when work required my deeper insight – more of my soul and humanity.

I saw, with great clarity, the vicious and persistent presence of systemic racism and the caste system in our society, our corporations, our own internal world views. These are realities that we must unlearn, dismantle and rebuild with something new. This has called me to be more out, more vocal, more visible within the status quo. I counsel clients about what is required of all of us if we are going to make good, what has been evil for so long.

How do we imagine better? That’s pulling at me as I contemplate 2021. Imagine. Create. Envision. Can we tap a collective imagination and stamina to take what we learned in 2020 and, with joy and exuberance, create a better world? I’m counting on it. And committing to it.

Horizon, by Barry Lopez

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