This year’s been crappy.
Though it feels good to celebrate the end of a year that has constantly surprised us at how low it could go, I don’t think things are going to dramatically improve in 2021.
But one thing I have seen this year: good things don’t just happen in “good” years. They happen all the time. And if you look for them, you will see them. Even in a time of hard and painful things.
This year in California’s Bay Area, we’ve been in quarantine since the second week of March. We have celebrated my daughter’s 21st, my husband’s, and my birthdays at home. I’ve been teaching my high school English classes online since March. With the current travel quarantine, we had to cancel a Christmas getaway to Seattle, where our whole family would be together for the first time in a year and a half.
Also, this fall we lived through an unprecedented California wildfire season, with fires in the hills on either side of us. We breathed hazardous levels of smoke on a regular basis for about two months.
Add to this, a painful, contentious presidential election season that dragged on way past November 3.
As I read over this list, I realize how outrageously privileged I have been.
This year I didn’t lose a job. I didn’t lose a business. We didn’t lose our house to a fire. And even though I know people who did, I did not lose a friend or family member to COVID. My husband and I were both able to work from home (which was, on most days, not life threatening).
There were so many good things that happened this year. Some of these were deep things, perhaps more deeply felt and appreciated because they contrasted with the chaos, grief and destruction happening this year.
1. We and our kids stayed healthy.
2. We learned how to make toilet paper last a long time.
3. We got creative with our family times to stay connected – did lots of board games via Zoom as well as virtual Thanksgiving and Christmas.
4. I realized I actually like teaching online and have worked to make it more engaging for students with the use of community building and more audio/visual tools.
5. I wrote more this year than I ever have. A lot of support for this came from being in community – with my writers group Highway Writers and my awesome, local Sisters in Crime chapter, Coastal Cruisers.
6. I improved at my craft – and had a story chosen for a mystery anthology that will come out in 2021.
7. My daughter, who had been struggling with some serious issues, is doing much better.
8. I learned more about racial injustice–and about inequalities I never knew existed. We started supporting organizations that work to fix these. I took my daughter to her first protest.
9. I found out that many things I thought were important—weren’t.
10. The isolation made me see things I did not like about myself—attitudes and habits I’ve carried with me too long. With God’s help, I am determined to make changes.
One of this year’s themes—because, hey, I’m an English teacher—has been “joy and sorrow deeply mingled.” I can’t remember right now what hymn this is from, but the idea is you can’t separate the good from the bad. They come together. The bright seems brighter because of the darkness that surrounds it.
The new year won’t be a big level-up to peace, happiness and complete health for everyone. But I have grown up this year and many of my friends and family have, too.
Whatever comes in 2021, we will be better prepared for it.
And more able to appreciate the good that comes with it.
How has this year changed you?