What a year! I’ll bet some of you thought it would never end.
I was thinking back about the first column I wrote last January. The title was a play on words: “2020: The Year of Seeing Clearly.” Around the end of March — as our worlds starting spinning out of control — I remember thinking, “Well, that concept of seeing clearly has just gone out the window.”
Later in the year, I had a different take on it. 2020 really has been a year of seeing clearly. Not in the way I initially intended in terms of clarity with goals. It sure has shed light on getting our priorities in order, though.
After being “forced” to go inside — and go within — our worlds became a lot more quiet. For many of us, jobs and schooling became remote. Some families came closer together as a result of being under one roof. And others were torn apart by not being able to travel to be together.
None of this has been easy. And there have been some devastating consequences with loved ones, facing dire health situations — or even death — as they’ve been forced to linger in hospitals and nursing homes without direct family support during their greatest time of need.
Another major consequence of 2020 has been numerous job layoffs and business closings. Some of these are temporary, although many are permanent. And you can’t “put the toothpaste back in the tube.”
As I’ve been following the trends that developed in 2020, it looks like some of them will continue.
Companies that have seen productivity with remote workers may elect to continue along these lines, cutting the overhead that goes with office space, equipment and utilities.
There are still costs associated with these trends, though, in terms of the lost face-to-face collaboration and direct human connection. In many cases, we’ve been reduced to communicating via computer screens.
Lest I get too far ahead of myself, I realize we’re still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the past week presenting some of the worst records so far in terms of cases and deaths. And, while the arrival of the vaccines provides hope and encouragement for many, we’re still months away, at best, of being able to feel more secure with the health threat.
Where do we go from here?
Bill Gates says it will be the end of 2022 before things get back to “normal.” I’m more optimistic than that. I’m sure he’s taking in the global impact, while my focus is more narrow — looking at our everyday lives in our communities.
We’ve learned to live with uncertainty. That’s one of the toughest scenarios to endure. We like to plan and organize. And we’ve had to “wing it” for much of this year.
My key word for 2020 has been “adapt.” We’ve had to do it — time and time again — this past year. Even if we haven’t become adept.
One day at a time
I have a sign on my nightstand that says, “Today was a good day.” That’s not always the way it feels, so this is a good tool to tweak my awareness of my blessings. And the saying can be interpreted different ways.
A good night for one person may mean their children are safely tucked in. Or things went smoothly at work that day. Or the tension in a relationship has eased. For others, it may mean one more day of sobriety from alcohol or drugs — or a warm bed for the night.
And it may be too raw for those of you going through a “first.” That first holiday season without your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, son, daughter or close friend. It may feel like nothing will make it a good day. And you’re right. Because your feelings are valid. No amount of reassurance from others can change that.
While I’m all for positive thinking, I realize the value in genuinely feeling our feelings. We need to give ourselves permission to do just that. Maybe it’s seeking the comfort of loved ones. Or having more alone time.
It’s the contrasts in our lives that weave the rich tapestries. And paying attention to those heart space moments.
You probably have them more than you think — when your dog or cat greets you with unconditional love. Or when you’re permitted by a fellow motorist to switch lanes. Or you get a “thank you” email.
You may not consider these little things as blessings. They have everything to do with the quality of your life, though. Peak experiences are great, too — that award, experiencing the wonder of travel or winning a major competition. It just doesn’t take a steady stream of those to equal contentment.
Happiness, joy and contentment
Which brings me to another theme to ponder at the end of this year: the variations on happiness, contentment and joy. Each has its special sauce. To me, joy is more of an episode, while happiness and particularly, contentment, signify ongoing states of well-being.
One of my favorite quotes from a movie years ago says it all: “I’m content with where I’ve been, and I’m proud of who I am.”
And here’s a little mantra I composed that may give you some perspective for 2021:
Peace on Earth
Is a lofty goal.
But inner peace
Is in my control.