Farewell, 2020

Our classic interdisciplinary course Ecology Through the Writers Lens ran under a different format this year, with local day trips instead of week-long overnight visit to the Flint Hills. Of course, everyone masked up. Photo by Amy Milakovic.

As this extraordinary year winds down, I find myself reflecting not so much on what 2020 took away, but on the surprise gifts this year left on my doorstep even as it demanded a transformative, dramatic shifts in pretty much everything that I do.

Nothing will recover the 340,000+ American lives lost this year due to the pandemic. My heart weeps for the families left in mourning. I’ve experienced a lot of rage and frustration this year, knowing this immense tragedy could have been avoided if we’d taken the right steps from the very beginning, if we’d had effective leadership at the top, if we’d listened to the scientists and healthcare professionals. But that was not the path we chose, and we’ve paid a heavy, if predictable, price. With the vaccines coming on line, I’m confident 2021 will bring some relief. Of course, we still have a long haul ahead as we construct the road to recovery.

On a personal level, I’m finishing this year with gratitude. The pandemic forced many changes in my life, but I’m among the lucky ones. In the years leading up to 2020, I had suffered some devastating losses. Much of what was important to me, heart and soul, was torn out of my life. For all the challenges 2020 imposed, this year did not affect me the way previous years had. Everything essential has remained intact.

My family managed to stay healthy and safe, although we had some close calls and needed to take some precautionary quarantines. Our political differences – a cause for so many divisions in this day and age – have not eroded our capacity to love and respect each other. We’ve not had much opportunity to see each other in person – something we dearly miss – but our bonds have held strong across the miles. I’m anxious for the day when I can travel and see and hug everyone again.

2020 shut down almost every routine or activity that required leaving the house. The computer became my portal to the world. Connecting to other people depended on a constant feed of electronic wizardry. Soon, screen time exhausted me. In the evenings, after a long workday, I no longer wanted to watch TV or engage in social media or even write on my blog. I turned instead to old-fashioned past times. Reading print books. Writing in my pen-on-paper journal. Taking walks whenever weather allowed. Spending quality in-person time with the handful of people who were members of my Covid bubble. Oh, and I discovered podcasts! I’ve listened to more podcasts in the last nine months than in the I-don’t-know-how-many-years since podcasts were invented. And let me just say this: I love podcasts. Thank you, 2020, for introducing me to podcasts.

2020 also brought me back to creative writing. For this I’m extremely grateful. I may never publish another book, but to write is one of the great pleasures of life. I’m happy to be inspired again, and to have a wonderful writers group that transitioned seamlessly to the online reality of Covid so we could continue to share our stories and ideas.

2020 left me alone with myself, a lot. For the first time in many years, I was forced to reckon with the question of whether I’m good company. I think I am. My new cat, Elsa, seems to agree. (I am very grateful for her, too! Thank you, 2020, for giving me Elsa.) Having more alone time allowed for in-depth reflection on the sum total of my life, how I’ve lived my values up to now, and how I want to move forward as the world transitions into the post-pandemic era. I haven’t answered all these questions, but a map is forming in my mind. I look forward to the future with hope, a few plans, and some ideas for change.

I’m not sure where the blog will sit in all this. I have a feeling I’ll be drifting away from my online journal. (I’ve already drifted away in recent months.) Maybe I will come back once the world settles into its new rhythm, or maybe I will repurpose this space, shape its use around a different set of goals.

This is where I am on the Eve of 2021. My heart goes out to all of you for whatever obstacles you have faced or losses you have suffered during this most challenging year. I wish you and your loved ones solace and renewal. I hope that you, too, have at least a few things to be grateful for as we say good-bye to 2020.

May 2021 find us all on the road to peace, joy, good health, and harmony.

5 thoughts on “Farewell, 2020

    1. Sure! I think my favorites are still the first ones I listened to, 1619 from the NY Times and This Land from Crooked Media. Matt Kelly’s The Bee Report (of course!). I kind of have to sift through Bioneers and Emergence Magazine to find episodes I like, but some of their stuff has been good. Jonathan Capehart’s CapeUp. I recently discovered First Draft, a podcast of author interviews. They did a great interview with Ursula Heigi, so I’ll probably listen to more. I’ve been meaning to listen to Bomb Shell, a podcast about foreign policy from the perspective of women in foreign policy, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

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