Happy New Year! Here's to Finding More Sweet in 2021
Receiving Christmas and Holiday greeting cards this year brought me significantly more pleasure than in years past. No one was more surprised than I was by my feelings of authentic delight when the first card arrived, nevermind that it was from Chewy.com! I even put it on display, tucking it under a window frame where everyone would see it – “everyone” being my immediate family since no one else was coming – and I made sure to point out to each of them the very FIRST greeting of the SEASON (cue the eye rolls here).
We have all endured so much this year. Wave after wave of grave news has fueled uncertainty, anger, stress, division, and disruption and made many of us want to hide under the covers, rant on social media, or watch closely to make sure liquor stores are considered essential.
I have been extraordinarily lucky to be able to work at home and not have to mingle with many just to feed my family. I have watched in awe as our healthcare workers have tirelessly cared for those who in need and I cannot begin to imagine the emotional toll it has taken — and continues to take —bearing witness to so many endings when nothing more could be done.
I have been thankful for my teen’s teachers, who valiantly talk animatedly at Zoom boxes, even managing to get a 15-year old excited to create finger hats for Hamlet and Ophelia to record a riveting scene. I have struggled to say something comforting to a dear friend whose mother suffered a stroke 1,500 miles away and who then, after arranging transport for her to a care facility just 30 miles from her home, has only been able to say hello via Facetime or by standing on a juniper outside her window. These are strange and trying days, indeed.
And so, the jolt of delight from my friends at Chewy.com did take me by surprise. Part of me felt guilty, conscious of the privilege of being able to plan a Happy Christmas and to celebrate with all four of my children. However, when the bitter becomes unbearable, I’ve learned that to stay sane I need to intentionally register the sweet; to acknowledge joy, no matter the source.
This is the time of year to reflect and look to what 2021 will bring. I most certainly have goals, but if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I need to stay out of the business of predicting and expecting. Instead, I need to see, feel, and give as much joy as possible, wherever and whenever I can.
I found myself thinking back to where I was a year ago, and asking myself whether I embraced that moment?
On New Year’s Eve 2019, David and I went OUT for a pub dinner with the Littles (our youngest two kids) and dear friends. The six of us noshed on burgers and fries. We then drove 45 minutes over hill and dale in the Catskills to go to the movies (OUT!) and were wowed by the big showdown between Kylo Ren and Rey in Star Wars #9. Lastly, for good measure, we took turns piling into a coin-operated kiddy car at the Oneonta Mall.
Surely, if 2019 was ending on such a high note, 2020 was destined to bring SO MANY GOOD THINGS. My new 2020 Rae Dunn planner proclaimed my optimism.
Some ten months later, deep into November during a particularly bitter moment, I whipped out my pen and without even trying to mimic the font, I printed one word: “NOPE.” That word clarified my feelings and acknowledged them; it was also an attempt to accept them and to make peace with whatever the final weeks of the year would bring.
While it has been arguably NOT the best year ever, the need to actively see, feel and give as much joy as possible, whenever and wherever, is a lesson I’ll carry with me from now on. The quality of my life depends on it, because global pandemics notwithstanding, the worry, mishaps, mistakes, grievances, love, laughter, and growth that come with the everyday life of a big and active family was always going to be BITTERSWEET.
Focusing on the sweet slivers of JOY makes the bitter bearable… like receiving the #1 item on my Christmas List — a Baby Yoda Pop Socket!
Wishing you more sweet than bitter in 2021!!
Publication date: Jan 1, 2021