Marking the New Year

I wanted to write a blog post yesterday to mark the new year and lay down some words to shape the year that is to come. Instead I find myself skittish, as if I could jinx the coming year by speaking unwisely. I spent New Years Eve of 2020 with a clog in my throat that would not clear. I spent the first day of 2020 in the emergency room getting a medical intervention for that clog. Compared to that, new year 2021 is measurably better, and yet I didn’t dare speak that thought until today, when New Years Day had passed without an ER visit. It appears that one of the effects of 2020 is an increase of superstition in my mind and heart. I wonder how long that effect will linger.

A year ago today I’d just had an ER trip and was anticipating having my throat scoped the next day. We were two weeks out from my daughter’s wedding and everything else in our lives was on hold while we managed that event. The wedding felt like the capstone of the prior year, as if we couldn’t move on to new things until that was complete. Perhaps that has carried over to this year where it feels like many events of 2020 haven’t fully drawn themselves to a close. The election still wrangles instead of being settled. The pandemic didn’t end just because we got hopeful video of medical personnel being vaccinated. It still feels like 2020 has the power to grab me and pull me back into the mire, so I step softly trying not to draw it’s attention.

I have to step softly, because for all the mire, I gained many good things from last year. I want to keep the way I feel more centered and less afraid. I want to continue making slow and steady progress on goals. I’ve liked having a reason to scour my schedule free from outside obligations except those that I deliberately choose. The pandemic granted me permission to do that in a way that I didn’t know how to allow myself before. I watched as my young adults first shrank into themselves, then slowly started growing like little seedlings tentatively unfurling leaves one at a time. I feel like I did less well managing to stay connected to my out-of-house daughter and son in law. The distance forced by pandemic would have been easier to navigate if we’d already had an established pattern for how we socialized with them living separately. But the pandemic arrived right on the heels of the wedding and muddled our adaptation.

I wonder when I will trust that the world won’t shift under our feet, forcing us to retreat again. At some point the growth will be strong and sturdy enough to withstand whatever weather life throws at it. For now, I still feel wary that some other slow-rolling catastrophe will require us all to adapt yet again. Even as I don’t want that, I also have a new confidence that we CAN adapt. We can stumble and regain our footing, change core tenets of our lives, and still move forward. We adapted to pandemic. We adapted to incessant political ridiculousness. We adapted to Howard having poor health and then to it being improved. We adapted to the end of the Schlock Mercenary comic which had been our primary income and thus forced family interactions to bend around the need for productivity. Change upon change upon change. Yet whenever I compare status of family members, projects, finances, household now to a year ago, things are almost universally better off. That should make 2020 count as a good year for us, except it didn’t feel so. And I very much want to step away from it, and for it not to keep leaking into 2021.

In 2017 I focused on growing my heart large enough to handle whatever came next. In 2018 I focused on being less afraid. In 2019 I took that a step further and told myself to be courageous. In 2020 I carried an image with me into the year of a cloak of peace that I could wear no matter what else went on. Each year I lost track of the intention within a few months, but each time at the end of the year I could look back and see how the setting of the intention shaped the path I wended through the year in question. I don’t yet have an intention or image for 2021. Perhaps it will arrive later, when I truly feel like I’ve left the old year behind, when the compression of the pandemic truly begins to lighten. Until then, I’m just going to keep my head down and try to make sure that I continue to build a pandemic existence I can be happy living inside for another whole year should that become necessary.