Unless if you are Jeff Bezos or Gavin Newsom, odds are good you are coming into 2021 a bit shaken.
Nervous. Sad. Hoping for the best, but also wondering do we invite the Giant Mutant Chickens over for tea when they inevitably descend from the hillsides or not? That is the real question.
After a year like 2020, it is best to be prepared for every scenario.
I welcomed in the new year sitting on my floor, folding laundry, drinking pink wine as I watched New Girl- pretty much like any other Friday night. 2020 or not.
There was a strange feeling of urgency to wrap up the cluster-fuss that has been this year in a poetic sort of way.
"I'm going to write the best end of the 2020 year blog post ever..." I went through my mental Rolodex of all the garbage that has happened to us this year... I thought "I am going to shit on 2020 in such a poetic way, it will blow everyone's mind..."
Truth is, I can't really shit on 2020. It started out great. Like, really, really great. The first quarter was fantastic. Then it got bad, but even then, the bad was intertwined with breathtaking goodness that I would be remiss to write off.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't some Pollyanna "look at the bright-side" rant. Oh heck no. And the truth is, come April 30th, you'll probably find me face down in a pile of cheese Doritos with a bottle of gin... but this last year, as a whole, was an intricate web of beautiful and brutal.
Yes, I'm going into 2021 nervous and hopeful. But this isn't the first time I have found myself hesitant to set foot into a new year.
I recall a New Year's Day some 13 years ago. I remember lacing up my running shoes and preparing to go for a walk on a brisk Northern California morning. 2007 had been a really hard year. There were a lot of little things that made it hard like being new in town, not having a lot of support. The job was toxic and California was expensive. There were big things such as the sudden, untimely death of Scott's mom and the subsequent deterioration of our marriage. I remember stretching on the living room floor wondering "Oh gosh... I am so afraid of what this year will bring." Uncertainty loomed. Would we ever have a family? Not in our current emotional and marital state. Would this stress and grief ever end? Unlikely, from where I stand. Would we ever get out of California? Who knows.
I didn't want to stay in the old year any more than I wanted to enter the new one.
But, I didn't have a choice did I? Time doesn't give us this option to tap out. There is no way around, but through. And so we set off into 2008 by taking a deep breath unsure where we would end up.
I entered that year weirdly hopeful. Yes, Scott was out of his mind with grief. Yes, our marriage was in shambles. Yes, we were alone... except for one important, subtle distinction...
We were alone at the end of the day. At the end of the day, our grief and our marriage was our problem. But there were people who showed up for us in beautiful ways. Not in the typical gushing ways of flowers, casseroles, and shoulders to cry on, but the kind of peripheral support that was a bit like a midwife instead of an epidural (to borrow the analogy from Brene Brown). The people who told us to keep pushing, that is it ok, it is supposed to hurt...
We entered that year keenly aware of the balanced tension between being supported and being alone.
2020 has felt a bit like that for us.
Live big band music. A hairband from Paris worn in the 20's style to honor the new decade. Photos from Barcelona. First Class Swag. Kisses goodbye at the airport. A broken dryer. An empty row of seats on an overnight flight. The boys running across the "do not enter" line to meet their Dad in Tel Aviv. That trip. That whole thing. It was beautiful. So, so beautiful. Oliver's birthday looking over Jordan. A torte from the local bakery.
A stack of Passports stuffed in the center console of our car. The Sea and Sky drive from Vancouver to Whistler. Realizing I was heavily pregnant with Charlie when the 2010 Winter Olympics were in this place, and here we were celebrating his birthday 10 years later. It all felt so poetic and tidy. Lights. Millions of them. Snow. Music. Poutine. Le Labo Rose 31. Free spa slippers at the Fairmont and a heated rooftop pool. Meeting friends for strong gin and tonics. Taco Time at the border.
Runs on toilet paper. We were thankful we had bidets. School canceled. Work trips canceled. Whispers of lockdowns. The kooks on the Island started to make us nervous. People reporting "kids in the grocery store". The school districts forwarding the complaint asking we not bring our children grocery shopping. Child abandonment was preferred by the citizenry of our island, apparently. Things got weird.
A friend looked after our home. Another friend offered us refuge in the Southwest. The family offered to keep the dogs. We drove. And drove. Heads down. Whispers of "They are from Washington."- insinuating that we were diseased. Parking in the garage to hide our license plates. A neighbor friend for the boys. His mother didn't speak English. They learned to hide whenever cars passed. They had been yelled at to "Go home!" one too many times. They were 7. How would this shape them, I wondered.
Company X saying everything was fine. Early spring giving way to late spring. Quarantine bubble with friends. Late-night dice rolling with Dungeons and Dragons. Pirate's Booty and sangria. Naps on the floor at noon. Hikes among the red rocks. Feeling incredibly lucky. Frustrated that the world was burning. Angry at people getting their science from the media.
Company X saying everything was not fine. Tears. Panic. What ifs. Offers of money, shelter, and jobs. My parents helping with the kids. Offer letters. Masks. Gowns. Cavicide. Tears. Staring down the long road of 89-A between the town of Flagstaff and the Sedona switchbacks cursing Scott's former boss, even though it wasn't his fault.
A new job. Saying goodbye. To friends. To family.
Painting. Paddle-boarding. Summer in the Pacific Northwest. Turquoise glacial water. Packing. Prepping for a garage sale. New friends bringing us coffee cake and helping to paint. The same friends watched the boys so we could pack. An anniversary. Antibiotics and roses. Stress is hard.
The long goodbye. Bidding farewell to friends. Taking stock of their kindness and wishing things were different.
A drive down the coast. Sleeping at my sister's house in California.
Phoenix. Flagstaff. My parents offering us a home. We take it. Oak armories. Grandma's oxygen tank and bottles of V05. Grandparents next door. Offer letter. Home sold.
We fly back to load our shipping container. Masks and hand sanitizer. Beer and wine on the flight. No gin.
Kind neighbor's help at the 11th hour. Impromptu dinner at their house: pasta with apple sauce. The kindness slew me.
A letter to the new owners wishing them comfort and love in their new home. A drive to a turquoise lake in the North Cascades. Walking to epic waterfalls. 90's Station on Pandora. Lip-syncing to K-Ci and Jo-Jo in downtown Seattle.
Crazy housing market. Anger and bitterness. Land in Sedona. A vaccine on the horizon. Negative PCR tests and giant inflatable unicorns in Southern Arizona. The Spanish Princess while the kids slept, exhausted from long days of swimming. Balsam scented candles and legos wrapped beneath twinkle lights.
Still, no real home. Still, anxious whenever I hear Scott say my name when the last letter inflects downward. My mind flashes to that fateful April day. All is well. We are just out of shampoo.
2020 has brought many things our way. Beautiful and brutal. We have seen the best and the worst parts of humanity. Personally experienced both. We have been alone in our grief and have also been completely loved and supported. Right there, on the periphery, our network of loved ones saying "You can do it. You're going to be ok. I'm here if you need me."
We spent 2008 cleaning up the emotional wreckage of 2007. There was no magic counseling session that resolved our relationship. It took 2 years of time, work, and long-ass conversations. We moved to Arizona. Enjoyed a season of quiet as we made peace with "what happened". It didn't happen overnight. But the disasters settled down enough for us to catch our breath, and for that we were grateful.
The old me thought that the peace that followed 2008 was because I had paid some kind of Divine-Universal Dues of Pain and was owed a kickback. I don't think that any more.
I don't know how the Divine Balance Sheets actually work. What I do know is that we are supposed to do everything we can to right the wrongs of this world and create light wherever we can.
I don't want to leave 2020 any more than I want to enter 2021. Time doesn't give us this option to tap out, though. We must go on. And so we set off into 2021 by taking a deep breath unsure where we will end up.
I think about Death's final words in The Book Thief when I think about the year 2020 or 2007:
“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant... I am haunted by humans.”
The future looks bleak and hopeful at the same time. The years will come, hopefully, we can make something good of them. Learn from the past and do better going forward.
Hopefully, there won't be any Mutant Chickens and hopefully, I'll be less bitter.
One can only hope.