With 2020 coming to an end, it only felt right to reflect on the last year. It was a lot to say the least. A year that I don’t think any of us will forget. One that we’ll be talking about for years to come. 2020 tried us in different ways and here is what I learned.
This year was a hard one. I feel uncomfortable writing that. Not out of embarrassment, just cognizance that it’s been hard for so many. My math minded brain always thinks in levels, scales, ratios. That’s the struggle with words for me. It always has been. The ambiguity and range with which they can be used and interpreted. I always want to get it just right – nothing more, nothing less. I don’t mean to imply mine was worse than anyone else’s but at the same time, if I’m being honest with myself, I struggled this year. Now here I am writing that sentence and it’s a reminder to myself of the things I’ve reflected on this year. For the new faces around here, 2020 was the year I was told I still had skin cancer, switched doctors, changed the plan of attack, and finally was determined to be cancer free. Matt and I moved cross-country because California felt more like home to us. We struggled to find a home of our own and moved into my mom’s. The pandemic started – something I think has touched every single one of us. Then, everything we owned was stolen in a burglary. We got a little break after that with a few fire scares but we ended the year with something I haven’t found the words to share quite yet. 2020 had its challenges for everyone and these were some of ours. The beautiful thing about challenges is being able to walk away from them better, stronger and lean into the lessons from them. Even if it’s not right away.
Through all the loss this year, I found myself saying one word more than ever. The word grateful. It’s hard not to see the entire world struggling with the virus and reprioritize what is important to you. I used to think the word grateful was just for movies, prayers, or for people more in tune with their emotions. But somehow, I’ve found myself saying it at least once a day to Matt about something I feel truly grateful for that day. I mean genuinely thankful from the heart. Matt, my family, my job, our health, a roof over my head… The list is a long one at which point everything I listed above seems so insignificant in comparison. This year also shifted my priorities in what I value away from physical things. It took losing everything to truly see that what I had is so much more important. Most notably, the people in my life that mean everything to me. This year was about being grateful for what we have and learning that that has always been enough. Generally, I think this year was characterized by loss from the pandemic. Loss of life, the delay of life events, limited connection with people… the list goes on. The pandemic made life more difficult in so many ways and I can only imagine the extent to those reading this. My heart breaks for every lost loved ones and those struggling to survive today.
With everything we couldn’t do in the pandemic, there was a lot we could. This year reminded me to appreciate that and be in the moment. I used to always think about what was next. I was so focused on looking forward that I often missed the now. With nowhere to go and nowhere to be, this year forced me to slow down and just be. It taught me to pause, look around, take a breath, and enjoy the small things. I realized that happiness isn’t always about grand adventures or big experiences. It is more simple. It’s enjoying a virtual baby shower for your two best friends as they take the next big step in life. It’s sitting on your patio with your excessive number of plants and the patio lights you installed before you even bought your couch, sipping your favorite glass of wine. It’s watching your two-year-old niece discover the Little Tikes basketball hoop you got her for Christmas, even if she likes the balls better than the hoop. It’s asking your husband what he wants for dinner and having him say “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” for the 297th time and laughing because in the 9 years you’ve known each other, has he ever answered with anything else? It’s being able to hear each other on conference calls all day long as you both learn to navigate working from home in a small apartment (something I’ve appreciated so much and frankly, never want to end). This year was about realizing what’s in front of me before it’s gone. It was for pausing to breathe in every single moment, appreciating it, savoring it. And I’m loving every minute, every second of the quality time before we are back on the go.
Here’s a word you would have never heard come out of my mouth before 2020: grace. I’ve always tried to show compassion for others. This year challenged us and I think we’ve all felt it at some point whether in our personal life or on social media. The constant lashing out, the acting out, the hurting others. We’re all frustrated. It took me time to understand how someone could steal everything from us and I shared that with you on Instagram. Grace not only applies to others but also to yourself. A few of you constantly reminded me after the burglary was to show myself grace. I hadn’t allowed myself to say things like “this was hard”. As someone who consistently pushes forward, I’m not great at dwelling on what happened because it’s too painful and I typically avoid emotions. But this year, everything went out the window when I reached the breaking point and I needed to give myself a break and just focus on surviving. I accepted support instead of turning it down. When friends and family wanted to help, I said yes…. sometimes. As someone who has always believed in an “I can” attitude, I realized the power of “I can’t” when I was overextended. I learned my limits this year. I reached my bandwidth. And that’s okay.
I think we’ve all realized how strong we are this year. We’re all probably at least a little impressed with how much we can endure. As someone who did an internal eye roll whenever a Pure Barre instructor said “you’re stronger than you think” or “mind over matter”, it’s true. Hardships always have a way of making you show up in ways you didn’t think you could. We’ve been through some crazy stuff this year. We might not be thriving yet but we’ve been resilient. We made it. And that in itself is an accomplishment. So while your social media feeds might be full of weddings, babies, and other life events, remember that. Surviving this year was more than enough.
Lastly, 2020 has demanded patience. Admittedly, I wouldn’t say I’ve improved much this year. My tolerance for waiting has always left something to be desired. As much as I struggle internally with it, I’ve had no other choice this year. What exactly am I waiting for? I’m not entirely sure. Something to be different? Things to go back to normal – or at least a new normal? I know I have a few personal things that I’m trying my hardest to be patient for. Some things are things to look forward to. Plans we’ve put into place and are trying to actively make happen. Others, I can’t do anything but wait and hope. That’s hard for me to accept but I’m closer to accepting it than I’ve ever been before.
These are the most important lessons 2020 taught me. I think we’re all shaped by our experiences and by our struggles so I don’t expect these to be the same for everyone and I’d love to hear yours. I’ve loved connecting with each and every one of you virtually this year. Y’all have taught me and reminded me of so many good lessons. For that, I’m truly grateful for this little community I’ve found on the internet. So, thank you.