As we roll into December, I keep hearing people say, “Let’s just get this year over with.”
I’ve caught myself saying it.
2020 feels like the longest year. Every day is Blursday.
The last month of 2020 might make the year feel even longer once the virus rates spike after Thanksgiving because so many people ignored health warnings not to gather, putting all of us at risk.
We’re all getting tired of it. The masks. The distancing. The sheltering in place. But we’re not done yet. The more we stop doing those things, the longer this will last.
It’s not like it all ends on Jan. 1 when we get a new year. It’s not like it all ends the day a vaccine is rolled out.
Yes, I know this is hard. So hard, someone posted this: “‘2020’ written by Stephen King directed by Quentin Tarentino.”
And this: “What if 2020 is just a trailer for 2021?”
Yes, 2020 has felt almost biblical. Wildfires. A pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 Americans. Political upheaval. A country split down the middle. Police brutality, protests and looting. The deaths of Kobe Bryant, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, George Floyd and John Lewis. Our favorite restaurants, stores and bars shutting down, some forever.
We’ve all taken personal hits this year. My nephew, Michael, died in September. He was just 34. My cousin, Rusty, died unexpectedly on Sunday, just four days before Thanksgiving. He was a few years older than me. Both families are devastated.
This past year, my niece got married and none of us could attend. We couldn’t hold a family reunion so I’ve only seen my siblings on Zoom. Our grandkids have missed playing with friends, going to school, participating in sports and nearly every normal social activity.
And yet, I keep reminding myself, our parents and grandparents sacrificed and survived so much more.
Survival mode teaches you who you are and makes you stronger for the rest of your life. It strips your life to the bone, down to the marrow and you discover just how strong your core really is.
This year is making survivalists out of us all.
I recently saw this quote by Louis Zamperini, the subject of the movie and book, “Unbroken.”
During World War II, his B-24 fell out of the sky. He spent 47 days of 1943 lost at sea on a raft. He was a prisoner of war and the Japanese beat and tortured him for two years. He wrote:
“People tell me, ‘You’re such an optimist.’ Am I an optimist? An optimist says the glass is half full. A pessimist says the glass is half empty. A survivalist is practical. He says, ‘Call it what you want, but just fill the glass.’ I believe in filling the glass.”
I’m going to keep filling the glass with radical gratitude.
Gratitude isn’t just a cheap platitude served at Thanksgiving. Gratitude doesn’t brush off the deep losses we experience, the cherished loved ones we’ve lost, the meaningful jobs and solid paychecks.
Gratitude is a powerful, militant stance you take toward life. It’s a decision to love all of life, in spite of how hard it gets or how sad you feel or how angry it all makes you.
I keep telling my grandkids to savor 2020, as there will never be another year like it. Ever. They will one day tell their grandkids how they survived the pandemic. How they couldn’t go to school, how they wore masks everywhere and sanitized their hands until their skin hurt.
Is it a good year or a bad year?
It’s a growth year.
This year my dear friend Arlene lost her mother to COVID-19. Last week, Arlene became a grandmother for the first time.
Is it a good year or a bad year?
I love the sentiment captured by 17th-century samurai and poet Mizuta Masahide in this haiku:
“Barn’s burnt down...
now I can see the moon”
The old has collapsed all around us. Our preferences. Our expectations. Our hopes and dreams. Our goals and plans. Our barn has burnt down.
It breaks my heart to lose two people I love. And the year isn’t over, fear whispers.
Still, I’m not going to waste what’s left of it staring at the ashes of 2020. I’m giving the rest of 2020 a clean slate.
I’m choosing joy, a joy that tugs at me to look up, a joy that can still see and celebrate the majesty of the moon, no matter how dark it gets.
Connect with Regina Brett on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans. 2019 Ohio SPJ Best Columnist.