Hindsight: 2020

Let us bid 2020 a fond farewell, shall we?

Or, you know, slam the door in its face.

Whatever.

It’s still a week before Christmas, and then we have another week after that, still plenty of time for this year to throw wrenches our way. (Not that I am a glass-half-empty person. Actually, I am. Sorry.) We’re all anxious to Move On, get to whatever is coming next because at this point whatever it is is going to feel like a step up.

But before then, I want to spend a little bit of time reflecting back. This year has brought more change than I can wrap my head around, even now, on the other side of it all. And I’m used to change! I can’t imagine a life where everything didn’t “start over” every two or three years. But the past twelve months have smashed even my usual expectations.

The down side.

We’ve had a deployment, and a major (life-affecting though thankfully not Covid) illness that cut deployment short. We—and the entire rest of the world—pressed “pause” on life beginning in mid-March. Our kids finished school without being able to say goodbye to their friends. We found out we had to move three months earlier than we were supposed to. We did a one-day househunting trip, got rid of a ton of furniture to fit in the new smaller house we found, and six weeks later we moved. The boys started online school two days after that. We’ve now lived here nearly five months without meeting anyone or connecting in the community at all. And likely will not for the foreseeable future.

(ETA: And, by the way, we’ve been among the lucky ones this year. I am very aware of that. Pain abounds, and our pain has been frustrating and annoying, but manageable.)

And yet…

…there have been some Good Parts. Here are a few I’ve noticed:

  • The increase of opportunities, education, and entertainment online. I’ve never been able to go to in-person conferences because of finances and travel complications, but this year I “attended” three writing conferences. Not to mention online classes at MoMA, music lessons, and cast reunions/table reads of some of our favorite films and tv shows. And, oh yeah, the kids being able to do school. This year I have been continually amazed by and thankful for technology!
  • The need to focus. So much of this year has led to this: not only needing but wanting to hone in, to pare away the excess. We did it with our time and energy beginning in mid-March, and we did it with our stuff when we got ready to move. Let go of the extra, the things that are only habitual and taking up space. I’ve also noticed myself getting clearer about other areas of life: church, for one. Being out of church all this time has made me aware of what I miss, what I don’t, and most importantly what I really believe about church. I’m more sure of what I will no longer settle for when it’s time to go back. I also feel more clarity (not complete clarity, but more) about my vocation, as I’m learning to focus on my writing life. That has been a Big Deal.
  • Doing my own thing. AKA Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Paper. This has come up for me over and over this year. To be fair, I’ve never been good at the whole “fitting the mold” thing. Like, from the time I was a kid. (My mom used to say I “marched to the beat of a different drummer.” I’m not sure she meant it in a good way. Hi mom! 👋🏻) I don’t know if it’s 2020, or just that I’m inching up on 50, but I’m so over worrying about what’s popular or what’s expected or even what’s orthodox. The gift of 2020 is that you don’t have to keep up with any Joneses when you can’t see the Joneses to know what they’re up to! Time to tell the Joneses to take a hike.

Finished objects.

For the past ten or twelve Decembers I’ve made a note-to-self about the craft projects I’ve finished during the year. In 2020, I started tracking every month and every activity; not because I needed to achieve anything, but to remind myself that I did. Years of SAHM-ing have shown me that it’s too easy, when every day seems the same, to feel like I accomplished nothing and forget about all the small things that add up. My end-of-month/end-of-year list isn’t a brag, but a reminder that my time and energies did amount to something.

I won’t share my list here because it’s not for public consumption, just an encouragement to myself. But if you don’t do this already, consider taking up the practice. At the end of each month, jot down everything you did, in a notebook or on a notepad on your fridge or in a computer file (that’s where mine is). I include craft FOs, conferences and classes, writing projects, workout programs, blog series, “study” books/workbooks. Anything that feels like an accomplishment to me. (I track my regular reading on Goodreads; you can find me there as NikkiFB.)

2020 isn’t over yet, and I still have a few UFOs to deal with. I’m seven or eight books behind on my Goodreads personal reading challenge (yikes!), and I have five stoles that have been sitting nearly-done for months. In these last two weeks of the year my goal is to complete both of those things.

Then I’ll be ready to add 2020 itself to the FO list. I can’t wait.

Stay well, friends. 🙏🏻

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