Twenty-twenty was supposed to be “our” year.
My wife is crossing into a significant new decade age-wise (aren’t they all?). I was supposed to “retire” – in whatever definition that was. This month commemorates our twentieth anniversary; we were planning a recommitment shindig and a nice long tropical vacation. Buzzing with anticipation for all that would come this year; that was us last December.
Said John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
The year literally began with a bad case of the flu on January 1. That should have been an omen. On the same day, our eldest cat’s health began a steep too-rapid decline, leading to what would be his passing a few months hence. Want more? We unearthed extremely distressing news about a family member; the kind of tabloid information you’d hear on one of those daytime TV dysfunction fests. Less important, but still adding to the pressure, our washing literally burned up and our sink’s faucet could have been replaced with a fountain. I’m sure you’ve got stories too.
We tried focusing on the positive. Knowing Tiger’s passing was imminent, we promised that after it happened, we’d grieve, lick our wounds for a short while, and then get away for a few days just the two of us; something we haven’t been able to do in too long. Afterward, we’d put together plans for our “Celebrate 2020” vacation. Panama Canal cruise? Trip to Europe? Two weeks in Hawaii? The choices were endless – and invigorating.
Yeah, not so much.
I am so disappointed about how this year has evolved.
I know. It’s not just me; it’s you too. It’s the elderly couple across the street self-isolating. It’s the maid at the Best Western who was let go due to a lack of guests. Grocery clerks insufficiently protected by panels of acrylic are feeling it. Health care providers are suffering PTSD. Mom and pop restauranteurs feel immeasurable guilt about laying off employees; simply hoping to survive. Teachers want to return to classrooms, but not at the risk of dying. Spiritual communities and self-help groups are shuttered.
It’s a cluster.
EVERYONE is disappointed; it’s the global zeitgeist.
We’re scared. We’re angry. No one alive has lived through a pandemic. Not one of us has experienced an economic crash like this — let alone having both converge. And, what the hell; let’s throw societal upheaval and the most vitriolic, divisive election year in history into the stew. Season it with everyone cooped up, locked in our boxes, observing passively from behind glass as the seasons change; noses and fingers pressed against the window, “Mommy, why can’t I go outside?”
It’s a pressure cooker; the lid is tightened. The pot on the stove is boiling, rattling, hissing, and shaking. It’s ready to blow.
Yes, I get it, anxiety is part of life. Every year brings with its setbacks and frustrations; referred to as the “stress baseline.” For example, on a scale of zero to 100, in “normal” times, we might “stress idle” at, oh, let’s say, 20. This year, one foot is on the accelerator and the other is on the brakes while we’re gunning the engine and idling at 90. Stress wears us physically, emotionally, and even psychically; but when we’re pushing the max unendingly without relief, there’s limited time before something gives.
“I can’t wait for this year to end,” I’ve said to my wife multiple times. (Of course, that assumes 2021 will be better, which we don’t know.) Said she in her wisdom, “Don’t wish away a year of your life. You don’t know how long you’re going to be here. Every year counts.”
Do you see why I’ve stuck with her?
She’s right. This year sucks; there’s no way around it. There’s too much out of our control. Everything is akimbo. Landmarks and familiarity have vanished. We’re in free fall.
Yet, this is where we are. This is our life right now, right here, at this time. This is the world as it is. Fighting the unfightable is tilting at windmills. The serenity prayer has never been more apropos than it is today.
Despite it all — or maybe because of it all — it is essential we take time each day to breathe deep the air that still fills our lungs; to hug those we still can, and to reach out to those whom we cannot. Sunsets remain as beautiful as before. Sunny days still uplift. Blue skies remain affirming.
We’re in this together. We might be isolated. But we are not alone.
Remember that. Treat each other well. Stay healthy. Seek joy. It might be harder to find, but like Hope in Pandora’s box, it lives on.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and founder of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, where he can be contacted for coaching, consulting, and presentations. During this social distancing period, he is conducting monthly on-line workshops on setting goals and getting past what holds you back. You can find out more at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/intentions