Counting the cul-de-sacs, the loop around my neighborhood is 2.45 miles—2.45 miles and ten years of working stuff out in my mind and heart and soul.
The year of our Lord, 2020, has presented a plethora of opportunities for laying-it-down and working-it-out.
If you had asked me when I was 16 where I would be in 2020, cartoon depictions of the Jetsons would have pixilated in my young mind.
2-0-2-0 conjured up images of the unknown, things yet to be understood or seen, etc.
When we had children, 2020 became tangible. When I sat and watched my pudgy, adorable Irish twins play in the middle of the living room, I did acknowledge, God willing, in 2020, we will have a junior and senior in high school. Crazy. Diaper changes and bottle refills dull the senses, and then we blink. (Once, twice, three times—senior pictures and college applications fill my mailbox.)
Then, New Year's Eve 2019 dawns. The rough sketch of 2020 turned three dimensional, technicolor as the ball dropped.
We had ideas. Was it forecasted to be a dumpster fire of a political year? Yes. Was the world topsy-turvy? Straight up messed up?
But when is it not? Life goes on. Let's get to it. We donned the 2020 glitter glasses, blew the horns, kissed cheeks, and welcomed January 1 in with the calendars, the resolutions, the predictions, the PLANS.
The universe may or may not have side-eyed us.
March hit, and reality as we knew it turned on its head and fell through the dang floor.
Concussions ensued as we frenzied, confronting the end of the world with all the grace of a bull in a china shop (instead of breakables, toilet paper).
Our vocabularies became inundated with words we had not heard. Like toddlers learning to speak, we stumbled through the syllables of quarantine, social distancing, and essential workers. You want us to wear masks? Like they do in Asia? Schools are online? Churches in the parking lots? People are dying? Of a virus? In 2020?!?
Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cue the finger-pointing. Cue chaos.
Like the rest of the privileged, I baked. I cooked. I drank wine. I put together puzzles. I cleaned. I posted and posted and posted. Then May hit, and it was evident COVID was no temporary short-term conundrum.
Eventually, the numbers found Florida, and we all watched as they grew. And grew. And grew.
People lost jobs. People got sick. People died. People began to lose hope.
The Almighty calendar became a landing site for scribbles, reschedules—then cancellations.
Amid the first quarantine my family experienced back in June (exposure only, no one had COVID), my creative juices started clawing at the walls, and I resurrected storytelling. One full manuscript and two not-quite-but-almost-partial manuscripts later, I reflect on the floodwaters of Once Upon a Time breaking in my mind, and I'm thankful. Imagination is a powerful healing tool. Highly recommend.
School begins. A Bizzaro-world version of normal reclaims our calendars.
The second quarantine rolls around in November (this time, I tested positive for COVID), and my brain went fuzzy. Let me say as a side note, waking up on a Tuesday morning and not being able to taste or smell is unsettling at best. (I had a very mild experience and know I'm blessed). The fam left the building, and everyone stayed well. Thank God.
Writer's block copped a squat on my chest. Two of my main characters went from finding a secret passageway 40,000 words in to breaking that elusive fourth wall, looking at me, Almighty Creator, sideways, asking, "Who are we again, and what are we doing?" I answered with a shoulder shrug, turned over, went to sleep, then watched an unhealthy amount of The Crown or Yellowstone.
Now I sit in December, criss-cross applesauce, scratching my head and wondering—what next?
I do what I know to do and walk those 2.45 miles. I turn off everything, stick my hands in my pockets, and enjoy the glorious fifty-something Florida winter day. The sky is cloudless, impossibly blue, and blissfully aloof. Mature oaks with their thick, sprawling branches cock their heads raise a moss-covered eyebrow, like grandparents who have seen some stuff and know what we don't know. They quirk a smile, roll their eyes, and usher me through the familiar trek, knowing I'll be back with new issues, new problems, new prayers.
They are correct.
2020, you did not bring sky mansions or spaceships or even a precocious space dog. Instead, you reminded us how fragile and dependent on one another we are. You reminded us 2020 vision is not tunnel vision; for survival purposes, it cannot be. And it does not require correction. Instead, it commands attention to detail, intentional learning from mistakes, and recognizing clarity as a privilege, not a right.
I'm not sad to see you coming to an end, but I will forever gaze at you with consternation and remember.
2020 Top 10
1) Time really can slow down.
2) Loving your neighbor means more than waves at the mailbox and cookies at Christmas.
3) Staycations can be unforgettable.
4) People count, and they desperately want to be heard. Listen.
5) Hurting people hurt people. Stop ignoring hurting people.
6) Immunity does not honor borders or walls.
7) Cancelling someone does not make them disappear.
8) Fear is a dangerous bedfellow.
9) Faith does not mean sticking your head in the sand.
10) Jesus knew some stuff.