Ode to 2020: Goodbye, Thank You, Move On UP

Photo courtesy a beautiful man named Mik Rossi ❤️

How do you say goodbye to a year like 2020? With a lift of your hat and a sardonic smile concealing an under-your-breath growl––good riddance, through gnashed teeth perhaps? 

Everything happens for a reason, they say. Our biggest challenges are our greatest teachers, they also say. But for anyone who has walked a mile in ill-fitted shoes knows that, sometimes, we just want to be done with it. We just want to kick off those foot-murderers and get the heck out of dodge while we still have some toenails intact. In fact, most of us would prefer to lose said toenails, one-by-painful-one, than to meet another year like this past one.

This year, we’ve witnessed and experienced natural disasters, heartbreaking social strife, a global pandemic, and we’ve been exposed to conspiracy theories that could destroy any chance of believing in basic human goodness. This year has raped our wallets and cut the cord on healthy social connectedness. It has made us wonder in the wee dark hours of the night that more and more of us are awake for––what the heck is going on in the world we live in

Is this just an out-of-control flu? Is it a hoax? Is it part of the natural order of things in tango with chaos over the course of human history? A yin to the yang? Is it here to stay or will the world eventually return to its previous state? Is it the wake up call that we so desperately need in the face of a dying planet?

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has an opinion about someone else’s opinion. And the divide between us grows wider, instead of smaller. Because these big, scary questions aren’t just banging the walls of our own individual heads. They grab us all by the scruff of the neck and give us a good shake until we start listening. These questions aren’t, What happened to the world? And How can I protect myself? But rather, How did we get here, collectively? And What changes are necessary to proceed with greater awareness and respect for the planet and our health?

What lessons are we learning right now, as a world, and as individuals?

As the New Year rolls around, it’s a good time to reflect on two very important things: What you lost this past year and what you’re grateful for gaining this past year. I guarantee that if you reflect on this thoughtfully, you’ll find that there’s either some surprising overlap, or perhaps a subtle cause and effect relationship between events. That is, you can appreciate the gifts that arise from challenging times, even devastating loss, once enough time has passed. The poet, David Whyte, describes it like this:

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering,

the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.

(The Well of Grief, by David Whyte)

Anything we have to give up, whether voluntarily or not, is a kind of loss. And this year has been full of them, some more challenging than others. But if we look closely, we may see that there has also been the potential for a lot of gain. Not necessarily in the material sense, but in the individual growth that has occurred in response to some pretty heavy challenges.

Have we stood to face them with courage and strength? Have we participated in our own lives the best way possible? Have we shown up for others who need more help than we do? Have we noticed all the ways we didn’t meet our own standards for outstanding human behaviour, but could, given another chance?

Have we recognized that such chances offer themselves to us every day?

The longer we continue in this uncomfortable state of uncertainty, questioning, and social disconnectedness, the more we realize how important the small things are and our responsibility in making them happen, right now, in this moment. Not tomorrow or next week, but in the only moment that matters to avoid becoming a replica of Homer Simpson who famously says, “that’s a problem for Future Homer. Man, I don’t envy that guy!”

This isn’t just about ourselves, but about the world at large. Indeed it is the little things that count:

How essential and easy it is to be kind. 

Sometimes a smile for a stranger is enough to change their day––and yours (even with a mask on, we see kindness in the eyes first). Sometimes kindness is inside the act of going out of your way for five minutes to save someone else an hour of frustration or difficulty. Not because you get some moral or material reward for it, but because it genuinely benefits the other person.

How critical it is to express our love for each other, and forgive our all-too-human differences. 

Love requires no preconditions other than a human heart. Forgiveness requires nothing more than a willingness to get over ourselves to avoid the painful and heavy burden of caring more about any wrongdoing or incompatibility of perspective than of our own wellbeing. 

How desperately we need to simplify our lives to see what really matters. 

Life already serves up its fair share of strife and struggle; we do not need to further complicate matters by creating mini dramas that result in unnecessary suffering. Choose your battles, so to speak. Let the little things go. Love hard and forgive easily. Make your daily goal a commitment to creating more harmony and less discord wherever you can. 

These are the things we can control, and so we should pour ourselves into them. Leaving a year and entering a new one isn’t just a changing over of the calendar. It’s a symbolic shedding of all that no longer serves us, as individuals and a human race, and welcoming in that which does. A quick and easy formula that goes like this:

Goodbye. Thank you. Move on UP. 

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