Lessons from 2020

One of my favorite times of the whole year is the week between Christmas and New Year. With most of the bustle of Christmas is behind us, there is an almost mystical lull. It seems to be in these liminal days I become both reflective, sentimental, hopeful and forward-thinking all mixed together.

It’s probably the teacher in me, but I try to live my life in lessons. I try to make sure I can squeeze every possible message, every possible take-away from both the good and the not-so-good. So it seems natural that as I reflect on the year that is closing, I think in terms of what I’ve learned. And it’s been an astronomical amount.

1.) Death is life. My 2020 began on January 2 with an 8 hour drive to Ohio to spend the next month with my life-long best/sister/soul friend in hospice. Her 3.5 year journey with ovarian cancer was coming to a close. That month was most definitely the hardest, and most beautiful, of my life. To be with a loved one as she slips away, slowly, into a different form of existence can’t help but form a life vision that is forever changed.

Death is life. It is natural. It is guarunteed. It can be peaceful and beautiful. And it does not end a love, a friendship, a life together, but rather only changes it’s form.

2) Time is life. Of course, the losing of a loved one way too early in life can’t help but reframe one’s general world view. I now often find myself thinking in terms of “legacy”, of the gifts I want to leave behind. And for me, it all comes down to time. With whom do we spend our time? What are we creating with our time? How are we helping the world, or our family, a stray animal with our time? It’s really all we have. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. There are no do-overs.

We get one block of time to use purposefully and meaningfully. Prioritize it. Use it wisely. Make sure how you use your time is in integrity with what you hold most dear. It is our legacy, both while we live and long after.

3.) God is life. And He’s ginormous. As in HUGE! As in I simply don’t have words to describe how huge. I’ve always believed in a big God, but this year my relationship with this powerful source of all that is has expanded into the universe. It seems funny to me that for a year I’ve spent largely at home I now see God in the whole wide world in ways I never have before. I love this so very much. I will always remember 2020 as the year I untied God from the neat little “Sunday School” image in which I had confined him, and he burst into his full existence in my soul.

4.) Celebration is life. My guess is that 10 years from now when I look back on 2020, it will be a blur. I find that even now, in the midst of it, I can’t nail down if something happened in March or July. My mile markers are gone. I realize now that I anchor the passage of time by celebrations. This happened near a son’s birthday, that happened close to Mother’s Day, and so on. With a year when there were so few celebrations, at least in person and the way we’re used to, my sense of time seemed to collapse. It kind of feels like it imploded into one black hole of a year.

Celebrations are the fuel of life. They anchor us in community, purpose and joy. Celebrations are how we mark major life events, how we welcome new seasons, how we say goodbye. When they are minimized or neglected, even for reasons such as Covid, we lose our bearings, we miss the meaning-making moments that make our lives together so precious. We MUST celebrate. And often. And with love and joy. And hope. Always hope.

5.) Hope is life. There is magical power in hope. It is what keeps us grounded, it is what keeps us uplifted, it is what keeps us balanced. For so many this was a year of despair. Deep, gut-wrenching despair. Loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, social unrest, unknown personal, national and global futures. It brought me to my knees more than once, most certainly.

But it was always hope that made me get back up on my feet. The hope that we can take the lessons we learn, and pay them forward. The hope that love will truly trump all else. The hope that our loved ones, our communities, our world can be healed and healthy one day very soon.

It is hope that makes me rise each day. It is the hope that I can love my people well. It is the hope that I can do a little bit of good in my corner of the world. It is the hope that my words and my work can touch one heart. It is the hope that if we all have hope, we will all be ok.

My hope for you, sweet friend, as we move into a new calendar year, is that you will find the lessons meant for you, the ones that will help shape 2021 into a year of love and grace.

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