There’s no way around it: 2020 felt like walking blindfolded onto a roller coaster with no safety harnesses. How do I reflect on the year when I’m still holding on for dear life, and the roller coaster hasn’t stopped?
I follow the advice of fellow Waterwheel Review editor, Claire Guyton: “I’m doing two things this month to say a firm goodbye to 2020 and walk with intention and strength into whatever the next year holds: Taking stock and making joy.”
Easier said than done. But here goes.
My piece of the world is so small right now. If I had to count the times I left my house since March, I could. My youngest children have left the house even less though they boast at having attended more Zoom meetings than my husband and I combined. Their school district has been in full remote learning for seventeen weeks. And since they are in second grade, I have been in full remote hall monitor, teacher’s assistant, cafeteria cook, and principal for seventeen weeks.
I have lived anything but solitary since the pandemic began. Even so, I was compelled to reach out beyond my immediate surroundings during the early stay-at-home orders in March and April. I wrote a daily poem and posted them to Facebook and here on the website. I wanted to live what poet Stanley Kunitz says in his poem, “Revolving Meditation”:
The voice of the solitary
Who makes others less alone.
I may not be alone in my house, but as a poet, one of my strengths is the ability to express my single human experience.
When my husband asked me to think of a positive that came out of 2020, I answered, “Freeze dance.”
We had a quaranteam Halloween party while our neighborhood flooded—like it does every year—with trick or treaters. Our quaranteam consists of eight adults and three kids. We had so much fun we decided to do it again next year, in addition to resumed trick or treating. The favorite game: Freeze dance.
Why does freeze dance sum up joy for me? Dancing, for one. Stress release. Letting go of the world’s ills. Everyone separate in their rhythm. Then, stop. Be startled. Look at everyone around you. Laugh. When the music starts back up, get lost again.
Freeze dance reminds me of Kunitz’s point. We dance singularly, each one of us experiencing our own solitary emotions. The music abruptly stops, bringing everyone back together. We’re laughing and connecting—feeling less alone.
When my youngest was eliminated because he didn’t freeze, he asked me, “Can I still dance?
“Yes,” I said. “Of course, you can keep dancing.” Please keep dancing.
We played freeze dance again at Thanksgiving. We’ll play freeze dance at Christmas, New Year’s, and for years to come.
Word for 2021: Intention
My most pressing question: How long will my youngest kids be in remote learning? Yes, when will a vaccine be available to my family is on my mind. But seriously, when will my kids go back to school, even part-time?
Since I have no clue what my schedule will be, I can only look into 2021 with intent. There is no waiting for something to work out, no putting off until tomorrow. I can’t find a to-do list from last week. I can barely hold more than two ideas in my head at a time. The only way forward is through determination and resolve.
However, I am neither discouraged nor upset (just mentally and emotionally drained). I have an intentional act I already rely on, one that I have spent twenty-five years doing: Wake every morning with contentment.
When I first started, I had to reach beyond my station. Reach for who I wanted to be. A “fake it before you become it” approach.
Some mornings, I still have to reach, especially in 2020. I will always reach if it’s necessary. Not because I need to be better. And not because I need to fulfill someone else’s belief in what I should be. I do it because I believe in more than I am in any given moment. And when I’m content, I can be fully present and available to others—the version of myself that I like best.
Quote and photo by author. All rights reserved.