“The shortest answer is doing the thing.” – Ernest Hemingway
In the year 2021 I resolve to…nope, I don’t. I don’t see any point in doing this year any differently than the last. You see, I didn’t have one of those horrible, crappy, miserable years that so many have been telling us they had. Oh, sure, the pandemic part of it sucked, it pissed me off when people didn’t wear their masks, and I did lose a few people I knew – which sucked even more; but for the most part all of that seemed to be not much more than background noise to everything else that took place over the last 10 months of the year.
This morning I woke at least two hours before sunrise covered in a pile of dogs who despite every attempt at sleep were up all night barking at fireworks and neighbors clanging bells and screeching proclamations of good will for a new year that certainly must have resonated from coast to coast. The dogs were hungry and feared they would starve if we didn’t rise immediately and make our way to the kitchen. As many can attest, fatigue does not supersede hunger when it comes to Labrador Retrievers. So, we did the breakfast thing, put on a pot of coffee, and started the day. Hell, there’s even a load of laundry spinning around in the machine downstairs.
It’s raining this morning. It’s freezing rain, however rain, nonetheless. Before I sat down at my desk we all maneuvered our way down the slippery back stairs into the yard for a fetch. Standing in the middle of the yard listening to the wind crack the ice from branches overhead, it was refreshing and mind-clearing to simply let the rain fall where it may. Even the chill of icy pellets down the back of my shirt was somewhat restorative and even almost meditative. Oh, I know it’s not for everyone; but were I to believe in omens, I might look to rain on the first day of a new year as a pretty good sign.
Now I sit and I think of the year past. I remember those who passed and those I feared losing who were able to fight the coronavirus and I am grateful that there weren’t more for whom we mourn. I look back on two months of work furlough caused by the pandemic and I remember those 60 days as productive and fleeting.
We all watched as people we thought we knew actively participated in furthering the decline of our country. While we used one hand to fight those who chose to unleash and fete their transphobia and homophobia or run rampant with their hatred toward women and/or people of color; we used our good hand to lift up the voices of change and amplify a message of hope.
People caring for other people became a daily mantra rather than a thought in the backs of our minds. There were wellness checks and Zoom calls for health and camaraderie, and local service organizations ramped up their offerings to the point of exhausting their resources only to replenish and do it over again the next day.
We looked past the restrictions of a world-wide pandemic by finding ways to make sure we cast our ever-important vote for the greater good. Across the country we came together to send a message to those who blatantly choose racism and oppression that they are no longer welcome here. We banded in our successful election of a new diverse administration with a hope of change and inclusion. We did that.
Oh, I know that there are people who had to fight each day just to slide one foot from under the blankets and rest it firmly on the floor every morning before they could even decide if starting another day would be worthwhile. There’s a whole lot of shit out there and a lot of things are fucked up for a lot of people right now. I’m not one of those who believe in the silver linings and rainbows and butterflies shit. What, and who, I am is someone who is just lucky enough to be able to recognize it’s there without letting it eat at me. Frankly, that works for me. For you? Maybe not, and I understand that.
The past year was far from perfect for many of us. I started the year with some pretty specific restrictions placed on me by my doctors. I did what they said to do, and I am better and healthier than I’ve been in decades for doing the things they “strongly recommended.” I spent most of the month of June sick with COVID symptoms – though tested negative. In December I learned with certainty that my vocal cords will never do what I need them to do and chronic vocal fatigue will be a constant battle. I had time off from work, so I attacked the list of projects needing done around the house. I dealt with death threats against myself and others in our community from people who didn’t like something I’d written.
But…I played with the dogs. I read more books this year than I have in many recent years combined, I got some writing done, I went hiking, I focused more on healthier activities, I continued to progress in the physical aspects of my transition, and I drank too much coffee. Okay, some people would say I drank too much coffee, but I disagree. But when I look back I see it as a pretty damned good year. I survived unscathed because I did the things that worked for me.
I won’t pretend to rightly know how the year felt to anyone else. How your year played out for you is yours to own, not mine. And to address the indictments from a handful of people who believe me uncaring about others’ experiences I say this: the only thing about which I do not care is your opinion of my level of said compassion. I won’t pretend to be someone I am not, nor will I apologize for who I am. Frankly, not everyone is wired the same and ultimately we are all accountable for ourselves.
I could easily turn the conversation and claim that people sit around wallowing in pity and do little more than complain about their situation rather than stand up and fix what they believe to be broken; but I won’t. I am not in the room with you. I don’t walk in your shoes and I cannot read your face behind your mask.
Less than an hour ago the sun rose into a wispy grey sky to wake us to a new year. Let’s call on the icy precipitous release from those clouds to wash away whatever haze from the last year it can. All I can do is hope that this year fills your wishes and leave you to be you by making space for you to do your thing while I am over here doing my thing. Fuck, I can’t presume to know any more than anyone else; and my simple plan for 2021 is to just keep doing all the things.