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And a Happy New Year: A Letter on What Lies Ahead

Updated: May 13, 2021

Christmas has come and gone. We took the decorations down sooner than usual, because I want to say goodbye to the butchered Christmas that caused as much stress as joy, for me the self-appointed joy bringer. I had good intentions. That’s something people are forced to say about me often. “She means well.” As discussed on my expose about my special brand of crazy when it comes to Christmas and Christmas presents, often it doesn’t play out the way I envisioned it. I’m happy to report, fun was had by all.

At the end of the day, Scarlett commented that she wondered what a 2020 Christmas would look like but it was really fun. Hopefully, she forgot I yelled at her early on for being rude to me, the pre-puberty attitude is killing me. In my defense it seemed like a horrible idea to let her get away with such disrespect and then hand her so many presents. Way more than I realized, as she got all of the presents from out of town relatives or those we simply couldn’t see, on one day. Eventually, we simply stopped opening them on Christmas Day. By the end of the day, when Scarlett went to bed, Pat asked what I wanted to do and I said sit alone because I am incapable of conversation or processing speech or intelligent thought. It was like socialization overload. Between the people and the zooms my brain was just fried. This rarely happens to me, but as 2020 draws to it's end, I'm drained.

But now it’s time to move on. Now it’s time to see what lies ahead of us. I have only made three New Years resolutions in my life. One involved dropping dress sizes from a 10 to a 6. But I discovered how much I like working out and got down to a 2. However, before that year was up I was an 8. Year long plans are usually pretty dumb. Often we are asking ourselves to make a major change in our lives but there is not a magic switch that goes off at 12:01 AM January 1st. What makes us think that if we hardly worked out for the past three years, making some resolution on this day, will change that?

The other two involved beer. One was only drinking craft beer for a year. I succeeded as long as you count Sam Adams. The second was always drinking local and I did pretty well. But I don’t like Bud Light or Mich Ultra so I wasn’t asking myself to break an instinctive pattern in my life overnight. I was asking myself to pass on Shock Top. See the difference? But everything about 2020 was different. Is this the year to take on something heavy? I don’t think I have a choice.

Also in my sad little Christmas essay, I wrote that 2021 really won’t be much different. There’s no magic switch. Remember 2000? Yeah like that, nothing will be different. My cousin Lizz said I was wrong, over the phone while I was in Target neurotically trying to replace the gift Amazon lost for her girls. She said there will be a new administration and there is a vaccine. Both of these things will make a difference in our society. I have Kermit flailed every time a friend or family member who’s on the front line gets vaccinated. But since we’ll be listening to Facui again, he says the general public really won’t see a vaccine until summer, maybe late summer. And there’s been no trials on children yet.

I’m back to having 4 Disney vacations back on the books. My amazing travel agent, Christina, never gets mad at me. She’s says “I’m right there with you. I don’t know when it will be safe and I want to go to my happy place too.” She’s a safe space for me because she does understand. She enjoys booking my trips because it puts her into the “Disney bubble” even if it’s for only a moment. Every time she says that, I think that the Disney bubble is like an addictive drug that gets you so high, but when the magic runs out, the crash is so hard. But to her it brings joy. What a notion, like most things in life, joy through something potentially so painful. Also how is 2020 the year where my travel agent (and friend) is my safe space? Planning and booking vacations we may never take is escapism I guess. But even if it's a back up for a back up, in the moment when I call and say let's compare Poly and Wilderness Lodge and then proceed to discuss the pros and cons, there is hope. Christina is the bringer of hope.

As a Christian, it’s been hard to see why there’s a Global pandemic. The worst question to get from a non-believer is “why do bad things happen to good people?” Because, unlike me, God does not spend his lifetime trying to bring joy. He promised no one on this side of Heaven, a good or easy life. He invites us regularly to suffer alongside Christ. But if you say this to a non-believer they just don’t understand why you would follow such a God. It’s hard to associate the notion that we need to suffer with God and that suffering is good. A friend had a great analogy. She says it’s like trying to put shoes on a toddler so you can take them to do something fun. Chick-Fil A, with a playground and friends. But her daughter doesn’t understand, and doesn’t like wearing shoes, and can’t see past that.

So where is this fun place we’re going? Is God preparing me for a better life here on Earth or setting my heart straight for Heaven? We’ve all learned something about ourselves from 2020. In one way or another, we don’t like putting on our shoes and we can’t see we're going to Chick-Fil A. For me, I need to slow down, and I need to listen. Yelling at my kid on Christmas morning was so 2020. She was being rude but I handled it badly. I told Pat I was tired of the attitude and today wasn’t the day she would keep getting away with it. But what about my bad behavior? What about my short fuse? What about my inability to let anything go? What about my inability to not presume the worst in all situations and in people? It’s got to stop.

I didn’t start this out with it being so based in faith, but for me, God is showing me that the suffering won’t kill me. I have survived 100% of my worst days. If I’m quiet and I listen to his voice and go where he leads me, the suffering is still there, but I’m not suffering alone. So how do I fix this in practicality? I’m certainly not waiting around praying to hear God and hoping he’ll call on me like Moses. He's already said "put your shoes on." Do the hard things. The things you don’t like. Often in my life that's things that scare me. Don’t assume that something terrible is on the horizon when I walk out the door, instead believe that it could be Chick-Fil A. Sometimes it’s not Chick-Fil A. Sometimes it’s a root canal. Sometimes we need a root canal to get healthy. Sometimes that root canal is necessary because we drank too many milkshakes at Chick-Fil A. Sorry I’ve gone down the metaphor rabbit hole.

My resolution for 2021, is to stop assuming the worst. Stop assuming my cousin is super sad and will be mad with me if the whiskey sour his grandpa makes isn't perfect when I make it. Instead, assume he’ll be happy I tried. Stop assuming Scarlett’s first instinct is to attack me but rather that when she’s anxious and frustrated she takes it out on me, because mom is a safe place. Stop assuming because my husband says I put the dishes in wrong, he’s not appreciative, he’s just particular. Stop assuming because you're afraid you got it wrong.

I hate new year's resolutions that ask you to change years of bad behaviors. That a calendar date has some sort of magic powers. But I have to. I have to make this change so that 2021 doesn’t go the way 2020 did. The same friend who’s daughter doesn’t like shoes, gave me a one line journal that you keep for 5 years. Just a line (or three) saying what happened that day. Over the next four years you can go back and see. I am looking forward to this. I am looking forward to being honest with myself each day and honest with God. I am looking forward to holding myself accountable, because I know God wants me to move in that direction, but also I want me to change for the better. I don't want to be afraid to put on my shoes. I will stumble and I will fall, probably in Jimmy Choos. But I am going to pick myself up each time and dust myself off and try again. I can’t make vaccines come sooner, or be safe for Scarlett, but I can try to get control of how I handle it.

Working out more will help. More quality time and less quantity of time. I need to spend more of my time being quiet and sitting alone. I need to do more yoga. But here is what I won’t do. I won’t say by 12/31/21, I got a trip into Disney and France. By 12/31/2021 I will have lost 10 lbs from the extra working out I need to do for my mental health (and ditch the 2020 weight gain). By 12/31/2021 I will not be cured, but hopefully I’ll be better. That’s a new year's resolution I can get behind.

Since writing this I have been informed that I am in the second round to get vaccinated. I am severely immune compromised, if you didn't know. I have to call my doctor today and get my papers to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, it won't protect my family, but knowing I probably won't die from Covid-19 every time any of us leave the house probably is the best gift any of them will get this year.

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