2019 was an awful year. Yep I said it – 2019 was an awful year.
The first half was filled with work related stress and the office nonsense that we probably have all started to miss and in the vast universe of things I hope one day I can see as trivial.
In May, my father, who has outlived his brain cancer diagnosis by two decades, had a stroke that left him debilitated and in hospice with a prognosis of a few months. That same month my daughter made her first communion and I was honored, along with other woman across the 12th district, by my Congresswoman. The ceremony was the night before the first communion, instead of celebrating as planned with my mother and daughter I went alone while my husband and girls prepped for the party the next day and my mother stayed in Massachusetts caring for my father.
As someone in perpetual motion sitting is my enemy - it lets me feel the enormous weight of things. And so, on what was supposed to be a happy occasion, I sat alone, surrounded by strong women, tears trickling down my face as the choir sang a song about the strength and vulnerability in each of us. I woke up the next day to celebrate my daughter and host 50 people in my backyard (ah, those were the days). That day to see seemend to sum up 2019.
In September I rushed to Massachusetts as we thought my father was nearing the end. Once all assembled, he woke up. A reminder that no one but him will decide when he’s ready.
The fall was spent in emotional suspended animation all while campaigning and mothering and working. In November we went to my parents and I prepared to spend what we thought was my father’s last Thanksgiving with him in his hospice facility.
The winter was spent waiting for the year to end – my mother and I often joked that we just had to make it through to the end of the year. And so we were so excited when we rang in 2020.
And then 2020 began. We all know this story. On March 16th the kids came home and have been home ever since. Work moved to remote, after school activities were canceled. I learned how to juggle meetings, assisting with school, running remote girl scout meetings and cooking EVERY NIGHT. I found new ways to order food online – we stocked up on basics so that if we got sick or if we were exposed we could stay in for at least 2 weeks.
I found new things to worry about – what “real” exposure is vs secondary contact. I worried about the exposure risk to my mother (a teacher) and my brothers (one a police officer and the other a Florida resident).
I also found that the things you think you should worry about may not be the thing that matters at all. I worried about my father catching COVID, then he (and the rest of his facility) did and he never had a single symptom. Remember, no one decides but him.
2020 tested everyone – if I spent 2019 alone in my struggles, I spent 2020 sharing struggles with my community. We struggled together to stay safe, to truly hear our friends and neighbors, to somehow stay socially distant and bridge the equity gap all at the same time.
If 2019 taught me anything it was that the mere changing of a year isn’t going to make things better. And if 2020 taught me anything it’s that we need to focus on the light instead of the dark.
2020 was difficult but for many of us there is much to be thankful for. We have all seen unimaginable loss, we cannot forget but we cannot let it envelop us.
And so to close out 2020 I will focus on light:
I am thankful for the simple things – our health, our homes, our ability to have food on the table.
I am thankful that in the beginning days of the pandemic the illusion of time lead me to reach out to an old friend to ask about restarting this column. Life took some turns since then and it’s not what I envisioned when I started but I’m thankful to have the chance to find my voice again.
I am thankful for the ability to spend time with my children, at least in the moments when I don’t want run away from them. To see them grow in a way only possible if you spend every damn minute with them.
I am thankful to have married a true partner, because anything less in 2020 would be a diaster.
am thankful for the chance to really cook for my family most nights – to teach my daughters to bake bread, which spurred a million kitchen “experiments” that may make my head explode on any given day but make me smile when I recall them.
I am grateful for the chance to be in nature – to explore the many trails we have surrounding us.I am thankful for friendships old and new that have gotten us through the last year.
I am mostly thankful for making it to the end of 2020 with my family intact. And I am thankful for the reset that 2020 has given me, and so many others.
We have spent nearly a year hunkered down, without the distractions of running from one thing to the next. It gives us a unique perspective to think about what we miss and what we want for 2021.
Andy yet, 2021 is not a magic number, it’s the changing of the clock. We have some dark months ahead, as the vaccine is rolled out and temperatures drop forcing us inside and apart again. We have months of hibernation to prepare for the coming Spring - to reassess what we want our lives post-COVID to look like, what priorities have shifted, what things we value.
And so as we head to 2021 I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, New Year and I can’t wait to actually see you all again.