Nearing the end of an unruly year, I reflect on all manner of changes, grand and minute, that we’ve undertaken these last few hundred days. It’s been a mixed bag, as any year, but the fear and despair that have swept the globe loom large. The stroke of midnight this new year’s eve won’t cure us, but will hopefully bring a moment or two of relief as we mark the passage of time, celebrate survival, and keep faith in science and its practitioners to deliver a sense of normalcy, dose by dose.
I reflect in particular on what we have been forced to give up. It’s a long list. Loved ones are the worst of it, with loss of livelihood and financial solvency not far behind. But the grinding, persistent nature of the pandemic produces a kaleidoscope of grief for the rhythms we knew, for interactions with beloved neighbors and strangers, for the activities that held fast our sanity, for our expectations of the seasons, for the grist of life.
At a juncture when we’ve been asked, or forced, to give up so much, I take time this year’s end—out of obstinacy, or emotional fatigue, or perhaps yearning for some sense of control—to consider what I willingly choose to give up. So much has been taken already, but I’ll make the list a bit longer, out of (a very mature, measured variety of) spite. At the end of 2020, I hereby give up:
Being on time: 30-some years of life had not mellowed my anxieties over punctuality, but a new family member has revoked most of my planning privileges. I’m reliably 10-30 minutes late, if you are waiting for me. If no one is waiting, I average an hour late. Oh well.
Short-term memory: Not sure where I left it, but my short-term memory is well hidden at this point. I’ve fretted over this for months, but have grown accustomed to making many a lengthy list to compensate. Currently working on remembering your name, and not walking into drawers I only just opened.
Underwire bras: Good riddance.
A career ladder: The pandemic really futzed with this one, but broader changes in the economic and development landscape make it difficult to pinpoint a title or corner office worth aspiring to. I don’t really need to climb, per se, only to stay afloat with some sense of purpose. Boating metaphors coming right up.
Relationships: Not people, no; I could never give up people. Only my expectations about what the ties that bind us are meant to look like, or how they are expected to play out. Friendships ebb and flow, while distances between family members imposed by circumstance shape and color our shared experiences. Things have gotten funky, and tools like the telephone and video calls are meager, if important, tools for getting through the funk. I give up wishing for relationships to be “as they were;” they will be as they will, and we will adjust as needed without remorse.
Outcomes: Not to insinuate that this is an easy task, but I’m getting better at it and wishing for consistent skill. In fact, I’ve mostly conquered my preference for perfect outcomes. Recently, I’ve embraced mediocre outcomes. Embraced them! Imagine. 2021 will be a year to practice letting go of most all outcomes, with a few exceptions to keep dinner on the table and a modicum of sanity. Notice I wrote “a year to practice letting go” – I’m already impressively unattached to achieving this. What a head start.
Very much wishing you, yours, your neighbors, and just about everyone else a bit of light and joy as we complete another tour ’round the sun.
Photos from the Dubai Ripe Market, Deira, and the south end of Kite Beach.