31 Dec

As a year like no other grinds to a close, comes time for reflection. We’ve all been through a lot—some more than others as the virus lays bare systemic inequities that leave the privileged safely working from home and others enduring food lines, job losses, and eviction threats. Who can blame us if we’re all feeling a little tired?

One thing after another. We all know what has happened. It’s a lot to take in. A lot to process. The randomness of the suffering is startling. And yet, somehow life goes on for those lucky enough to still be stumbling through this historically hellish time. Gardeners can still trim your grass, the buzz of leaf blowers becoming background noise on Zoom calls. 

Contractors have never been so busy as the haves take the opportunity—as I did this year—to remodel the homes they’re imprisoned in day after day. Bus drivers and sanitation workers and grocery store clerks imperil themselves to keep us all moving, clean, and fed—preventing total societal meltdown. And writers can still write.

But the small business owners and retail and restaurant workers navigating the on-again, off-again lockdowns and constantly shifting health regulations—my heart goes out to them. And the parents trying to keep their kids entertained and focused on distance learning. And the teachers on endless Zoom calls. And what about our musicians struggling with livestreams as they endure the starving drought of live concerts?

And of course the healthcare workers—the saints who work 12-hour shifts with hardly a day off—caring for the covid-afflicted while wrapped in so many layers of protective gear. Being there for the dying. Worrying about passing the virus onto their families or getting it themselves. The pall of death and suffering seeping into their pores. The media who report on the crisis day after day also deserve mention. Doing their jobs—reporting on the daily tantrums and rants of our outgoing narcissist-in-chief—while enduring continual attacks. They are on the frontlines too. Trying to remain professional, although once in awhile the emotion breaks through.

Amid the gloom, a few positives poke their heads from the heavy murk. Maybe this is the year you connected with old friends, grew closer to your family, picked up a new hobby, or learned something new about yourself. Indeed, with so many people dying, every day that we awaken has become a precious gift.

We will emerge from this—those of us who survive—as better people. I am sure of it. And hopefully a better society. The virus has not only laid bare capitalism’s harsh inequities but also the shallowness of a culture that strives mostly to keep itself entertained, excluding any uncomfortably realities that might pop our pleasant bubbles. And I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

We cannot go back to the Before Time, and now is the occasion to envision what we’d like for the After Time. The virus has stripped down the superfluous, leaving us naked and shivering in new, bare-bones awareness of humanity’s many failings, but also its inspiring resilience. As this horrible year chugs to a close and we bring out the new calendar, I hope we can remember to love ourselves and each other, be kind to the planet, and bravely emerge to create new visions for ourselves and the world. What can we do with this gift of life?

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