Bringing Forward, Leaving Behind

This is a post idea I got from Steph at Life According to Steph… thinking through what I want to bring forward into 2021 and what I’d like to leave behind in 2020. Despite… well, despite everything, there are still things I’d like to continue, to maintain, and to grow more in the new year and beyond. And yet, as with every year, mistakes and missteps also punctuated the past 12 months…

Starting with the Leave Behind list, I think…

  • My overall bleak outlook. This colored everything in grey, from my relationships to my job to life in general. It was a function of external factors (some of which are, obviously, shared with everyone else on earth this year), as well internal issues of my own.
  • My focus on matching / keeping up with my coworkers who are at the same level I am. I am not them. I should not be doing the same things they are. I need to run my own race.
  • Multitasking. Oh, man, this got really bad this year. Something I’ve realized in just the past few days is that when I focus on something (or a couple of things) during my workday, I get so much more done. When I have squirrel brain, I don’t make progress on anything. Focus.
  • My dad’s health issues. Enough said.
  • Challenges in my relationship. I hope.
  • Disdain for science and for children’s health and well-being. This is a crossover between the personal and professional for me. I just…. can’t even, with people who distrust science, and who don’t want to invest in our most important resource. Sigh.
  • Passive-aggressive colleagues. Actually, let’s aim high and go for passive-aggressiveness in general, mmkay?
  • Oh, one more petty work thing. Endless in person meetings. We’ve been so much more focused and productive in our online meetings… I’d like to bring that forward and leave behind the old way of doing things. Not sure this will happen, but… I can hope, right?

Things to bring forward…

  • My newfound ability to focus in on a project / item on my to do list and persevere. It makes all the difference in the world.
  • My growing interest in self-compassion and personal growth. Continuing the process of figuring out – again – who I am at this point in my life.
  • Related: My newfound love of poetry, of essays, of seeking out diverse perspectives from the wise ones in our world (those here now, and those from the past). There is so much wisdom in these writings, and so much I gain from immersing myself in them.
  • My improved perspective on my health, working out, and food. I’m losing some of my rigidity, and that’s a good thing.
  • Work for racial justice. Enough said.
  • The renewed recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis.
  • The focus on hygiene. For the love of Pete, people. How did you not know that you need to use soap every time you wash your hands? I am so grossed out by this, and I hope that people remember how to actually wash their hands.
  • Related: skipping handshakes and pro forma hugs in professional gatherings.
  • My renewed enthusiasm for my work and research.
  • Family Zoom calls. I know, I know, we’re all sick of these. But I love getting a weekly update from my brother and parents, and remembering just how much we actually like each other, even though we’re related to each other. Ha.

So much of this is really related to personal growth, although obviously there are things with slightly broader implications (see: hand hygiene). Life, really, is a continuous process of learning, growth, and renewal. What a privilege to have that opportunity… Yet, a reminder that this won’t be easy… “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~Anna Quindlen

A tinge of blue

While there is definitely joy in life, and in the holidays, I am feeling a tinge blue, as well. It hit me last night how long it’s been since I was able to hug my parents – and how long it will be until I can do that again. I am so grateful they are still healthy, and safe, and doing what they can to avoid getting sick.

But goodness, sometimes you just need a hug.

The same thing happened around Thanksgiving – I was, of course, grateful that my family was safe, and that we’d made the decisions that were right for us. But as Thanksgiving dawned and it was so much like every other day, it hit me just how different things are. I know that’s been, well, 2020, but it is harder around special days – holidays, birthdays, milestones you wish you could celebrate together.

I’ll distract myself with some work today, as well as lots of reading. It’s rather frigid here today, so that lends itself well to a quiet day at home (with, perhaps, a short walk for some fresh air when it “warms up” later). I’ll connect with my parents via email and phone and there may be a spontaneous Zoom connection too. I know we’ll get through this. I know the hugs will come. I know that one day we will be able to celebrate – and appreciate – time with family, friends, and loved ones.

Those thoughts keep me afloat, and remind me that even with the tinge of blue shading my joy, there is still joy to be found. It just looks a bit different right now.

Unexpected Joy

I know, I know, I used joy in the last subject, too. But, well, I think we could all use a bit of joy in our lives right now. 2020 has been… yeah. We all know how it’s been. But I’m determined to see it out with a bit of joy, a lot of light, and a celebration of what was and is to come.

After I wrote my last post, two surprise packages delivered a bit of holiday cheer… My parents sent me a little (fake) tabletop tree that makes me smile every time I look at it, cheesy though it is. And a longtime friend sent me an amaryllis bulb, which I hope to a) not kill, and b) see bloom in a few weeks. Wouldn’t that be a lovely start to 2021?

A few days ago, when I was pulling up some music on YouTube to start my morning (a typical occurrence), I somehow stumbled on #GlobalOdetoJoy. It’s wonderful – there is a 6 minute or so compilation of the “socially distanced choir” singing Ode to Joy, accompanied by the Vienna Symphony. That, though, led me to this:

Remember flash mobs? They had a brief blip of popularity a few years ago. This one made me choke up this morning. The best part about it is watching the kids’ reactions to the music. The joy on their faces… let’s just say it made my morning.

As Hermann Hesse said, “Do not overlook the little joys.”

I hope you are finding some joy and light this season, as we emerge from the darkest time of the year and tilt, ever so slowly, to the light.

Joy and Light

I am not a religious person, but grew up celebrating Christmas. I’ve always found solace in the pause that occurs from Christmas to New Year’s… that break before we all take a deep breath and plunge into the new year, with all its possibilities.

I’m missing that this year – I don’t decorate, since it’s just me and I don’t really see the point. I get my fill of Christmas when I visit my parents, who still put up a large (now-artificial) tree, play Christmas music all month, and just generally go all out. I never felt like I needed to because, well, I always get it from them. Oh, I’ve had trees in the past, and played my own music, but, well, there’s something about being in the home where I grew up, where time seems to stand still.

And I don’t have that this year, of course. Like so many, my travel plans have been stymied. But… but but but. I have not lost someone close to me to the scourge that is COVID-19. I have not experienced the unimaginable losses that so many are dealing with this holiday season.

So while I’m sad that I won’t get my usual Christmas “fix”, and I miss my family terribly, I’m also grateful to be able to stay in my safe home, and cobble together some semblance of Christmas for myself. I’ll virtually connect with my family (as we do every week). I’ll seek my own joy and light.

Finding the joy and light where I am… seems like a good thing to continue, doesn’t it? I hope you are able to find joy and light in your life right now. As awful as this year has been for so many, perhaps sending it out with joy, light, and peace is a way to turn the page. To move forward, into what I hope is a brighter future.

Moments of Joy

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” ~ Mary Oliver

I find myself in a wonderful mood this morning, something that I know I need to grab onto with all of my strength. They don’t come often. I mean, I’m not usually in a BAD mood, but I have a steady mood. I don’t experience many highs and lows.

When I have a day like today, when I’m smiling for seemingly no reason, I always try to figure out why. What could I do to replicate this more frequently? The answer is usually that I slept well, that I had a good but not too hard workout, that I have a busy but not impossible day ahead of me… the usual things, in other words.

What gives me pause, though, is that external events also seem to influence my mood. I’m sure that mine, today, is bolstered by the Electoral College voting (finally) yesterday. I had been holding my breath until that day, and now that it is past, with minimal disruption, I feel as though I can exhale a little.

Which begs the question… does my good mood, does my joy, depend on external factors? Shouldn’t it all come from within?

Kind of to my surprise, my answer was, why shouldn’t external events influence my mood? I live in the world, I pay attention to what’s going on (for the most part), I am invested in it. Isn’t that part of what it means to be a person on this earth, in this society? I think the important thing is that I not let my mood, my day, my approach to life be completely derailed by external factors over which I have no control. Yes, they’re important, but they’re not everything.

So today – I’ll take my good mood to my (many, many meetings). I’ll work to maintain it throughout the day. And I’ll enjoy being surprised by the joy I feel bubbling up in me on this random mid-December day at the end of this pandemic year.