December 24, 2020

How to Grow in 2021 with Gratitude, Grief & Grace.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ~ Søren Kierkegaard

Winter whispers solitude to my soul. 

I want to hold a glass of deep red wine, stare into a fire, and reflect upon the year as it draws to a close. I want to weave a nest in which to rest from the strands of all that has taken place. 

As the new year creeps closer, I’m feeling the weight of all that is and was, as well as the hope of what might be. This year has been intense—hard, holy, human—full of love and loss.

Many people are refraining from engaging in normal holiday activities, like traveling and having family get-togethers. For some, that is what this season is about. For others, it is a time for grieving. Tender hearts weep over empty places at tables, part-time parents who are missing their children, and lovers who can’t be together—mourn. It is always this way this time of year, and the current climate highlights these feelings.

While many people are raging, calling this the worst year ever (I’m listening to NPR and the reporter actually just said, “F*ck 2020!”), I simply don’t feel that way. I’m not oblivious by any means. Life loss, job loss, and mental health crises have all been exacerbated by the conditions we have been living under for the last year. 

Christmas feels strange as well. It’s not COVID-19, or maybe it is. It’s not that I become a little more disenchanted with the season’s commerciality every year, or maybe it is. I don’t know what it is, or maybe I do. Maybe it’s that my needs feel a little more simple every year. I am a little less swayed by what society says we are supposed to do, what we are supposed to want, and who we are supposed to be.

What I really want is to become who I am meant to be. What I really want is to see people getting their basic needs met, having the space and support to tend to themselves—physically, emotionally, and creatively. What I really want is to see the world grow up—stop fighting, stop clinging to superstitions, and start actually caring about each other.

This is naturally a time of year for quietude and introspection. Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, marks the return of the light. I have always resonated with this symbol of hope, and it is important to take note of where we have been, what we have chosen, and why. This is how we discover what motivates us, what does and does not work.

I can empathize with the sentiment, just let 2020 be over, but it’s just a date. It’s not indicative of the end of an actual cycle, and there are processes that should not be rushed. As individuals and as a society, we need to learn to grieve if we truly want to move forward. That process looks different for different people. 

Grieving can be as much of a celebration as it is a mourning. Life is both. For new growth to occur, sometimes the old must be cut away. For me, this has been a year of both pruning and blooming. 

Lately, I have been in what I call hearth magic mode. I’ve been writing, cooking, and making love. I feel nourished by what I am engaging in. If I can ask for anything, it would be to have more of what I have right now—exactly as it is and as it is meant to grow, personally and professionally. 

I’ve shed many tears over the last year, as have many others. I have lost touch with friends, continued estrangement from family members, had ups and downs in my business, and have held space with people who have buried loved ones, lost their jobs, relationships, and even their homes.

But it’s not all bad; it never is. Death is often fertilizer for new growth—new life. 

This year, I welcomed my granddaughter into the world! There is a powerful gentleness rooting into richer soil than I had been able to cultivate as a young mother. I am more patient, more skilled. I wish I had known the things that I know now, but that is the point of maturing. We make mistakes and hopefully learn, grow, and heal with them. My daughter will benefit from my many mistakes and, even more so, from my efforts to correct them. I watch her blooming in her new role, and my heart beams.

Then there is my sweet, life-worn lover—spending time with him makes my whole body smile. Connection always shows me things about myself—in the exploration of, with, and through. I’m finding I can relax as I discover passion, play, tenderness, and care.

Gawd—bloody hell, it feels so good. And it makes me nervous. In continuing to meet my own nervousness with openness, my anxious attachment is healing. Anxiety may always be with me, but it’s less dominant. I’m getting better at bonding, better at breathing in the in-between, not just with him but also with everyone who matters to me. I’ve gotten better at being with others as well as being alone. 

Nervousness has been a theme of the year. My anxiety (and I know I’m not alone in this) skyrocketed. It wasn’t just COVID-19, either. It was the election, the incessant divisiveness that began to feel like a civil war brewing, inflamed and seething just beneath the surface and erupting in big and small cities.

I watched my little college town form a show of compassion and solidarity in response to the death of George Floyd. Hundreds of protestors poured down the main street—peacefully—no eruptions of violence or destruction of property. It was not so everywhere.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As riots and protests broke out not only in the United States but around the world, it has become even more clear that many people do not feel heard. Many people feel left behind and marginalized and not just people of color. We need to do a better job of hearing each other’s hurts and holding each other’s hopes. That begins with holding space for our own. 

Joy and laughter are guests that we gladly welcome, but grief, frustration, and loss need places at the table, too. These are the friends who often lurk in the shadows, but they bear a special kind of grace when we are willing to take their hands and hear their songs.

So I invite you, as the year winds down, to embrace all that is. Write a note, lift a glass, and maybe even shed a tear to love, to losses, and all that matters. 

Thank you.

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