It was the best of times; It was the worst of times.
Charles Dickens

Be kind, be calm and be safe.
Bonnie Henry

2020 was the year the world shut down. The planet, long neglected and unappreciated, had a rest. Busy lives were put on hold; skies and waterways cleared; we could hear birds sing; and most of us stayed home.  For a brief time, it was quiet.

Amazing- and humbling- what a microscopic virus can do.

It was a year that compelled us to walk a path not of our choosing.  That experience as we now know, has not been the same for everyone. Difficulties disproportionately affected certain groups more than others and some have endured much hardship. The pandemic was an added layer to a year of serious issues- racial injustice, wildfires, flooding, not to mention personal challenges that many face- all made worse by a toxic mix of bad politics in some countries, heart wrenching disparities, and planetary upheaval.

It’s been an exhausting year.

And yet, somehow, life carried on. Babies were born, children continued to learn (we hope), and people worked. Everyday tasks -laundry, cleaning, and food shopping still demanded our attention. What changed was how everything got done. COVID-19 has made everything more complicated.

As Tara Mohr has observed, it’s probably too soon to write the story of 2020. We need the benefit of perspective to distill all that happened and locate our own story within the larger narrative. That said, a few observations stand out.

This was the year we began re-imagining how we work, live and play. The changes may or may not stay, but life will not be the same going forward. We also know who the essential workers are, and they are the ones, often invisible, who make the city work. Almost as an act of resistance, we re-claimed the streets.  People spent time outdoors. Restaurant owners were creative. More bicycles and bicycle lanes appeared. A sense of community emerged.

And… many women were the superstars of 2020. Some lead nations, some are public health giants, and many kept businesses, homes, and families together over the past year. Incredibly, this was a surprise to some people.

On a more personal note, I found….

  • As much as I missed seeing friends and family, I quite enjoyed the solitude, and all-around simpler life. Being home based was fine.
  • I walked more and became familiar with the particulars of neighbourhoods.
  • The plight of small businesses including restaurants due to COVID was hard to ignore. I made a point of shopping locally.
  • Zoom is a useful tool but it only works so far. I have really missed seeing family and friends in person.
  • My ability to focus took a hit. I could manage murder mystery books and that was my great escape.
  • I wish I owned a white van company because they seemed to be everywhere. I will always associate the ubiquitous white van making deliveries with COVID.
  • Comfort foods of all kinds are a blessing.
  • Never take anything for granted. Everything can change on a dime and this was the year it did.

The flood of individual and collective grief this past year seemed overwhelming at times with despair doing its best to take root.  Some people continued to be cranky and display an inflated sense of entitlement; some seemed impervious to the restrictions we were supposed to be following; and yet sacrifice, kindness, generosity and hope abounded too.  Joy took hold and astonishing miracles presented themselves. Some of these small miracles (acts of generosity; reconciliation; creative endeavours, a focus on the health of the planet) will hopefully be the foundation for more miracles going forward.  It’s easy to write 2020 off as an annus horribilis, but I like to think that a largeness of spirit prevailed to help make life better.

My Hope for 2021

I stopped making resolutions years ago in favour of a word of the year. Given the unusual year we have had; I also have a few wishes for 2021.

  • Everyone’s Word of the Year must be kindness or compassion or some related word.
  • Families can gather for a meal and all can hug each other.
  • Everyone in the world, who can, gets vaccinated.
  • Canada establishes a living wage for all.
  • Cookies, chocolate, and homemade bread with butter are found to be diet foods.
  • Children attend school in person.
  • People support local businesses and eat out.
  • Children, workers, and the elderly are protected and safe.  Schools, work sites, and long-term care facilities are virus free.
  • More people walk or use public transit. Neighourhoods thrive.
  • Environmental protection and support are the norm. We become greener.
  • We take time to look at the sky and marvel at the trees.

Bonnie said it best: be kind, be calm, and be safe.

Finally….

A little more than a year ago, I took a road trip and found myself in the midst of a terrible storm. All my energy was expended trying to return home. Two subsequent trips planned for 2020 were cancelled, one due to unusual circumstances and the other because of the pandemic. The message I inferred from all of this was that the place I needed to be was home. And that has been a gift- a chance to arrive where I started and know the place for the first time.

The pandemic called us all home to do a re-set of how we live.

We are not out of the woods yet by any stretch, but there are good signs ahead! The great reservoir of good will, generosity and kindness will carry us through, and we can begin to write a new story.

And so, I look back with gratitude and hope and optimism for the New Year.

As a friend said to me: Bring on 2021!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2021-image.jpg

7 thoughts on “The Year that Was: Upheaval, Hope, and Lessons Along the Way

  1. Hello Audrey
    As always, getting your posts have been inspiring and very welcomed. This one was special in that you voiced what a lot of us were feeling. I found it hopeful, kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train!
    i hope you don’t mind, but I sent this uplifting message to my children, and a friend or two.
    All the best….I look forward ,to your next inspiration.
    Cheers, Joan

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  2. I loved this. One of your best! I must admit I am zoomed out. 8 hours Thursday, 7 yesterday and 8 today. While I Iove my quilting friends and my sewing machine and fabric …. well I am burned out.

    Jane

    PS if you like Jane Austen sort of stuff, watch Bridgerton on Netflix. Early 1800s London, corsets and horses and affairs and chaste virgins.

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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  3. Dear Audrey, thanks so much for this heartfelt and uplifting post. You have captured what 2020 was for many of us. I, too, hope that some of the positive lessons of 2020 will help us to survive and thrive through the rough patch ahead and emerge stronger and wiser in a more equitable society.

    Like

  4. Happy New Year Audrey. I too, like others who have commented on this post, found your comments to be particularly uplifting and hopeful. We’ve enjoyed our long walks in nearby woods and shorter walks with our children and grandchildren at a distance of course. The COVID story is not over but we sure have learned a lot in the past year. May 2021 be filled with goodwill, generosity and kindness in the midst of uncertainties that are sure to mark the first weeks of the year.

    Yvette

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  5. Audrey what a beautiful blog post that strikes just the right balance about what has been challenging in 2020 and what has been inspiring. The first part of 2021 will not be easy, but by continuing to focus on kindness and compassion, I hope that our recovery will not leave people behind. This past year has helped to sharpen the focus on what matters—let’s not lose that focus! I really love your wishes for 2021- thank you!

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  6. Audrey, thank you for this insightful reflection and projection! I share your hope that by intentionally shopping locally, walking, seeking experiences of nature in the city, we can live simpler and richer lives and reclaim connections within our neighbourhoods and communities.

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