I don’t need to list the events of this past disastrous year; any one of the tragic events of 2020 is too much to digest, let alone the dozens of horrific and often needless travesties. I’m not sure how we collectively decided it was the year’s fault, and leaving 2020 was going to miraculously dissolve those issues; people are still dying in record numbers, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger are the worst they’ve been since the depression and that isn’t changing at midnight, and as one friend posted this morning, “If you think 2020 was bad, wait until it turns 21 and starts drinking!”
But we like symbolism, we are energized by significance. Birthdays represent an accomplishment as well as a place to begin again, as does the New Year. The turn of the clock (despite it having been changed several times in the past two thousand years, so God knows what day it actually is) translates to a turn around the proverbial corner, a chance to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to take a new path, and whatever other clichés you can muster up this weekend.
We make resolutions. This year I started making lists and tossing them, marking how much weight to lose, how much exercise to add, how much money to save, how many letters to write to those I care about, and I tossed them all. Now, on the front edge of this new year, I have just one: To trust myself again, my instincts. I used to do that, years ago, and when I did, I may not have moved mountains, but I felt centered, at peace with who I was. It is time to feel like that again. I started practicing a few years ago and so far it’s going well, but at midnight it is official: I’m going to let Bob be Bob, to lift an ism from The West Wing.
All that aside, for many of us 2020 deserves the pummeling it is getting as we join together to slam tight the door behind us. Most of us know as least one person who suffered the virus, some of us know someone who succumbed to it. For those with conditions such as anxiety and depression, the year was especially challenging, and throw a dislikeable president into the mix and no wonder suicide rates are higher than ever. The new year gives us all a time to step back, refocus, and, as Jimmy B says, “Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”
But first, instead of rehashing the top ten crappy moments of the finally-in-hindsight 2020, I’m going out this time recalling five fine moments to take with me. If we all did this, we’d move into 2021 with fine memories.
- As the result of stay-at-home measures, my son Michael and I headed out into the wilderness more than ever before, discovering state parks, nature trails, marshlands, and preserves we didn’t know existed not that far from home. This isn’t solely a memory of 2020; this will stay with me forever. We hiked and talked and took in the consistency of the natural world together.
- Seven years almost to the week after returning from our trans-Siberian journey, I signed a book contract for the 2022 publication of The Iron Scar: A Father and Son in Siberia. On the one hand it did feel good to finally close the chapter—quite literally—on that project and move on to a new one, on the other it remains a significant accomplishment of the year since of the fifteen chapters in the book, fourteen of them have been published in twenty journals, were finalists in four contests, and have been nominated for five awards. Bragging rights allow me to add that the book will contain a section of Michael’s photographs of the journey.
- After several years of not working on the property all that much by virtue of too many other stresses in life from 2017 to, well, almost now, I’ve returned to one of my natural states and started reshaping the trails here at Aerie, grooming the paths and adding several more birdbaths and feeders. If I’m going to have to “stay at home,” I might as well make home a place I want to stay.
- While I have not really yet seen him much because of Covid, my brother lives just an hour away. This is more important to me than anyone might realize, including him I suppose. As the youngest, I was only twelve when my sister went off to college and then life, and my brother followed two years later. While we have all been close, I haven’t lived within three hundred miles of either of them since 1975, and until my sister moved about six hours away, any trip to visit siblings was a two-day drive, which I hardly ever made. Ever. Ever. So an hour away down the Colonial Parkway along the York River to have lunch, play golf, or just hang out is something I am grateful for, even if we don’t. Sometimes the peace of mind is in just knowing someone is near.
- Friends keep me sane, answer when I call, call to see how I am. We get together when we can and laugh, or have deep conversations about the passing of time, the beauty of the sun on the water, the sound of ice in a glass as we sit quietly and watch the moment at hand unfold. We take them for granted, these brothers of ours, don’t we? I mean when we can see each other anytime, we generally don’t, and this year has shown me how much to appreciate the ability to be with those we love.
Yes, 2020 is hindsight, and the new year is upon us. Thirty-five years ago I worked at a club where the members greatest challenge wasn’t weight loss but feeling good about themselves, and we emphasized one message in particular: be yourself. So I’d go into the studio and at the end of a difficult, challenging, but survivable workout I’d work them through the cooldown and remind them to be themselves, trust themselves, and the rest will follow.
The difficult, challenging, but survivable workout we’ve endured with 2020 is over, and I’m looking out over Aerie as the temperatures cool down a bit and know, I simply know, it is time to follow my own advice.
Happy New Year.