I don’t typically do an “end of the year” wrap up. I have always felt, what’s the point? Rehashing past events doesn’t change the present or the future. But then, 2020 came, and I felt compelled to review. If for no other reason than to kiss it good-bye.
We got a hefty dose of “live in the moment” this year, and not in a fun way. Reviewing the past now will hopefully help to not making the same mistakes again. If I had to pick one image that sums up the year, it would be a dumpster full of flaming s**t.
2020 was a torchlight year. The inferno lit up the dark corners of our collective humanity. It was radically destructive and shook us to the core. No one was immune. It burned us mentally, physically, and emotionally, leaving only a scorched landscape.
Besides walking the dog and running a few errands, I have been in hiding since March 6th. On that day, I sat, curled up on the sofa watching the news of the first cases of COVID-19 reported in Denver. At the time, I was feeling crappy because I had come down with a killer cold. That’s what I thought I had. But over the months, and the more I researched, I realized I didn’t just have a cold….or the flu.
On a good day, I go through life seeing too much. But what I saw this year stunned me. Some days I would sob uncontrollably. Other days I didn’t think there was any hope left. I was exhausted. The new reality hit me hard. There was so much that was out of my control. I had to keep reminding myself that the flowers still bloomed, and my dog always wanted to play. The food I cooked still smelled delicious, even if I had a hard time tasting, even ten months later. These are the universal things that kept me sane.
I tried to keep my spirits up by posting images of little joys throughout the year. Hopefully, they helped others in the same way. I continued to write, but I wasn’t nearly as focused as I had intended. Now we are at the end of the year and yet, not out of the woods.
How do I make sense of it all? I want to see things differently for the new year. Imagining by writing, it jumped to the top of my “to do” list. I started where I always do. I looked back to my education as an Interior Designer.
Though I don’t work in the profession anymore, I still utilize my designer’s eye while facing challenges. I examine a problem through three different lenses: Macro, Micro, and Context views. The Macro is a bird’s eye view. The Micro focuses on the details, bits, and pieces that make up the whole. And lastly, Context shows the connection between the problem and its surroundings. For me, the power lies in the ability to shift between the three until a solution appears continuously.
While thinking about the events of 2020, I kept circling back to the concept of the contrast between light and dark. It prompted me to find a series of photos I took in March of 2019 in the Natura Obscura’s immersive art exhibit at the Museum of Outdoor Arts. Much of the exhibition was lit by blacklight casting a blueish-purple hue over everything. The dark vignettes helped focus the experience by not letting me get overwhelmed by all there was to see.
A swing in the middle of the largest room in the exhibit invited visitors to stay awhile. There were big puffy clumps of material tacked on all four white padded walls, making it look like a cell in an insane asylum. It made me feel uneasy.
I sat down cautiously. The lights dimmed, and there was a flash of thunder and a crack of lightning. The room turned colors ranging from baby blue to pink to dark periwinkle. I remember sitting on the swing, wrapped up in the changing appearance of the clouds. I snapped photos and moved on to the next set of stimuli, not thinking much beyond the present spectacle.
Then it came to me, why I had dug the photos out again. The room, as did the year, left me feeling tongue-tied and twisted. The white padded room represented reality, but reality changed dramatically when the year’s events manipulated the light and sound. Brightness or darkness can change the way we see things. Whoever controls the quantity of light controls what is perceived. Is everything just an illusion?
While at the exhibit, I took the above photo. At the time, I didn’t think much about the quote. After doing my research, I discovered the quote was by Joseph Campbell, the author of the well-known book “A Hero’s Journey.”
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths. We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell.
Why is serendipity so powerful? How is it that an incomplete quote captured close to two years ago could come to the forefront of my mind and deliver such a powerful and timely message?
In Campbell’s book, each of the twelve stages accurately lines up with being thrust through 2020. From the initial call to adventure and trials and tribulations to finding a new equilibrium. We are all on our own “Hero’s Journey.” Each trek looks different, but we will all go through the same twelve steps. Is there comfort in knowing there is a map to what we are going through?
In mid-December, I was scrolling on Facebook and saw a jumble word game. The instructions were to look at the mixture of letters, and the first four words you see would be your goals for 2021. I took the bait, and I came up with these four words:
Self, Attitude, Alignment, and Connection
With these four words in hand, I started to write down what each one meant to me for the next year. As always, I looked at what I wanted versus what I needed. I came up with ideas and how to go about achieving these goals. This exercise is typical for the end of the year. But I kept coming back to the fact that plans can be destroyed easily by events like, say, a pandemic. If I was reluctant to make goals in the past, the present reality wasn’t helping.
In hindsight, I don’t necessarily believe these words are magical. But it is the power of Context that now sets them apart from the other 171,142 words in the English language. If I had picked the same four words a year ago, would they have meant the same thing? Would they have been as impactful as they are in December 2020? The truth is, over-analyzing and being a preparer won’t help me; a lesson learned this year.
The time has come when I need to make the jump. I need to stop doing research and looking for evidence that my feelings and thinking are correct. I need to get comfortable with not having all the answers before leaping. I need to trust my gut more. I need to realize that I know more than I think I do. I need to get on with it, whatever “it” is. Focusing on these prompts: self, attitude, alignment, and connection will fall into place regardless if I feel comfortable leaving my apartment or not.
Above all else, I need to remember that life is less of a military march and more like a romantic waltz. We don’t go through this life, moving forward in a straight line. We move from side to side and back to front. We twist and turn, which helps us see things from different perspectives. All the while, we keep moving.
Here is to a constructive bright 2021 year!