"What a year," said everyone everywhere. I won't belabor the ick this year has held. Everyone knows it. As I was thinking back, I realized I do have some key takeaways that I thought I'd share here to have forever in memorandum. These are in no particular order of importance.
1. Get the X-Ray, Get the Colonoscopy. - As a family, we broke 4 bones this year, and by the last one, even though everything was moving, I just knew we needed an X-ray. Before this year, I always would have been the one to wait and see, watch and hope. Sometimes that works, but this year, that never works. I've learned how to deal with the actual issues at hand (like how the hand is probably broken). I won't go into all the ways this philosophy also applies to colonoscopies, but you're gonna have to trust me. It does.
2. Mute the Person. My social media feeds happen to be very diverse politically, and usually, this serves me well. However, this year, it felt like a minefield. After yet another round of doom scrolling and subsequent anger, John was like, "Why are you still reading any of it?" Right then, I took an aggressive muting strategy, and I have felt much better about life. This does not mean that I am ignoring the other "side" of issues, but it means that I am no longer angry about what real life people I know think about them. I am better off not knowing so that I can keep valuable relationships in tact, as well as my sanity. That choice is mine, and it paid immediate dividends. And since we're talking about this, Don't Read the Comments. They are always the worst and never make you feel good about anything,
3. Most Things We Do With People Revolve Around Food. This is more of an observation than a major takeaway. I guess I took this for granted, because we've never before been in a situation where we needed to mask to be with people. However, most of the things we all do together usually involve a menu. I am very much looking forward to a post vaccine world where we no longer have to move eating outside and/or 6 feet apart.
4. Do What Your Family Needs to Do. Some people realized this year that they needed to slow down. We realized that we need almost every bit of the activity to which we were accustomed, because we have a lot of needs, some of them more specialized than average families. We need help, and because we are not super high risk for Covid complications, after the first six weeks, we realized that we needed to get back to having sitters and tutors and in person schooling as soon as possible. Our mental health was very much at stake, and I do not say that lightly. I felt super conflicted about the decisions that we were making that many people may not have understood. My counselor kindly pointed out to me that this is part of growing up. You gotta make the decisions for your own family, because you are the only ones who fully understand your life and have to live with your choices. And this year with limited options, we all had to make choices, and they didn't necessarily line up with some of what even our nearest and dearest might be doing. However, that doesn't mean that they weren't the best choices for our family in our circumstances.
4a. And since we're on this subject, this year I also fully embraced You Don't Have to Tell the Internet About Everything You Do. Again, we are all mostly doing the best we can with what we're working with. If I don't want to worry about what "people" will think about what we are doing, I don't have to share anything about it. What freedom to just go radio silent online for weeks at a time. Normally I like living as an open book, but since everything seems up for misinterpretation this year, skipping the sharing often felt right.
5. We Also Have to Take Care of Others. As a Christian, this year felt particularly crushing. It has been divisive and frustrating to say the very least. It has been difficult to listen to some Americans elevate their rights over all other things. I am tired of people urging others not to "live in fear" when there is a very real pandemic that is killing our vulnerable neighbors and straining our healthcare system. Taking Covid precautions feels much less about living in fear and much more about being loving neighbors. Although we have certainly not lived this out perfectly, we are working to wear masks, limit gatherings and distance wherever possible.
6. Trips Matter. Gosh, this year has been such a disappointing one on the travel front. We were *this* close to a Disney cruise, and we had several other things cancelled, like so many we know. This is a problem of privilege, I am fully aware. Travel has always been one of our favorite hobbies and escapes, and when it seemed to dry up completely, I was sad sad sad. The whole year had to be reimagined as far as what "fun" would look like and what our family "needed." So we took different trips with different purposes, mostly closer to home. To be honest, we actually ended up having some great experiences that were totally unexpected and un-orchestrated and what we needed this year within the constraints of our current reality. All in all, I'm so thankful for the trips we were able to make, even if they are not the ones we had planned.
7. Take Care of Yourself. I actually feel like I am currently living in low battery mode. I'm a little dim, and everything seems to take extra energy. However, though it has taken me almost a full 40 years, I have finally learned the true value of getting the sleep I need. Exercising regularly has never been a problem for me, but this year, it became a lifeline just to get out of the house. And sleeping 8 hours almost every night has been borderline nonnegotiable. Also, Give Yourself a Break. Recognizing that I am in low battery mode from the whole "surviving a pandemic as a parent" thing, I've had to let a lot of things slide. Is my house extra organized from all our time at home? Umm, no, quite the opposite. Have I learned a new skill? Or even done the skills that I like doing and am good at? (RIP 2020 Cookie Life) Have I done much beyond our basic survival? No, I have not. And that's okay. My children and husband know they are loved, and we have eaten every day. Right now, those feel like massive wins, and I'm gonna celebrate, probably with more take out. There will be other seasons for skills.
8. Let Them Watch TV. I guess this could actually have been under the banner of Take Care of Yourself, but I'm gonna break it out. We went to a new parenting therapist smack dab in the middle of May when no one knew up from down. When we, through masks and tears, explained some of the issues we were dealing with, she said, "Let them watch TV." We have always limited screen time, and I think I was fairly prideful about that. But this year, with nothing normal and all bets off and NOTHING to do and NO ONE to do it with, we were crumbling. And we were fighting a losing battle that started at 5:15ish most mornings. This incredibly kind person took that pressure off of us for this year and said that a little (okay, a lot) more TV will not hurt them. Our relationship is more likely to be damaged by the fights, and we adults need to sleep past 5:15. This is not a forever season. It was the permission we needed to take care of ourselves and know that our kiddos will not suffer permanently. At least, if we have to choose suffering, and apparently we do this year, we should suffer more screen time and less screaming time. Once we got back to school, some of this naturally righted itself, though we are still more permissive with screen time than we were pre-Covid. Again, there will be a season for less screen time, and this is not it.
9. Recognize Reality for What It Is. This may seem so basic, but I tend to paint everything with a rosy tint. I am glass half full and pie in the sky and rainbows and all that. I have been disoriented all year trying to make sense of reality and wondering where the rainbows are. The truth is, the rainbows are there, but they are harder to come by for now. We've had a hell of a lot of rain. Letting myself grieve the reality of circumstances without totally succumbing to despair has felt tricky at best and impossible at worst. We have SO MANY GOOD GIFTS in our life. We have the best friends and supportive family, and we are well resourced, which I do not take for granted in a year like this when so many have struggled professionally. We also have some true sadness and pain that accompanies our daily life. Both realities are true. This year, I've done a gratitude journal every day, which has helped me reach towards positivity when I've wanted to crumble. I'm also about to complete a full Bible read-through that I've done with The Bible Recap this year. Who knew when I started both of these disciplines in January how necessary they would be to combat our current reality?
10. Laughter Really is the Best Medicine. Plus Getting Outside. And also Chicken. This year I found and shared close to 300 memes related to 2020. I found that laughing and sharing laughter with others really did help. Another quick fix- going outdoors. If you really are having as much screen time as we were some days, this made a big difference for all of us. Chicken must also be good medicine, because we never slowed down at CFA, for which I am extremely grateful. Running a restaurant (or 2!) in a pandemic is not for the faint of heart, and we are crawling to the finish line. However, I am thankful for the income and the opportunity to take CFA to people in our life who come down with Covid. At this point, I've dropped off a lot of dinners. 😳
These are just a few of my major takeaways - here's to a better 2021!