I think 2021 was even weirder than 2020. I got over the depression cloud that was lockdown and tight restrictions and lulled into something…different. Indifference? Numbness?
No, it was less numbness than just an acceptance that whatever this life is is going to be reality now.
I’ve cycled through the stages of grief so many times over the death of my old life that it’s hard to keep count.
2020 Grief Cycle(s):
Denial: “This isn’t that bad! It’s nice to stay home and be a hermit! #blessed”
Anger: “Why did the virus have to come here?! Why is our leadership doing abc and not xyz?!”
Bargaining: “I’ll do anything! I’ll staple a mask to my face for the rest of my life! I’ll take a thousand vaccines!”
Depression: “What’s even the point of this life? I can’t see my family in Canada. My kids can’t see their friends at school. Why should I clean a house that’s going to get bombed by the kids in five minutes?”
Acceptance: “Ya, Christmas without my extended family. That’s our thing. Let’s make the most of it. Get ready for ‘back to school,’ kids. It’s going to be so much fun to see your friends again!…on Zoom.”
2021 Grief Cycle(s):
Denial: “Once the vaccine comes, it will be Easy Street for us. No more masks! Open schools. Such bright times ahead!”
Anger: “Why isn’t everyone getting vaccinated?! Why aren’t schools opening up?! Why are people giving me dirty looks when I’m not wearing my mask outside when I’m six feet away from them?! Don’t they see my vaccine pin?!”
Bargaining: “If you’ll just let my socially deprived children back in the classroom and my burnt-out work-from-home husband back in the office, I will seriously cut off my left arm if you want it. And I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I’m a lefty. And a writer. You can have it. It’s yours.”
Depression: “Why does life seem to be back to something slightly resembling what it used to be and things still feel all wrong? I can’t even figure out how to live life now. Maybe let’s just stay home.”
Acceptance: “Keep your masks on and suck it up. This is what life is. Don’t ask me when you’re going to get them off. Maybe I will just do that bargaining thing from my 2020 grief cycle and staple the mask to my face…Oh! Maybe with a zipper flap for when I need to eat…That actually sounds really practical. Maybe I’ll make some of those for relatives at Christmas time, if I’m allowed to see them.”
Grief cycles aside, I do have things from 2021 to reflect on very fondly. So I would like to take time to reflect and highlight some of my gratitude for this confusing year that seemed to be an echo of 2020 in many ways…
2021 was the year my son started connecting with the neighborhood boys who started coming out in 2020 when all the extracurricular activities were a no-go. It was the year my kids’ friends started being allowed to come into our house and I could bake for them and watch relationships blossom. Visiting outside is nice, but there is nothing like the warmth of having someone into your home.
It was the year kids started up back in the classroom. The year they got to hand Christmas presents to their teachers. The year I met a small handful of parents. The year my church started back up and I got to watch Zoom-era youth group teenagers come back to life in community and be moved to my core by the transformative power of simply being in company.
2021 gave us vaccines. It gave my family flexibility and time to go on an extended road trip. It gave me an unbelievably thankful heart for my missed family. It gave my family safe reunification with loved ones. Embraces.
I am thankful for the strides of 2021. I am confused by what will happen next and how I am meant to act going forward.
But, 2021 was forward motion. It wasn’t the fantasy I was toting around at the end of 2020 (New Years rarely are), but it was a step. And every small step counts.
So, peace out, 2021.
Here’s to small steps and more realistic expectations as we ring in 2022.