On Renewal

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

John Maxwell

Before Alice got to Wonderland, she had to fall.

The new year has come and gone, with no new promises made on my part. The year that saw so much upheaval is behind us, chronologically, but the events that upset the world are still here. The best I left 2020 and entered 2021 was with a bit of hope, knowing that there was a chance to shift the tides of the pandemic that had been achieved in the last weeks of 2020. Beyond that, the turning of the calendar year meant a momentous turn in our political landscape. The themes compassion, healing, and unity took and take front and center to the population of my country and the world, even as divisive forces attempted one last effort to prevent the transfer of power. I had thought I was numb from the months enduring the pandemic, but those events proved otherwise. Just as I had almost everyday for the past 4 years, I stared in disbelief as the bottom sunk lower…how could it sink lower? Hundreds of thousands dead, lives permanently changed, the economy upturned, and yet, somehow…there was lower.

Every new year marks a time in my life for reflection. I don’t usually see it as a time where miracles or resolutions will magically change the course of my life; those changes are the result of incremental choices made over many months and years. Life changing events are not often everyday, but the irony is that every seemingly small daily choice can lead to life changing events. That’s not to say that external events can’t shatter our reality in a moment and cause irreparable changes, but in my life, those moments are thankfully rare. Reflecting on my work, which really hasn’t changed dramatically, and the shift in my children’s lives, which has been painful, I feel enormous gratitude that we have been eerily buffered as much as possible in 2020 and for all the support that made that possible, and the hope is 2021 might restore some sense of normalcy beyond that. Maybe.

For now, I feel like I’m coming up for air, breathing a bit more easily, and able to swim again, but I’m not quite sure onto what shore I will arrive. I received two invites to “save the dates” 50th birthday parties for close friends to take place on the west coast early in 2022, when travel should be possible? Is there truly a light at the end of the tunnel to this all? It seems strangely alien to be planning again, and to be honest I kind of feel this whole year is a bust, and beyond that… The pandemic is still raging, our ability to mitigate spread (wearing a mask, social distancing, etc. are still controversial…) and vaccine distribution will take time, and with the new variants, the long term efficacy of even the current vaccine is uncertain. We will roll with it, as best we can, just like we have in the past and have always done. I look in the mirror these days, and I know the wrinkles I see that are new are not just due to aging, but to the stress of the past year. I look and feel like I’ve aged a decade. But with those months there was enormous personal and professional growth, so though I may look in the mirror and panic as I approach 50 (and buy a ton of anti wrinkle creams..), I feel like each line is a badge of honor. I already know there will be several personal challenges I will face, as well as continued professional challenges, but the past months have given me confidence, resolution, and skills to continue to meet them head on. As adversity and times of crisis reveal character, they also provide the opportunity to come out stronger. My fears have not changed, but I have, and all I can continue to do is put myself and loved ones in the best position to mitigate those possible negative outcomes and enjoy the present moment, while preparing for a brighter future. My character is such I thrive on challenge. So to 2021, I (hesitantly) say, bring it on.

One year before pandemic (Jan 24, 2019) and almost a year after the pandemic started (Jan 24, 2021), stress eating weight, acne scars, and all.