2020 has not exactly been stellar year, I think most reasonable people would agree. We continue to experience a global pandemic. Here in the United States it is particularly worrisome as we head into the fall and numbers, including deaths, continue to rise. For these and many other reasons, 2020 has not shaped up to be a year we will remember with affection.
Besides the general things that we all experience, there are as many individual and communal stories as there are individuals and communities. I cannot speak for others, but I have been doing a fair amount of reflecting on events in my own life. I have had my share of loss and difficulty while simultaneously having some of the greatest joys of my life in the midst of it all. There has been some good, some bad.
I have to go back to 2019 as a preface to 2020. After having been single for three years after 21 years of marriage, I was giving serious thought to becoming a bachelor scholar. The dating world today, for any age group, is about as unpleasant a thing as one can imagine. I was fully ready to cease my search for meaningful, romantic companionship and focus my energies on other pursuits. Then I met Alison in late May. Now, 16 months later, every sense I had about her and what our potential could be after our first few dates has been confirmed. More on that later.
Two things happened in August of 2019. The first was being informed that my job of 15 years was being eliminated. Other long-time staff members were cut as well. At age 54, losing a position in which you had become established was rather unsettling. The second happened 3 days later when I was officially awarded my doctorate after having successfully defended my dissertation (found here) in early July. August 2019 was quite a month.
Okay, so I lost my job and income in 2019, but I started a relationship and received a PhD. That’s a 2:1 ratio of good to bad, despite the one bad being pretty weighty. Entering 2020 was looking more sunny than cloudy.
In February I decided for my 55th birthday that I wanted to have a gathering and invite several friends from different compartments of my life. The only thing that a number of these friends had in common was knowing me. Despite that, I saw some great conversation and connecting take place among them. A highlight for me was having a local artist, the young and exceptionally talented singer/songwriter Remy Reilly, provide music for my big day. Remy has a remarkable gift for writing songs that communicate profoundly the conundrum of what it means to be human—all the while knowing and believing we can all be better. I had the privilege of meeting Remy some months before and sharing conversation with her parents, John and Amy. Sometimes you meet people you just know immediately to be genuinely good people. And that is a great thing. As much as I am a fan of Remy Reilly for the music she creates, I respect the family that her gift comes from. That’s a gift itself and something definitely in the “good” column.
If my birthday was any sign, 2020 was looking to be a great year for me. But there has been loss.
On the first day of June, I received a message that one of my dearest friends had died. I’ll write more about her in another post but suffice it to say for now that she and I had been very close friends for some time. An accident in her home took her away. She was far too young and far too good a person to leave this life, but sometimes things happen that make no sense and there is no sense to be made of them. Then, just days ago relative to the time I am writing these words, a tragic accident, also in the home, took the life of my nephew, a sweet and kind boy of only 14.
2020 has been a year of painful loss.
Of course, I would be remiss to leave out a global pandemic of a novel coronavirus. A month and a day after my glorious birthday celebration the country went into lockdown. This is a trying time and uncertain time. The direction of this country is also uncertain and what happens in the next few months will have an impact that will last years.
Still there has been good. Lockdown was made a lot sweeter because my youngest daughter stayed with me during the early months of the lockdown. Although I saw her on a regular basis prior to this, having her and her sweet canine, Ellie, gave me joy every day. We took walks, we played board games, and we planted plants. Well, to be honest, my daughter planted plants and I watched, but still it was time we shared.
June 14 was a special day beyond special days. I got engaged. This was as much as a surprise to me as anyone. I wanted companionship, but I had no real desire to ever marry again. Never say never. After a year with Alison, my heart changed. I wanted to be married to her. So one day during one of our walks, I stopped, knelt down, fumbled for the ring, and courageously (and quite nervously) asked her to marry me. As my son used to sometimes say about various things, “This could go really good…or really bad.” There would be no middle ground here for sure. Thankfully, it was good! She said yes. Whatever is yet to come, I win 2020 on this alone.
So what does all of this mean? What have I learned? Sometimes things we know in the head move to the heart. Sometimes those things travel back to the head and need to return to the heart. So many things all of us already know in our heads moved back to my heart this year. Never take a moment for granted. Cherish the ones you have while you have them. Pain comes and its hard, but life cannot be reduced to those events. Value the little things, the ordinary. Be a good person.