l absolutely want 2021 to be better than 2020.
But as 2020 painfully reminded us all, we can’t control everything. And while this is probably for the best (can you imagine the chaos?), I am finding myself fighting pessimism. I can’t enter 2021 with the same optimistic attitude I carried into 2020. Too much bad has happened.
So instead, I am working to shift my focus. And maybe you will want to join me. I’m digging deep and making note of the good things that happened as a result of (and alongside of) the bad. Here are some of my personal thoughts about 2020:
My “take for granted” attitude got smashed to pieces, and I don’t know about you, but I was very humbled. With the humility came a desire to slow down and care more for both my health and the health of others. I had to lose selfish tendencies, but then I gained more appreciation for loved ones. And finally, I had to search for a new definition of beauty and peace.
Even in our pain, I think it’s incredibly important to identify any positives from the past year. Because these are treasures, and we should recognize them as such. I read a Thorton Wilder quotation that really encouraged me in my resolve: We can only be said to be alive in those moments our hearts are conscious of our treasure.
On first glance, Wilder’s words might not seem logical. But I think he’s making a strong point: when we fail to acknowledge the riches around us, we can be breathing, but we are not fully living. And this is a sad situation to be in. We do not want to ignore the wealth within our reach because it can arm us with optimism and strength to face another day.
I hope that along with me, you’ve been able to find a few of your own treasures from 2020; because if they appeared during a difficult year, no doubt they can appear again in this new one. I also hope you'll consider joining me and facing 2021 with the advice of Wilder in our minds. Let us live intentionally, so we can be fully alive, and let us be treasure hunters.
While on a run, I almost squished the little guy (see him in the photo above?) with my steady stride, but, thankfully, I saw him in time. Sweating and panting, I stopped, admired, and snapped the photo with my phone. My frog friend was in full camouflage mode.
Blending in is not always a bad thing, but it is when people can’t see you and you are in danger of being flattened by their running shoes.
This holiday season, I keep thinking about that little frog. Because my go-to for this time of year is to do the expected activities, which means blending in with my neighbors and family and friends. I buy the tickets to the Christmas market. I make the appropriate cookies. I play the expected songs. But interestingly enough, I’m learning that some of the most unforgettable moments of the holiday season are the unexpected, unique things that aren’t in our usual repertoire.
One of my more memorable holidays was in 2019. We were in England, a place that doesn’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving, and we had no family visiting us at the time. My husband and I had just returned from a lengthy trip and had come home to an empty fridge. So, we went out to eat with some dear friends. The restaurant was quiet with low lighting, and the most Thanksgiving option on the menu was the mulled wine. The dinner was peaceful, stress free, and one of those moments I wish I could freeze frame: it was our own bubble of holiday spirit. It was unexpected, but it was a night to remember.
Living overseas has helped me to accept the non-traditional and unexpected moments that come barging in. I think this holiday, we will all experience a few non-traditional moments. COVID is, unfortunately, still limiting our activities and just being horribly present, hovering in the back of our minds worse than the sour eggnog in our fridge. But, unlike my frog friend, let’s embrace the non-traditional moments. Let’s not blend in or be trampled by the unexpected.
Socrates reminds us that “[t]he secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And I think that’s what we have to do, because this year will definitely not be camouflaged among the others. It’s full of change and the unexpected. So, let’s remind ourselves that the unexpected can be refreshing. Let’s remind ourselves that the different can provide a way to move forward and even triumph during a difficult season.
A dear friend and I were texting about holiday gifts this year, and she shared that for 2020 she was giving wabi-sabi. I misread her text and thought she had typed wasabi and was envisioning rows of bottled spicy horseradish paste (with bows on top). But she corrected me. She wanted to give the gift of wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy that identifies the beauty found in imperfection.
Her plan was to engage in kintsugi, a technique for repairing broken, yet cherished pottery. This art was believed to have begun around the 15th century:
Rather than rejoin ceramic pieces with a camouflaged adhesive, the Kintsugi technique employs a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the conspicuous cracks of ceramic wares, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece.
Ceramics, broken yet beautiful, with their “seams of gold”, were what my friend wanted to create and give. How perfect for 2020.
This year has felt incredibly broken. Many of us have experienced cracks in our lives that have grown deeper throughout the recent months. I can’t help but believe that these cracks, often invisible to the naked eye, are well represented by a fragmented vase or serving bowl.
We might have been dealt multiple blows this year, but as kintsugi demonstrates to us, we are not without the power to use these blows to become strong and even more valuable. I’m reminded of Victor E. Frankl who said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I know that Frankl was not talking about kintsugi in his quote. But I find the two incredibly connected. Our stimulus has been the harsh realities of 2020. And now we find ourselves with a space. Similar to kintsugi, Frankl recognizes a metaphorical gold that can fill in and repair the space between fractures and the crushing blows of life: a space where we can (often with help from others) victoriously pull ourselves back together and gain freedom from our pain. But not just the minor pain: the gut-wrenching physical and mental pain.
And like the kintsugi process, or really most processes, it may take some time. And like broken teacups, we can survive and develop with a splendor that surpasses our original being. And like a kintsugi piece of pottery, our breaks can make us golden.
(Article originally created for and published on Nati's Health.)
I’m not sharing a message that hasn’t been shared before: this holiday season, keep up your self-care.
We easily neglect ourselves this time of year.
For me (forgive me for being cliché) it’s the little things that make a difference. So, along with all the holiday hubbub and preparation, I’m still making a point to do important (yet small) actions that bring me relief and help soothe anxiety. I’m striving to:
1.Make my bed each morning.
2.Take a few extra minutes to soak in a nice warm shower.
3.Follow my daily face cleansing routine.
4.Eat one meal a day without looking at my phone.
As you can see, it’s not a long list, but it includes tasks that energize me and honestly, just make me feel better about facing each day. My goals also aren’t anything I find complicated or anything that I dread doing.
What about you? If you built a list of just four daily personal care activities to pursue this December, what would your list include? I hope you will take a moment to create one. Live intentionally with me.
We can’t participate in ALL seasonal fun, no matter how much we want to. We shouldn’t even try. So let’s instead divert some of our energy into self-care. Yes, I believe something will probably have to give. Especially if you decide to create a list that is longer than mine or your tasks are a bit more complex. But it’s okay. I hope you will still join me.
We might have to decline some great opportunities. Maybe we will make less baked treats this December. Maybe we won’t watch a beloved Christmas movie, so we can get needed sleep. Maybe Christmas cards will go out this year without a personal message for each person. But peace of mind and my sanity is worth it. And so is yours.
We celebrate incredible love this time of year. Be sure you give some of that love to yourself.
Creator of Love, Auntie.
About LOVE, AUNTIE
Welcome! My blog is a journal of sorts as I seek what makes "older" worth celebrating in a world that tends to glorify "younger." I hope it's a place you will find encouragement and positive words.