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Into the Blue Again

red flowering amaryllis in a clay pot with vibrant yellow wall in background

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin

Every year I pen a New Year’s Eve letter to our kids. And then came this annus horribilis whose tagline should be: Wait, What? Really? WTF? Here’s an abridged version of my annual letter, and here’s looking at you 2021.

New Year’s 2021

My dear ones:
We are all eager to kick 2020 to the curb. I have never been inclined to dismiss days, weeks, months, or years as good or bad. There’s always a healthy dose of low and high in every stretch of linear time. But I have to make an exception for this year. This year cast a long shadow over us all. This year felt like we were in constant whiplash, and so much of our country’s deep-seated problems exploded out of the cracks in our veneer like ghosts in a poltergeist movie.

My grandmother used to reminisce about the unifying forces behind the second World War. There was a common enemy, a purpose that bound Americans and led us eventually to victory with Europe’s liberation and Japan’s devastating defeat. Your great-grandmother also spoke of the importance of humility when it came to bigger forces. In the year of Covid, it should have been that way again, even if our common enemy is microscopic and employs viral guerilla tactics to knock us out. Although you live in a place where many elites are well-insulated and where people conflate net worth with self-worth, this pandemic reminded us ALL of our place in the grand scheme of things. Our leadership sowed chaos, and we all suffered for it. We hit rock bottom. We will restore our country, but it feels like we are starting from scratch surrounded by miles of nuclear rubble.

Both of you experienced great loss. You forfeited a number of teenage milestones like prom and graduation. You were separated from friends and family. Most of us became tethered to screens for school and company. We read only the news and one-liners. We were, and are, torn apart by national inequity. We had fires everywhere. We saw numbing indifference to the plight of others. It almost made sense that I was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. The timing was almost a relief — might as well tend to this in 2020 after all. That said, I’ve now seen firsthand how difficult providing essential care can be during a pandemic. We should remember to thank our doctors and nurses at every turn. They are heroes through and through. I am in a state of constant gratitude because I get to live, and you will be relieved to hear this, I will be able around to lecture you for many years to come.

So, where do we go from here? My nose is still pressed to the mirror, and my eyes are still a bit too crossed to process this year. I need to let the shock wear off. That said, here are my back of the napkin thoughts.

1. We are proud of you. We are lucky and rode out the worst in a secure and beautiful place. But you each had to make decisions about your schools without visiting them. You each had to forfeit graduations and celebrations and all the adjacent fun. Instead, you were relegated to virtual life. And yet, you did so with great poise. There were moments when we were all frayed, but you always found the strength to hold the line. That was all you, and we cannot take credit.

2.  We hope this year motivates you. You fell into step and sacrificed. You wore masks and isolated. You were dedicated to everyone’s public health. You understood when I couldn’t visit you at school due to a medically mandated house arrest. The truth is this:  we only have control over the choices we make. Take the time to see people, to marvel at everyday beauty, to say hello, to be kind, to slow down, to look out the window, to find joy in the everyday.  I feel boundless gratitude towards the unexpected people who walked with me these past few months. They reminded me to show up for others by doing, not by wondering what to do. Stay curious, always. Avoid the declarative and accept the grey. I beg you to be a creator and not a consumer of what you see on a small screen, where so much is often manipulated into fantasy. You know your own story so find out about someone else’s. Trust me, all of this will energize you.

3.  You say you want a revolution, so start with your own footprint. I know you understand that we have to be that much more committed to education and connectivity to save ourselves and our planet. Look. Listen. Shop small, shop businesses that are sustainable, and buy only what you need. Use your voice and your dollar to give back, and then give more. Read. Find stories that inspire you. Giving isn’t just about the seven-figure check or watching a celebrity take the spotlight. It’s about small gestures. It’s about the garden we grew for the food pantry.  It’s about volunteering a bit of your time without anticipating reward or recognition.  Change always starts as a notion, like a dot, and then it jumps from two dimensions into a life force. 

Finally, we love you. This always bears repeating. The proverbial empty nest wasn’t quite what we expected since we toggled between cancer treatments, your father’s work on a major documentary film, and back to my own business. I feel stronger than ever, knowing that the world is about to shift again. This time for the better. I hope you do too.