2021: The Year that Was

Merry Christmas! Hope the clean up wasn’t too bad – that the messy dishes weren’t overwhelming and you ate all that desert by yourself. Hope you also had the presence of mind to keep a large garbage bag close as the kids opened up their presents. Hope you went to bed and left that mess behind – the wrapping paper and ribbons and store boxes and gift bags – strewn all over the living room, confident they would be picked up and sorted the next day. Hope you also got to spend precious time with your loved ones and friends and family. And that if you were separated, your heart was filled with their names and faces, and that Facetime or WhatsApp gave you access to their voices, their laughter, their stories.

This Christmas, I was preoccupied by many things. I watched my husband grieve his first Christmas without his father and listened helplessly to the news about the tropical storm that hit many poor, impoverished provinces in the Philippines. And then yesterday, I chanced upon the YouTube video of Kate Middleton playing the piano. Sure, I was enthralled by how gracefully she played, surprised to add one more talent to her list of many. But the words of that song – For those Who Can’t be Here, sang by Tom Walker – they comforted me. (LINK HERE)  It was a nod to everything we’ve experienced in 2021. It brought me back to thinking about the people we’d lost, past and present. And how every holiday is filled with thoughts of them, a painful reminder of this gap, this hole, this empty space in our hearts. No celebration is ever the same without them. And yet, we move on. In the end, it comes down to acceptance. We live the life we are meant to, finding the good in every day and wishing they were here to experience it with us. But they’re not. And they never will be. Well, at least in this life.  And for those of us who share the same faith, we are comforted by knowing we will see them again one day.

For now, right now, I honor them. My mother, my grandparents, my stepfather, my cousin, my friend. And this year, my father-in-law. I truly believe it’s the people they leave behind that suffer. The only dreams I’ve had of them have been of dancing up in the clouds.

When we thought 2020 was a winner, 2021 seemed to bag the grand prize. The isolation and pain and suffering continues, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. All this while we sit here and re-evaluate our lives. For me, it was a year of taking chances, of tremendous change and new territory. Of beginnings and endings. Of endless Hellos and choiceful goodbyes. It was a year of many questions and no answers. Everything inexplicable, unimaginable, relentless. People, places, things spinning out of control. And there you are spinning right alongside them. Making decisions to start over, change your career, use your real name. Regretting some choices and not others; walking away from those who have used you and investing more love into the ones who didn’t.

What a year it’s been.

A year that threw complacency right out the window. A year that forced us to face the truth about how brief and uncertain our future is in the world. It called us to action, to stand up and decide once and for all who we are and what is nonnegotiable. In the midst of all the chaos, you begin to learn about yourself. What moves you, what makes you tick.  You define what relationships mean to you, what friendship is and what friendship isn’t. And armed with that truth about yourself, you begin to make the changes you need to in your life. Your resilience begins to kick in and you get right back up and quit complaining.

You see, the tears, they have their purpose. They wash away the fear and regret so that in their place stands determination.

2021 was a difficult year for all of us. But it was also a year of great discovery. Of new friendships and endeavors. Of projects you’d never imagined you’d accomplish, of successes and failures and of the great desire to share what you have with those who don’t have it. Of impacting and making the right choices, of leaving your children with a legacy they can be proud of. This year, I found out that simplicity is beauty. That a small circle can fill your heart up as much as a big one. That the people who love you will show it every single day – that action truly does speak louder than words. Hey, and that it’s okay to love and be loved by old loves and loves you wished you found earlier….love is love no matter when and how it comes around.

What a year it’s been. And like everything else I’d done in my life, there are no regrets.

Wishing you all the love and joy in the coming year. Welcome it with all the confidence and optimism that a new beginning always brings. And know that YOU have the power to change every year of your life.


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