2020: Farewell or Good Riddance?
One more trip around the sun, and the time has come when many reflect upon the previous year and set intentions for the next. When I opened my practice in February of 2018 I intended to begin a blog for my website, but had plenty of excuses for not getting started. Granted, I had a newborn at the time plus a 3- year-old, and I was figuring out the juggling act of beginning my own business while trying to be a nurturing parent. When I write I need space to breathe and quietly reflect, something that was and is hard to come by in this phase of my life. That may be true, but it’s still an excuse. I’ve always said, “You have time for what you choose to make time for.” Two years into my private practice, I still had yet to make that time to write, and then March 2020 happened. It started with a tornado and ended with a full-fledged pandemic. Suddenly, I had no excuse, and my soul was longing to express the grief of loss of normalcy. I figured that I needed to practice what I preach about giving yourself space to feel and express vulnerably when experiencing grief. I had good intentions of continuing to blog once a month, but good intentions are meaningless without action. This Shakespeare quote resonates with me: “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” (From The Merchant of Venice)

At the dawn of 2021, I again find myself unable to ignore the opportunity to reflect. On a global level, the year has clearly been defined by the pandemic, which changed everything about the way we do life and contributed to isolation and loneliness. On a national level, tensions rose through racial injustices and police brutality, and then escalated through a very polarized election. On a local level, Nashville experienced a devastating tornado just prior to the threat of the pandemic, and on Christmas morning a suicide bomber attacked a portion of a street that has contributed such character to downtown. With all of this heaviness from just one year, we are exhausted. We want to say good riddance rather than farewell to 2020, for farewell seems to indicate sadness upon departing from someone or something, and most are quite happy to move forward to 2021 with hope for a better year. But before I take that attitude of slamming the door hard on 2020, I’m prompted to pause and consider what role 2020 played in paving the way for hope in 2021.

Watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas became a new family favorite last Christmas when I introduced my kids to it. For this Christmas I ordered an ornament with the Grinch’s hand holding a mask and it reads “2020: Stink, Stank, Stunk!” I’m a person who does try to look for the silver lining in tough situations, but I just thought it was hilarious and couldn’t pass it up! One of the things I love about the story of the Grinch is that his heart is transformed by the joy, mercy and kindness of the Who’s. He came to understand that loneliness and isolation had made his heart cold, and that’s why he hated Christmas. He also understood that Christmas cannot be stolen from the heart. Once his heart “grew 3 times larger” he tried to make amends by returning the gifts and decorations, and with mercy, the Who’s welcomed him into their community. So what can we learn from the Grinch as we reflect on 2020? I think we can be encouraged by the hope of redemption and transformation. The pain of COVID-19 disrupting our lives and causing illness and death is not the end of the story. In addition, any bitterness that we may have towards those who are different from us can be healed through kindness and mercy. We have reason to feel tired, stressed and irritable, but we can still choose kindness. And when others are ugly towards us, we can choose mercy. I know that in my humanness, I have sometimes allowed irritability to be stronger than kindness or mercy, and I repent of that. It is that same humanness that allows me to have compassion for those who are struggling with the stress.

For some, life slowed way down with the pandemic as businesses and schools closed, but for others it intensified. For working mothers of school-aged children like myself we had to figure out the juggling act of working from home with few options for childcare, while monitoring virtual school. During more than a few telehealth sessions, my clients could hear a toddler in the background calling, “Mommy!” Likewise, I had empathy for clients of mine who struggled to find privacy at home for their sessions. But as we adapted to so many changes in life, opportunities arose for engaging our creativity. We looked for new and deeper ways to connect with our families, and as we grew fatigued from the screen, we looked for safe ways to gather outside. For several months I provided the option of meeting clients outside socially distanced, and the fresh air and nature sounds added a therapeutic element. We were pushed to lean into flexibility, when it became very hard to plan in advance, and flexibility gives freedom to be in the moment without fear or anxiety.

In sum, we were challenged to grow in creativity, flexibility, courage and compassion. These were just a few gifts of 2020, and it is important that we use these gifts as we move forward. Rather than having hope of going “back to normal” we need to place our hope in what life could be like if we use these gifts to help transform our community, nation and world. On a spiritual level, I love the hope offered in Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV).

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

As we come out of the ashes, may we truly have hindsight 2020 that would give us clarity as we hope for the crown of beauty in 2021. May we trust in God’s transforming power while being his instruments of joy, mercy and kindness. Happy New Year!

2 thoughts on “2020: Farewell or Good Riddance?”

  1. Jean Koelz says:

    Thank you for your beautiful and encouraging words

    1. You’re very welcom, Jean. Thank you for reading!

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