Friday, January 01, 2021

A goodbye letter to 2020

Dear 2020,

Goodbye and good riddance! I will not miss you, but that doesn't mean I didn't learn anything from you.

You were difficult, stressful, fattening and frustrating. You were full of loss, loneliness, conflict, controversy and drama. You drove a wedge between many of us as we put our feelings and opinions about you on full display. Thanks to you and with a little help from social media we publicly shared our views about politics and science, often angrily exposing thoughts and feelings like never before with friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

However, people learn a lot from adversity and I am no different. So, what did you teach me? What did I accomplish with you and thanks to you?

I learned to slow down. This was one of the hardest lessons for me. Instead of jamming as many hours of teaching, practicing, planning, publicizing, managing and running errands as possible into each day I took long walks and did long yoga practices, I read books and watched shows and movies, I cooked and gardened and spent more time with my family and my pets. Sure, I still worked, adapting my business to the new reality as it unfolded and evolved as best I could, but even with online teaching (and a brief but blessed return to in-person teaching) and managing the task of keeping our tango school afloat (staying in touch with our dancers, raising funds and applying for financial aid) the pace of my daily life dropped considerably. Slowing down is not easy for someone like me who needs to feel useful and productive constantly, but I know that it has been good for me. (Now I even wonder how I will go back to working 10-12 hour days five or often six days a week when the time comes.)

I learned to be patient and adaptable. In March 2020 I had never taught an online lesson. Nine months later I have taught about 100 of them. In March I could not imagine wearing a face mask every time I went into a public place, let alone teaching or dancing with one. Now I've done all of that countless times and hardly give it a second thought. (Do I like it? No, of course not. But I'd rather wear a mask and be able to socialize a little than stay cooped up any more than I am.) I got used to standing in line, giving a wide berth when passing people in the street and refraining from hugging my friends. Our family has adapted to the weirdness of our daughter's high school year and to all of us being home and in each other's space way, way more than we ever used to be.

I learned just how generous people can be. My partner and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for our tango school, MonTango. There have been so many messages of encouragement and financial donations from our community during this near-total shutdown of social dance activities. In March we hoped to reopen in May, then June, then July. We did open partially in July, but it was extremely limited and quite short-lived. We had hope for a return to normal by January, but here we are on Jan. 1, shut down more completely than ever with Covid numbers worse than ever. Who knows when we will reopen at all, not to mention in any way resembling "normal?" We would not have survived this long without the support of our friends, students and dancers and we are deeply touched and humbled by that knowledge.

I learned to appreciate the little things. If nothing else, last year was a reminder to take the time to stop and smell the flowers and to take nothing for granted. I found myself regularly gaining new appreciation for my health, human touch, a tasty meal, a conversation with a dear friend, good weather, nature, the ability to walk, the presence of my family and so much more.

I learned to live for the moment more than ever. I have always believed this to be one of my qualities, but this year reinforced for me that you've really got to seize the day, because tomorrow you might not have the chance. Life is short, fragile and unpredictable. So I didn't wait when I needed a haircut or a massage, when I had the chance to teach a class or visit a friend in person, when that book-writing challenge came around, when we had the chance to spend a few days at the lake or in the mountains.

I learned to let go. Of intolerance and judgement over other people's ways of thinking, of frustration over government decisions, of impatience over everything from waiting for the end of this pandemic to waiting in endless grocery store lineups. Anger, frustration, worry, impatience: They're natural emotions, but so unproductive, even counter-productive, so it's a good exercise to notice them, avoid getting too wrapped up in them and let them go.

I learned acceptance. Similar to the previous lesson, this one manifested itself in accepting my friends and relatives both despite and because of our differences of opinion as well as accepting the reality of the day no matter how unpleasant or unbelievable. It all contributes to keeping us open-minded, flexible and, ultimately, more generous.

I learned new computer skills. More downtime meant time to learn new skills. So I taught myself to use a new DJing computer program, which I had been meaning to do for years, and, along with the rest of the planet, I learned how to Zoom.

I learned to cook new dishes. I, too, baked much bread, not to mention cookies, cakes and pies and I tried lots and lots of new recipes, some more successful than others and many of them vegan. I've been a vegetarian and occasional vegan for several years. By the way, this month I'm joining the Veganuary movement, so no animal products at all for the next 31 days (and maybe longer)!

I learned to write again. My initial return to writing after a decade-long hiatus was six years ago in 2014, when I started writing this blog. In 2017 I set myself the ambitious goal of writing 20 blog posts in a single year – and I accomplished it. Then my writing dwindled again for a couple of years. This year saw me publish eight new blog articles and several French translations. Then, in November, I joined the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge and wrote 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. A week and another 20,000 words later I had finished my first draft and now I am 80% of the way through my first rewrite. Whether my novel will ever be published I don't know, but just finishing it is a big accomplishment of a lifelong goal, so, yay me!

So, there you have it, 2020, ten valuable lessons you taught me. Thanks for all of them and I'll surely never forget you, but it was definitely high time for us to go our separate ways.



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