By Sister Judith Minear
It feels deeply appropriate to be writing this blog on the morning of the winter Solstice, a celebration that reminds us that even the darkest days do brighten. Normally during these solstice days, I am, in equal parts, reflecting on the year that it is ending and pondering my intentions for the new year.
This year is different. 2020 was not the year any of us expected. Each of us has faced tremendous loss among our families, friends and other relationships. Our nation has encountered economic collapse, racial division, and a polarized electorate. Devastating wildfires, hurricanes, floods and the hottest year on record has created the environment we lived in. We sheltered in place, worked from home, and discovered that the most essential people are not billionaires nor movie stars. They are first-line doctors and nurses dealing with those who have Covid. They are women and men who often barely earn minimum wage. These heroes checked us out at grocery stores and picked up our trash and recyclables. They made food for us in restaurants and re-invented an education delivery system overnight. And the list goes on and on.
Indeed, 2020 has been a year of challenge and change. This is the year we discovered how truly fragile daily plans, long-range strategies and the once-normal flow of everyday life really are. And so, we changed. Or we tried to, anyway. In Solstice terms, we hibernated in our own homes to keep ourselves and one another safe. We began to use technology creatively to pray, celebrate, connect, play and yes, also to work and have meetings. We did our best to adapt and prosper.
As 2021 looms large, I find I am more interested in gaining perspective on how I (and all of us) navigated 2020 than I am preparing to rush into setting any kind of expectations for the coming year. What is the chance that we as a nation might use this time to regroup, reassess and remind ourselves of what is really important in our lives? To do that, we need to take a deep look at ourselves and how well we have navigated, individually and collectively, the tumult caused by Covid.
Here are some of the questions we might use to help us gain this kind of interior perspective:
1. What have I learned about myself this year? How has 2020 challenged and changed me?
2. How well have I adjusted (and continue to adjust) to pandemic life? What is my capacity for resilience?
3. What adjustments have I made that work well?
4. What has not been working so well, if anything?
5. What steps have I taken to address my mental and spiritual health?
6. What do I miss most about my life before pandemic? How can I make those things happen differently?
7. To be ready to help others, we must “put our own oxygen masks on first”. How am I taking care of my body, mind and spirit so that I am ready to serve others?
8. What are three habits or practices that I rely on to help me live my best life?
Taking inventory about what has worked well for each of us during these turbulent times would surely serve us as we work with others to identify and address the local, national and global issues the pandemic has magnified and which must be addressed. Conversely, examining what has not worked well for us provides an opportunity to discover ways to make adjustments that will aid us as we move forward into 2021.
In her article, “The Pain of 2020 and the Hope for 2021,” Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP says this: “We have gone through life-changing events this past year. There’s no ‘going back to normal’ to the way things were. Life is different now…we cannot un-see our vulnerability, nor the fragility of our lives physically, emotionally, and economically… but loss also reminds us of our abundant blessings, so many we take for granted daily, like food, clean water, a roof over our heads, good health, and meaningful work.”
For me, and I suspect for you, December 31, 2020, will be a very different New Year’s Eve. Not just because we will be sharing this celebration mostly with those in our same household, but because we are very different now than we were a year ago. I do not know how 2021 will unfold, but I do know that I intend for it to be less about me and more about we.
What are the things we care about that are worth fighting for in 2021? Healthcare disparities? Systemic racism? Creating a healthier planet? Tackling economic, food insecurity and housing injustices? Immigration? More? And how will we lead in such a way that others will want to join us in this work? The lessons of 2020 can truly show us the way.
What is ours to do for every kind of neighbor, without distinction? What is ours to do?
May 2021 be a year or working together in all ways for a just and peaceful world.
Happy New Year!
About the Author
Sister Judith Minear currently serves as part of a 3-member team for CSJ Ministries as Coordinator for Mission Integration. CSJ Ministries is the umbrella organization that works with ministries that are members of our Mission Network. In her free time, she loves drawing zentangles, stalking birds and savoring poetry.