A couple of weeks ago, the editor of The Midland Reporter-Telegram reached out and asked if I’d consider writing a reflection on the end of 2020 for our local paper. I was honored to be asked and the topic intrigued me, so I said yes and wondered if I could find a hopeful note to strike in the midst of such “UGH-ness,” as Cora is prone to call all things 2020… Here’s what I have to offer. I hope it helps us reframe this year we’re all so eager to get behind us.
Originally Published in The Midland Reporter-Telegram
If there’s one thing we can agree on in this year when we can’t seem to agree on anything, it’s that we’ve had enough of 2020.
Enough with the tents at our hospital and the exhausted nurses and the fights over masks. Enough with the forever goodbyes over glowing screens and the kindergartners singing songs together on zoom. Enough with the layoffs and downsizing and dissolving small businesses and the lines stretched around the food banks. Enough with our social media echo chambers and the bickering politicians and the red and blue tribes who can’t hear each other over the sound of their own shouting.
Enough with the hoarding of toilet paper and of ammunition. Enough with the suspicion and hatred that leads to stabbing a little kid in Sam’s because of the shape of his eyes. Enough with our collective inability to see the world from another’s perspective and all the other ways racism and bias color our perceptions.
Enough with social distancing when what we really crave is to know we aren’t alone. Enough with the lonely meals eaten by elderly residents in assisted living facilities who haven’t dined together for most of this year. Enough with the division of people into essential and non-essential, as if our work determines our value. Enough with postponed memorial services and cancelled family holiday gatherings and virtual high school graduations. Enough with negative oil prices and raging wildfires and hurricanes and murder hornets and seriously… enough with the word unprecedented.
Enough already. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, 2020.
And yet as I’ve walked through this year, often muttering those two words – enough already – under my breath, I find they become fluid. When I’m really paying attention to the day-to-day moments of my life, the words twist and turn into something far more beautiful than my frustration. For in the middle of this ‘enough already’ season, I find that life is quite simply already enough.
When I worried about my kids’ educations, it was enough to hear Mrs. Carter, my daughter’s second grade teacher at Bowie, enthusiastically tell her virtual class at the start of the year, “This is going to be the best year ever, friends!”
When the grocery store shelves were swept clean, it was enough to have a neighbor share a dozen eggs.
When we all felt afraid, it was enough to walk the streets of my neighborhood back in March and see the stained glass sidewalks, our hopeful messages to one another chalked out in dusty pink and orange and teal.
When I thought maybe the world was going to end, it was enough to plant tomatoes and then pick them when it felt like maybe it wasn’t after all.
When my surroundings grew nearly unrecognizable with masks and temperature checks and new social protocols, it was enough to curl up on the couch with my family and get lost in the Technicolor world of Green Acres and the upside-downness of the original Adams Family.
When I anxiously worried if I’d ever see my elderly grandparents again, it was enough to hear my 86-year-old grandma fuss at me from her home in Washington for ordering the wrong sort of onions in her Instacart delivery.
When we had to cancel all our summer plans, it was enough to ride bikes with the neighborhood kids; to take a dip in a swimming pool.
In the days leading up to Christmas, our plans turned to dust. With each cancelled trip and changed plan, I’d offer a hopeful “well at least we can still _____” to my children in an attempt to let them down gently. On Christmas Eve, my husband needed to step in and help extended family 5 hours away in the midst of a Covid crisis, so suddenly even my last line of defense (“Well at least we can have Christmas at home together as a family!”) crumbled. As I sat holding my eldest daughter, both of us crying, I felt empty. Alone. Enough already.
And then my Egyptian friend Heba, a Muslim who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, called to wish me a Merry Christmas. When she heard about my day, she showed up on my porch a few hours later with a box of raspberries (my favorite treat) and a hug. I wasn’t alone. And it was enough.
In the evening, when families gathered with their own loved ones, my friend Mayra brought her daughters over. Her husband is a pastor at our church and was busy with Christmas Eve services, so the two of us shared a meal and our children laughed and played and it was enough.
Late that night, I took my kids to church. We lit candles and sang Silent Night and contemplated the messiness of the incarnation – a night when nothing went as Mary and Joseph might have planned. My youngest fell asleep stretched out on a pew under the darkened stained glass. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the bittersweet peace I felt in that moment, for it was enough.
And so it continued – Christmas lunch with our Midland “framily,” late-afternoon present opening when Dad finally got home, a laugh-till-your-sides-hurt game with neighbors on Christmas night, dear friends and family who came over to try the traditional “green punch” that you have to have each Christmas… and as each moment stacked upon each moment, it was all enough. More than enough, actually; it was plentiful. It was more than we could ask or imagine.
And as 2020 becomes a memory, I hope this is what will endure for all of us. The year has taken us to our knees in so many ways. So many things we rely upon and have even come to expect as rights and not mere privileges have been stripped away. As each layer is removed, we’ve groaned and wept and sometimes raged with white-hot anger. And then, when all those feelings settle and we take stock of what remains – like the kindness of neighbors and the support of our community and the way we carry one another in our darkest days – I think we may realize it has always been sufficient to get us through. When we’ve worn ourselves out from shaking our fists at the sky shouting “enough already!” I hope we find ourselves caught up in the tender awareness that what remains is already enough.