What if 2020 was the best thing that could have happened to us?

We view our desire to get rid of disease as a desire to live. But instead it is often just the opposite: it is an attempt to avoid life. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche 

I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff and hearing people talk about how they can not wait for 2020 to be over and how this has been the ‘worst year ever’.  We have all just lived through unprecedented challenges with the Covid crisis and all the difficulties that has brought in terms of job loss, losing loved ones, getting sick, and having kids at home 24/7. We have had a much needed racial-reckoning that will hopefully continue and we’ve barely survived the Trump presidency. It has been a really Really. Fucking. Hard. Year.

But are we living with the assumption that things should be easy and always go our way? What if this past year, and all the challenges we face are actually exactly what we need? It’s like poison as medicine-when you get a vaccine you actually use some of the poison to remember health. With all due respect and gratitude to people who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, faced way more hardship than I have and to healthcare workers and frontline workers who have been working their asses off- I think this past year is exactly what we needed, our medicine. 

We all entered 2020 with a certain kind of frenzy. Whatever we hadn’t accomplished in the past 10 years, we were going to do it this year. Our level of speed, unchecked consumerism and travel, and hyper-activity were out of control. The Corona virus came along and we all had to stop. We were like the naughty teenagers being grounded. We all had to face ourselves, both individually and collectively for what almost seemed like the first time. Personally, I felt myself go through a sort of detox from my constantly overbooked schedule and social activity. Suddenly I couldn’t use socializing and constant fun for my son and I to hide from what I was really feeling. The forced quarantine helped me face my state of mind and who I am without constant activity. There is something very very powerful that came from the fact that we were all experiencing this collectively. There was no choice, we all had to stop and face the quiet. 

The past year of isolation and lack of entertainment helped us realize how much we value the small and not so small things in life. Live music, swimming pools, cafes, restaurants, group activities of any kind, movie theaters, dance classes, yoga classes, national parks, gathering around a dinner table with friends and loved ones… I could go on and on. Holy shit, we need each other. What before may have been a casual indifference to gathering in groups has now become a realization of necessity. Granted there are introverts out there whose lives haven’t changed much, but how about being able to just go to the grocery store without waiting in line? There are so many things we take for granted in this life and maybe this past year and the virus have taught us to relish in the arts and say ‘thank you’ more often. 

For the first time, in any of our lifetimes, the entire globe has been going through the same thing at the same time and been aware of it. Like never before, we have become aware of the collective and how interconnected we are. There is such a strong human tendency toward individualism. We have a very hard time thinking of others. This tiny little virus has given us the gift of seeing how our choices impact others. Some people still haven’t gotten it, but we’ve all had to adjust our lives through wearing masks and social distancing in order to protect others and to take care of the collective. In many countries, people are more used to thinking of the collective and this came more naturally. But in the States, the shadow of our self-centered nature came into full view and now we’re paying dearly for it with the highest death rate from Covid in the world. We can no longer ignore that we are all in this together and that our choices and actions have an impact on the collective. 

I don’t know about you, but when Covid first hit, I felt incredibly vulnerable. It must be what people feel when they’re in a war zone. All the sudden, you become aware of how fragile life is and that there are no guarantees. We are all on this little blue planet, hurtling through space and there are many things that can go ‘wrong’. I remember going into the grocery store and seeing the shelves empty and feeling how dependent I am on the world’s food systems working properly. 

I’m not saying any of this is easy or anything we would wish for, but it’s necessary. It’s like facing those hard and ugly parts of our lives that require attention. Humanity has been cruising along, feeling like it can do anything it wants and this virus has taught us there are limits and we are part of a much larger system. I imagine none of this is news to you, but I thought it might be a helpful reminder as we’re all cursing this year and kicking it’s butt out the door. The end of the year is kind of arbitrary anyway. The challenges will continue. So will the joy. Let’s use the lessons from this challenging time and bring them with us. 

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