2021: Bring Me a Renaissance!

woman with outstretched arms in front of sunrise

Even those who have had beautiful experiences this past year know that overall, 2020 sucked. We have had very hard lessons to learn and been very hardheaded (and hardhearted) about learning them.

There has been so much loss and sadness. Over 343,000 American lives have been lost to Covid, and deaths worldwide are at 1.81 million. And counting.

Many livelihoods and incomes of the 98% have been lost or are on uncertain ground. Racial inequality is screaming for justice. Hate groups are burgeoning. Our democracy is being attacked from the top down and way too many are either looking the other way or outright supporting it. Something as simple as facemasks—for the common good—have underlined a major schism rather than been an unequivocal (and easy) part of the solution to a devastating pandemic.

In many ways, 2020 is reminiscent of a simplified version of the Middle/Dark Ages, which included the bubonic plague, the Crusades, and Feudalism.

But this post is no history review (and I surely wouldn’t be the one writing it if it were). Rather, it is my chance to share with you my “word of the year.” My word for 2020 (are you ready for this?? It’s a hoot!) was play. Hahahaha! Guess the joke was on me.

But enough 2020…now is the time to look forward and strive for better things…which is why my word for 2021 is renaissance.

From the first time I studied the Renaissance in history class, I was hooked. A rebirth for learning and a love of the arts? A desire to question and create and a belief that humanity matters? Count me in.

Yes, it is more complicated than that, and there are aspects of the period that I don’t embrace, but for the sake of what I want to share here, let’s focus on renaissance in the most basic of terms: renaissance as rebirth, revival…renewal.

I want…need…2021 to be the beginning of a physical, cultural, intellectual, political, spiritual, and personal renaissance.

A rebirth of health and hope for one another. A reconstituting of our communities so that solidarity and diversity not only exist but rely on one another. A re-embracing of science to protect ourselves and our earth. A rebuilding of our systems to create equality and justice. A re-examining of religion that focuses on living out one’s faith rather than using it as a weapon…and a renewal of self and purpose that supplants the feeling of “untetheredness” that has overwhelmed me this past year.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…that’s a pretty tall order for a decade, let alone a year, but…we have to start somewhere, right? And why not right after a year that has taught us so much about the things we need to change? The term “inflection point” has become a buzz phrase for so many issues we face because this is indeed a time where significant change can happen—if we push for it.

So I’m pushing for it. Come on, renaissance!

But while there is much work to do in the wider world…I’m pretty sure my renaissance needs to start with me.

There are many personal things that 2020 has let us see with very different eyes. Our cloistered worlds have helped us learn what and who really matter in our lives…and what and who don’t. It’s put a ton of choices in front of us and given us the opportunity to “redecide” or reassess what about our “former” lives we want to have as a part of our “new” lives—and what is better off left as a memory.

At least for me, I know I need to be purposeful about these changes and not just let life morph into “whatever.” A few of the things that 2020 has helped me see more clearly include:

—My forever arch-nemesis Poor Time Management has been winning many battles, and I need to get off my ever-expanding tuckus and create a structure that helps me to win the war (or at least win a few battles here and there). This renaissance requires energy and effort—and PTM is like a vampire sucking those two commodities right out of me.

—Something as simple as hugs have renewed value to me. Once social distancing no longer needs to be a part of our safety protocol, look out, people. This Italian is coming for you with wide open arms.

—I have also been better able to assess where my efforts are best put, and things like one-sided relationships…where I’m the side doing all the reaching…are perhaps not the best use of my energies. Better to spend it on those relationships that see me as worth reaching for, too.

—I still need more play in my life.

These are but a few of the personal aspects of my renaissance that I can make choices about—there are many more that are part of the mix.

Yes…2021 can be the start of so many wonderful changes and choices…but it first needs the belief that these changes and choices are possible—that they are within Hope’s reach—and Hope, at least mine, has been under assault for several years now.

So perhaps that is the best place to start. 2021 is bringing hope—however tenuous—for positive change, and we need to grab hold of it for dear life and go where it leads us.

We are not done with the darkness, and we never will be—but we can’t afford to be hope-less. Not now. Not ever.

So come on, 2021—shine a light for us at the end of this dark year and lead us into a renaissance of health, hope, healing…and love. And may this be just the beginning.

2020 Hindsight—What if 2020 is the year we finally see 20/20?

With pretty much everything being a cause for division these days, I’m pretty sure there is something we can all agree on: 2020 was a year. An exceptional year that brought us a great deal of pain, struggle, and loss. A year that gave us plenty to learn from and a lot of tough challenges to work through.

And now that we are soon to have 20/20 hindsight of 2020…what do we see more clearly?

I saw this poem on Instagram, and it gave me hope…

What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?
What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw –
that it finally forces us to grow.
A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other further apart.

2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather
the most important year of them all.

~leslie dwight

What if 2020 is the year we finally see 20/20? What if it is the year that we see things for what they truly are and then strive to make them better?

If this is indeed the case, 2020 brought some critical issues into sharper focus. Yes, there have been good things that have come about this year, but for me, 2020 has made some things undeniably, painfully clear. So…this post is going to get dark (and the list is incomplete!), but perhaps there will be some light at the end.

Systemic change…needs the system to change. And the system isn’t going to change when it works for those who created it and hold the power and money…and it’s been working for the powerful for a very long time. Racial injustice is part of the system. Gender inequality is part of the system. Income inequality is part of the system. So those folks in power are either going to have to have a colossal change of heart…or we’re going to have to have a change of power. I think we know which of these is more possible than the other.   

We are indeed in a post-truth era. Because someone merely says something should not make that something true, but it seems that is enough these days for “facts.” Having been groomed for months to expect that if the election didn’t re-elect the current holder of the office he would cry “rigged” should have caused everyone to suspect that a game was in the process of being played. But for WAY too many people, it did not. The fact that this crying of fraud without any substantiation has radicalized people to the point of threats and violence is a reminder that fear, hate, and greed are the root causes of most of the misery in this world. We need objective truths to matter again.

If our well-being depends on the collective good, we are in trouble. We may come together to help people in short-term instances of natural destruction, but apparently asking to help each other with longer term behavior like wearing masks is too much for some. I’m not sure where we go from here if covering your face is too much of a sacrifice to make to help others stay healthy. I’m not sure at all.

Our gargantuan corporate healthcare and insurance systems aren’t working for anyone except the suits. And the more they grow, the worse off we all will be. Covid has made this irrefutably clear. Too many people don’t get the care they need because they don’t have insurance. Too many of our healthcare workers are overworked and underpaid. People fight government intervention in healthcare because they say keeping it private is better…but as these private systems grow, what is the difference? Big is big. Both access to and quality of care suffer. Another system that needs changing.

Also…

Science matters. Enough said.

We need to change how we take care of our older citizens. The pandemic made it heartbreakingly clear that long-term care facilities are leaving our older Americans vulnerable and in danger. What a horrible and sad way to see that “corporate care” is only interested in the care of their bottom line. Our systemic change list grows.

Income inequality is so much more than different-sized paychecks. Our reliance on technology this year has meant that those without access to internet or devices have struggled to learn and earn, and the disparity continues to grow. If kids can’t access education, people can’t go to the doctor, and families are going hungry, this should matter to everyone—not just those who are directly impacted. Systemic change, anyone?

Our democracy is not beyond destruction. I can’t believe I just wrote those words. I remember learning as a kid in history class about the toppling of governments and thinking that could never happen to the United States, but I am learning that not only can it happen, but it is in the process of happening. And unless we can protect and have faith in our free and fair elections and have our politicians work for “we the people” instead of themselves, we are at risk of becoming a full-blown plutocracy.  

Yes, indeed…2020 has taught us that we have several systems that need changing, which I find totally overwhelming.

Where do we go from here?

I wish I could enumerate the steps that we need to take to begin the fixing, rebuilding and/or healing, but I am not wise.

What I can offer is a simple simile for hope and change:

Be like lichen.

Ahem, what?

Be like lichen.

I remember learning that after a volcano erupts and spews a deadly and destructive lava flow, the first thing that grows back and begins to rebuild life is…lichen.

Lichen begins growing on lava’s ruins and is the foundation of the new ecosystem.

To me, this simile is helpful and hope-filled because the devastation that the lava brings seems insurmountable—but there is still life, still hope. It always grows. There is the chance to start over and create anew—even in the shadow of the very volcano that could erupt again—life is reborn.

The lichen is the basis for all the rest to begin.

We may not be able to be the lichen everywhere that needs change and renewal, but we can be to some things.

At least that’s what I tell myself on a good day. The reality is that the work to be done everywhere to fight injustice, help those in need, and take care of our planet is difficult and daunting.

But 2020 has given us a chance to see it clearly. And now that we see it better for what it is…let us get to work. Let us be like lichen.

2020: If You Play Your Cards…Right?

*Please note: while this title may make you think this is a political post, it is SO not! This is my annual “word of the year” post…and I hope you enjoy it.

If you play your cards right, you’ll…fill in the blank. The dictionary defines this cliché as “to do things in an intelligent and well-planned way.” As in, “if you play your cards right, you’ll get the job,” or anything along those lines.

So where exactly am I going with my punny title for this year’s “word of the year” post? I’m glad you asked.

When the next year is over—2020—it will be hindsight. (Another pun! So silly.) And I don’t want to look back and see that I have yet again still not prioritized play in my life like it needs to be. My ToDo list looms large over every day…and it feels like a pass/fail test…where failure is the norm.

Truth be told, when I was a kid, my mom made my having fun difficult. If someone invited me to do something, it was always an issue. She never made it easy, and I think because of that, I was kind of trained to avoid causing any issues by downsizing my quest for fun. Her impact continued into my adulthood where, after my father’s death when I had just turned 21, she made me feel guilty for doing anything that didn’t include her. Because of this, the fun I had in my 20s (and more) often included my mom, so…yeah. I had fun, but it was rarely carefree.

This is not to say that I do not know how to have fun or that I do not have fun. I love to laugh and have a good time. But I don’t do well at 1) prioritizing/planning for it or 2) not feeling guilty about it.

I’ve spent a lot of years being responsible to a fault. And now my ability to play needs to be amped up.

For instance, this year’s winter break was exceptional—I had more unscheduled and unstructured time than I have had since I was a kid. But I didn’t even know what to do to make the most of it! My guys and I all had time off, and we just hung out. Now, this was great—but there was more hanging and less doing than what I had envisioned. Typically, I feel too tired…and too used to taking the easier path of not prioritizing fun.

It’s like after years of not working out consistently, my flabby muscles are tired and resistant and don’t want to commit to the initial push needed to get back in the game.

This is why my word for 2020 (if you haven’t already figured it out) is…PLAY.

Studies show that play is critical to a healthy life. People like Dr. Stuart Brown have researched just how critical play is in our lives.

Our culture has demonized leisure time as something that only “losers” have. One of my favorite (NOT) responses when I ask someone if they are, say—watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”—is “Oh…I wish I had time to watch TV…”

Sorry, but some of us really need to get over ourselves.

A healthy work ethic does not have to directly correlate to a lack of fun ethic. It should not be a badge of honor to be so consumed with the HaveTos of life that we simply can’t let ourselves relax and watch a little TV.

And, honestly, while I have gotten better at ignoring this stigma toward playtime, I just kind of suck at making it happen. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know what I think would be fun.

I want this to improve in 2020.

Now at the age of 52, finally playing with a full deck (get it?! 😊), too much of my life IS hindsight. I look in my life’s rearview mirror and know that I should have made it a point to make more fun stops along the way. And it is up to me to do that on the road ahead.

Play shouldn’t be a guilty detour. It should be a part of the drive that makes the journey all the better. Perhaps even a fuel that keeps us going in the right direction.

So I’m hoping to play my cards right this year—both literally (I enjoy card games!) and figuratively. My aim is to infuse my life with more purposeful play and to believe that it is not only fun…but right.

What do you say…are you game?

2019 – A Time to Create


I didn’t intend on being one of those “word of the year” people. They can be annoying, can’t they? But dammit if another another new year has come and another new word to help guide the year’s goals has found me. It started a few years ago with ripples, and every year since a word comes to me that makes complete sense…as it does on the dawn of this new year.

For many reasons, I want 2019 to be a year to create like never before.

As a writer, I always strive to create, but I’m not just talking about words here (though they are a huge part of my goals for creating). No…I mean create in a much broader sense…

I’ve been “responsible” since as far back as I can remember. And while being a responsible person is a good thing overall in my book, when it is the primary thing it can be stifling to other parts of life. And as my responsibilities in life shift (with my mom’s passing and my son angling toward maturity), I want to rediscover—or maybe discover for the first time—aspects of life and embrace opportunities to create.

I want 2019 to be the beginning of a way of being. In too many ways I’ve been living a “dress rehearsal” existence, but 2018 has really reinforced for me that there is no such thing.

Now is the time.

A bottle of wine makes a good analogy for this. I love wine, but I don’t have a wine fridge or cellar—just a little ol’ wine rack. On that rack, I’ve kept some bottles of wine for years, thinking they would be used for special occasions.

Over a decade ago, I brought home a bottle of wine from a trip to Hawaii that my mom took us on for her 80th birthday. I held onto it for one of those special occasions. With my mom’s passing this year, Thanksgiving was our first holiday without her, so I thought it made sense to open that bottle of wine and make a remembrance toast to her. There was just one problem. After so many years of fluctuating temperatures on that wine rack, the wine had gone bad.

I waited so long for that “special occasion” that we lost our opportunity to enjoy it.

Waiting too long for life’s special occasions means letting the wine of life turn into vinegar.

Now is the time.

So yes, the CREATE of 2019 means DO the book that I’ve wanted to for so long.

But it also means…

ENGAGE in more experiences—including having more fun.

EXPERIENCE and SAVOR more of life’s sweet specifics (ala the Weissmans in Paris, if you watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).

MAKE our home a soul space for my family and me. That means getting much needed projects going as well as simplifying/purging/minimizing to lighten both our physical and mental loads.

TRAVEL – Waiting for the “someday” doesn’t work. Doing does. There are too many places to see and already too little time to see them. Better to work on the list than just pine for that “someday.”

LEARN by making more time to read and discover. Creativity stagnates without a broadening horizon.

And, as all of this is mostly a reaffirmation of the obvious, there is the continuous goal to CREATE more opportunities for positive change…for hope to spark…for hearts to grow…for love to win.

I want 2019 to be a year for all of us that begins (or perhaps for you continues) the creation of a Glorious Unfolding…

It’s true, as Andy says in The Shawshank Redemption, that it’s up to us to “get busy living or get busy dying.”

In many ways, at least for me, creativity = life. And so, in 2019, I aim to create by rolling up my sleeves and getting busy living and doing.

It’s about time.

All photos are used with permission.

What Would You Like to Do with 2016? Yeah, Me Too…

In so many ways, I want to tell 2016 what the people here, from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, have to say (NSFW). Perhaps I’ll lighten it up to “suck it.” Perhaps not. Continue reading “What Would You Like to Do with 2016? Yeah, Me Too…”

Breathing Grace

So…2016…you have only begun to reveal yourself. Years from now—Lord willing—if I look back on you, what will come to mind? Will it be another year of remembering very specific challenges or milestones? Unremarkable? Amazing? One that I’d rather forget? Continue reading “Breathing Grace”