I’m writing this on the last day of the year 2020, a year which all of us will remember without much affection. There’s been too much happiness suppressed, happiness deferred and happiness lost forever to think fondly of this year. The sheer number of people we have lost from the planet due to the pandemic has been devastating, and even if we haven’t personally lost anyone from our own lives, we all share in the global feeling of despair. But recently I’ve come to realize that there is another feeling hiding behind the mourning; underneath the feeling of disappointment is an undercurrent of progress that feels both uncomfortable and exciting for me.
Please don’t misunderstand – I take no joy from the death and misery of hundreds of thousands of people around the planet. But the circumstances we have all found ourselves in have led many people to have their own version of the classic wake-up call – and that is the ironically progressive side of all of this mayhem. As Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson describe it, the wake-up call is an abrupt and unexpected rupture that can occur in an otherwise comfortably numb existence. Maybe before 2020 you were cruising along through life, enjoying the usual pleasures and tolerating the usual frustrations. Then the pandemic hit, everything changed, and life came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, just taking a walk outside in the sunshine became an intense pleasure. The usual monotony of standing in line at the post office became something that we would gladly do if we had the opportunity. And people that we had perhaps taken for granted in our lives were now cut off from us – maybe by a distance that couldn’t be travelled, maybe by illness or death – and we longed to have them back with us.
Looking back, I can see the deep sleep I was in before 2020 hit. I was lucky to have a comfortable life that afforded me the luxury of not paying attention, not being aware of my circumstances or even my very existence. There was no obvious need for mindfulness in my life before this year.
Ignorance is no longer a luxury I want to afford. I want to see everything. I want to appreciate what is happening in real time, as it is happening in my life, not looking back at some time in the future. The pandemic has reminded many of us that the future is not promised to us. I don’t want to put off living anymore – telling myself that I will get to X,Y, and Z “when the children go to college,” “when I lose the weight,” or “when I have more time” are no longer palatable options. The only option is to recognize the gift of time we have right now, and live our best lives, right now. I encourage all of you reading this to make time to sit down and write out all the things you want to do with your life. Don’t qualify these goals – just write them down on paper in black and white. Spend some time looking at this list and realizing that now is the best time – it is the only time.
This is the gift of the wake-up call of 2020. We are awake and aware. Some people long to go back to the sleep of 2019, but not me. I want to stay awake and live fully! I hope you will decide to do the same.