Is it Over yet?

The end of a year is time for reflection. Like tradition, we all do it, size up the year past and wonder what the next one brings.

It’s not quite official. There are a few hours to go, but I’ve been wondering the last few weeks what I’d think and feel as the year draws to a close. I’ve heard others say for months now they will be glad to see this year go, but if I’m honest I’m not sure how I feel about it. I wouldn’t choose to do it again, but I’m proud of getting through and oddly a little guilty.

We go blindly into each year with resolutions, making ourselves promises. I came into 2020 telling myself ‘this year, I’ll do all the hard stuff.’ I thought about that all year as Covid demanded more and more. I wanted to face some fears, improve my writing, follow through on goals for submitting to magazines or other opportunities. I wanted to write songs, to practice guitar more, do more painting; maybe even sell some. I met some of the goals, not others. I feel an odd regret in the out of synch places my life reversed that of friends stuck home during the lockdowns. Those who wrote whole books, learned online skills, or like many of my customers cleaned out whole areas of retail lugging home storage systems. Those are still on my wish list and may live there for a time. Like I said, go slow. The real challenge is learn to live with it.

Some things I wanted to do because they addressed self- esteem areas, places of grief where I live with a longer sense of missed opportunities. I wanted to be brave and maybe look at other jobs, see if I could find something that pushed me back to using skills for teaching or the social aspects of autism. I applied a few places and scared myself receiving one response at almost year end asking me to reapply to an alternate position. I did think about it seriously. Still think about it. Self-worth and self-esteem are areas still healing after years struggling to love myself in the places I didn’t step up to things – like the other half of teacher’s college I never went back to complete, an art career I was afraid to start. The book I may or may not write?

I don’t switch gears easily. I have it on good authority that I over think things. I research possibilities I’m afraid to try. I take on too many things at once and don’t see it coming. I stare at boxes still littering my living space and don’t want to let go of them because it took so much out of me paring down 35 years of life to the little that fit into 500 sq.ft. of space.

March and April threw me into coping mode. Extra hours at work (one of two people who stayed). End of the winter snow, plows and stress throwing sleep out the window. Work demands and Covid rules changed weekly. I learned to speak up, about cleaning products, personal needs, physical distance, how to handle the challenges and face my fears. Work asked and I assured them I was okay. Crisis is a known place to me, ask when it’s over. I anticipated a few months, this long dragged out season reminds me too often of life before leaving. Abuse and things I haven’t quite solved in real time yet.

I’m starting to believe, or maybe understand, those who told me I am tough. I’ve had to face things in myself I don’t like and haven’t let go. I don’t like feeling afraid and I don’t like not being in control of it. In December, I kept saying to myself ten months. It was hard to believe it has been that long or that I did so well. I am tired. I need to admit that or the next round will hurt worse than the last.

I didn’t anticipate losing one job, pushing through the year on just retail and repeating ‘nose above water’ feeling lucky to have something. I’m more than lucky, I’m resilient. I’ve been told that a time or two (maybe more) the last few years and this year has challenged me to show it. I begged all year for hours to try to make up the ones I lost, then struggled with the challenge of taking physically exhausting hours in place of office hours that allowed me space and opportunity to recoup. My balanced life of retail, physio and mental health volunteering fell apart. It wasn’t until summer that I had conversations to get back on track with the volunteer role, and not until then or early fall that I saw my former workplace while attending a personal physio appointment.

I started begging for full-time retail as the company took on its promised thousands of new workers. Some stayed, some went, some just didn’t show up. Those with other jobs suspended wanted something to do that felt like it helped. Students home from school took on their normal summer hours, though none of it was really normal. All of us faced the confusion of open/closed, safely distanced unreality. I was desperate for anything besides the concrete walls and floors of work and home, my personal determination to limit exposure (mine or others) gave way to a desperate need for green and blue. Walks around the block or on local trails, carefully avoiding others, carrying mask to don when needed yet dropping it to taste the fresh smells of air and earth. Sitting beside the river, watching the ripples of water and life in the plants and animals thriving. I needed this look at life. I watched others grasping at it too.  

Inside too much of the grasping felt like strands of greed twisted between layers of generosity. The angry, selfish people yelling about limits, empty shelves, other shoppers, the masks and rules the stores tried to impose in polite ways while staying in line with confusing expectations I and coworkers tried to follow. I felt out of sorts with myself at times, angry at mistreatment by some customers, not ever sure (besides my regulars) who was local and who wasn’t. Only the ones who identified as out of town while demanding that I give them rights beyond what was allowed.

There were the angry ones. Like a lady who lashed out at me for saying she couldn’t have a second case of water and then heaved one of them at me. A quick jump and it missed me, a shock, but not a major event. People yelling about masks or refusing to distance. Some who wanted to tell me it was all a hoax or blown out of proportion. A few got angry, and pulled off their masks, yelling at me about rules and restrictions outside my control. People telling me they drove from Toronto, Orangeville, Brampton, Owen Sound, Milton, Cambridge, London looking for things they wanted to buy. I couldn’t understand why. Some who struggled all year buying multiple orders as they shopped for themselves, older family and neighbours. Kind people, going out of their way and bearing up under shifting restrictions, who felt they needed to explain themselves again and again. I loved those people and tried to balance rules and kindness.  

We got through. We held up. We still are as we head into 2021.

Resilience I suppose is keeping going when you want to stop, picking up the phone when you need to talk, listening to others and seeing need, advocating for resources, laughing even when it hurts, smiling and speaking kindly as often as possible.

This year reminds me of the people who believe in me, those who encourage me. Some of them family or friends, some known through work or community, some offering support in meals, conversations, occasional walks. I am grateful for every one. I’ve been blessed to have many people willing to tell me the good things they see in me and encourage me to continue being my best self.

As we go into next year, I hope I remember the things I’ve learned in the one just past. I can do more than I believed. I am kind to others. I need to be kind to myself. I have pushed through difficult places and will again. I’ll enter into next year with humility and hope. Resilience will be there when I need it. Friends will have my back.

I won’t ask a lot of myself in resolutions. I’ve written down ‘go slow’ and ‘allow failure’. I’ve been afraid of both and faced both this past year. I’m tired but good for another round.

Heading into 2021 will be interesting. Welcome New Year. Let’s see what you have to offer.