2020 was good to me, and I’m rejoicing. So what’s that all about?
After an awe-inspiring and adventurous 4 weeks in January and February travelling around central Mexico, the year took a sharp downturn, starting with my birthday on March 12. Sitting in a coffee shop talking to our contractor about the renovations underway on our downtown condo, my purse was stolen off the back of my chair. So when covid’s first wave hit 4 days later, I was without a place to call home (our condo had just been stripped to floors and walls) AND without a phone, keys, id, credit cards and all my favourite lipsticks. I have to say I was rattled. Seriously, disturbingly rattled. This not only took my experience of first world problems to a new place, it gave me a soft version of what I had so far only witnessed as the experience of the many immigrants and refugees I had worked with over the years: the loss of a sense of “home” at a time of distress and uncertainty. The destabilizing effect of this is something I never could have understood, and proved to be the first of many personal learnings that I believe will affect how I continue my journey into 2021, post covid, and beyond.
In the nine months that followed, I have continued to learn life lessons, and had my ups and downs. I have felt grace, and I have seen and felt a lot of sadness. As of May, living in downtown Vancouver, my heart is heavy and I grapple daily to know how to respond to the number of broken, lost and abandoned people living in and off the streets. Many people in my circles have lost loved ones – I write sympathy cards, try to check in on them, and feel helplessly sad that they don’t have the love of friends and family at their side in their grief. One of the women in my high school friend group died in the fall, and I felt the weight of what can happen when someone feels so alone and so hopeless. Many of my friends and family struggled with the experience of isolation and uncertainty- mental health felt precarious in a way it never had before. There has been far too much pain, sadness and loss this year and nothing can compensate for that.
I don’t know what will come with 2021, but like most of you, I am hopeful. Not because I think life will go back to “normal” (although some aspects of it will), and not because I believe things will be particularly rosy once most of us have received a vaccine (though there will be much relief). I think 2021 will be better because I’ve learned so much this year, and I believe most of us have. Rather than wanting a return to “normal”, we’ve learned how we might live our lives differently – more sanely and humanely, without depleting the resources of the earth, ourselves, and each other. More of us are waking up to the injustices and vast inequalities in our systems. I think that we’re learning how to be more thoughtful and respond differently, how to be less judgemental, and more compassionate.
So on New Year’s Day, I find myself walking in the rain, watching the few brave souls in small groups jumping into the chilly waters of English Bay. I am joyous, I find beauty everywhere I look, and I’m singing “Hallelujah.” To be clear:
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light.
It’s not a cry you hear at night.
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
But I’m singing “Hallelujah”, a little broken, but rejoicing, for what I have seen and learned:
The commitment and perseverance of our contractor and team at Westworks to work through the first wave of the pandemic so that my husband, my daughter and I can have a home to find beauty and comfort during this second wave.
Those closest to me, who with their everyday gestures and acts of love, respect and kindness let me know that I am valued, cared for, and loved.
Friendships, new and old, that have blossomed in sometimes unexpected places, and sustain me with their love, wit, wisdom and colour.
The bravery of front-line workers who allow us to keep food in our fridges, our children in schools, and bring hope and health to the sick, most vulnerable, and dying.
The compassion and courage I see in those who care so deeply, including an amazing group of people with whom, over the past 15 months, I have taken my 500hr Yoga Teacher Training certificate.
The strength and resilience of newcomers to Canada, in particular the immigrant women who I am honoured to work with in Learning Journeys.
The fortitude and integrity of so many youth, exemplified for me by my own children who have used this covid time to establish fundraising initiatives, create beautiful new relationships, and forge careers in the fashion industry, and as an elementary school teacher and a music producer.
The brilliance of the minds who lead the way to vaccines, more sustainable ways to live, and to better ways to understand and care for ourselves and each other, body, mind and soul.
The spirit of all those who continue to believe in and illuminate the goodness in this world.
…sung here by Rufus Wainwright, one of my favourite covers of Leonard Cohen’s hauntingly beautiful and complex song of love, pain, joy, suffering and celebration.