2020 has been the first year in my conscious memory that has felt integrated, like it was actually formed out of one piece, unfolding in one unbroken arc from January to December, one life event building on another. When I’ve looked back on other years, they have usually felt somewhat erratic, eventful yet passing quickly, full of small (and some big) accomplishments, yet without an overarching narrative. I didn’t feel as though I had walked a path from A to B, a trajectory. This year, I do.
I think this has to do with the fact that the framework that shaped our lives this year was shared by so many of us. The ramifications of COVID-19 affected nearly every human being on this planet, the tumult of the US elections and Black Lives Matter were significant to many people in many countries. This feels like the communal container that held my personal life, filtering it through the same lenses consistently throughout all of 2020. That made my personal journey seem more coherent. More importantly, though, it was also more linear and themed in and of itself.
Point A for me is located in June more than January, although they are connected. A mere, long, pandemic-stilled, yet generously flowing, eight months ago, I arrived back in Seattle from Nepal bruised and beat in heart and body. Thin hair, cracked skin, deep lines below my eyes, and a shock of new white hairs were testament to the trauma of abandonment, in a place remote and foreign to me, months living outdoors in a climate that alternated between torrential rain and desiccating dust, at the cusp of a pandemic of fear and isolation, by the man I then considered to be the love of my life. I doubted whether I would ever fully heal from this, I doubted whether I was lovable, and I already feared the approaching winter in this pandemic, the unbearable loneliness of not having touched another human being for months and months.
Now here I am. New Year’s Day 2021. And to my utter astonishment, June feels almost like a distant memory. My attention belongs fully to the here and now. I feel filled up to the brim with love, friendship, and courage. I have a wall full of holiday cards, a room full of birthday gifts, a phone full of messages of connection and missed calls to show. I can truly say that, today, I feel blessed.
How did I get from A to B? I walked (and cycled, and swam, and backpacked, and stretched, and slept) a path of self-healing. With setbacks, doubts, dark valleys and blind corners, for sure. But ultimately, I kept moving forward, and attending inward. I kept the faith in possibility. Not in fate, not in higher powers, not in any guarantees. But knowing that everything in this life changes, constantly, I knew that it was realistic to have faith that I, too, could and would change again.
Despite all of the anxiety and uncertainty and limitations we’ve all faced in 2020 – I feared for a friend’s life when she suffered for weeks from the harshest symptoms of COVID-19; my love of travel and the outdoors was limited to a very small radius by social distancing coupled with not having a car this year; I, too, hold my breath and exert myself with the emotional labor of assessing, fearing, having to consciously navigate every single time I pass another body in the street – despite all this, I never felt stuck this year. Every single day, I was grateful for walks past the flowers in my neighbors’ yards. Every single week, I was grateful for challenging uphill bike rides to the beautiful lakeside park here in South Seattle. Every single month, I somehow managed to kindle a new friendship from old acquaintances and new connections. As I turn the page on another year of my life, and of our shared calendar, on New Year’s Eve 2020, I am full of gratitude for what, to me, matters most of all in life: to love and be loved, one friend, one day, one conscious move towards connection at a time.
I know I’ll feel excruciatingly vulnerable all over again this year. I know I’ll be afraid and doubt and waiver again. And I know now that I am available for life, and deeply curious about the Unknown New.
Besides family and friends who held me, I owe the deepest gratitude to my mentors and teachers. I could not have healed without their example, their wisdom, and the practices they’ve taught me.
Tuere Sala and the SIMS sangha
2020 MANTRAS and MEDICINE
Empathy . Water . Air . Flowers . Trust . Magic . Different and incompatible needs . Broken open . Sunshine . The humor in life . Neighbors . I am love . Let the pendulum swing . Joy is an act of resistance . I am grateful to be devastated . Move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of love . Touch . What we resist, persists . We are so loyal to our suffering . Don’t fear reality, acknowledge it . Home . Return to art . Food food food . What I value most is least under my control . Uphill pedaling . Public radio . Patience . Effort and grace . Breathe, always . Don’t rationalize my heart . Emotional center of gravity . Hummingbird . Truth is both, and . I don’t know . Sensing . Tenderness . No emotion is permanent . Take the long view . Clarity of intention, quality of action, equanimity with the outcome . Sometimes the most direct path is not a straight line . Awareness is a quenching rain . Forgiveness means letting the river of life flow again and re-aligning ourselves with our commitment to how we want to live . Am I holding others to the same standard as myself? . Ritual . That’s just my opinion, man . Gratitude . Freedom is the only condition for happiness . Correcting course by just 1° over time changes our trajectory . It’s important to ask the questions, even if the answers are inconceivable .
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment!Rumi
May I be guided by love and curiosity. May I find levity, surprise, and nourishment.