It is so easy to fall into this pattern, the repetitive pattern inside the mind of a child who just wants the journey to be over. It's so easy to push 2020 away like a bad dream, calling it a bad year, trying to push it away like a fluke. It is so much more than that.
From week one of this pandemic, I have heard the echoes coming from the mouths of my friends, my family, and even myself "oh this will be over soon." "oh just give it a couple of weeks" "once the elections over it will fade away" "just give the hospitals a chance to catch up then everything will open again" "were almost there" "just a bit longer"
Now, we sit in this place... far past the end of that first week or month, it's the next year now. We are a bit dazed by it all, its like we're strapped into a carseat. This journey has been so much longer than anyone expected it to be. I keep finding myself asking "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
But no one really has an answer for me. We don't really know who is driving. Our destination, seems to be evading us, and honestly the whole country is a bit lost. We don't have a lot of say in how this thing will go, when it will end, or where we will be when it does.
But we do have say. We have say over how we are going to exist in this new normal- weather it is temporary after all, or something that will stretch far into this new future.
We have say over how we exist within the bends and curves. How will we treat one another, how will we survive?
That is something my therapist asked me this year. After a bout of traumatic events, including the loss of a child. How did you survive?
Such an impactful question.
So I pose it to you now.
You have survived every minute of your life up until now. You are alive.
How did you survive?
I think it is beneficial to ask ourselves this question for two reasons.
1- If you feel like you're in a good place, with good healthy relationships, and you impact the world (or at least the immediate people in your world) in a positive way; then you can ask yourself this question and find healing in the answer. How did you get here? Perhaps you made good choices, accepted help, offered help, lived in a way that was an attempt to improve the quality of your life. You made decisions over and over again that were beneficial to you and those around you. You survived. You are thriving, even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes. You are alive! If you have found ways to survive while still living in kindness and love then YOU deserve to celebrate.
2- If you are not in a good place, maybe you look back and have regrets. Stop and think about how you survived. Did you survive through manipulation of others? Did you take advantage? Did you honor yourself, your life? Did you repeat unhealthy patterns? Did you push away those who offered you a hand? Did you try to help anyone else, or have you been so wrapped up in fear that it caused you to act harshly, selfishly? If so, are you willing to change? Do you want to change? Can you take the responsibility of that change on your own shoulders and end the cycles you feel trapped in?
How did you survive. Weather you survived in healthy or harmful ways, reflect. Then ask yourself, if this doesn't end. If we are nowhere close to a destination- when you look back on this next season and ask yourself this question, what answer do you want to see?
I think it's time we stop asking when this will end, or "are we there yet". I think it is time to remind ourselves that this IS our present, our life- right now. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, especially in the midst of a pandemic. (Not to mention the hate crimes and everything else going down) It's time to ask ourselves, how will we survive this? Can we find a way not just to survive, but to live. Not when this is over, but right now.
My prayer is that more of us find ways to live within this new strange reality. That we find ways to survive our traumas and fears and pandemics, without sacrificing our empathy and humanity. I pray that we can find ways to thrive in the work we do during such dark times, bringing light where we can- being light as often as we can. There has been so much grief in our hearts. I pray that we find ways to let that grief remind us how to love without condition, how to be kind without hesitation.
Personally, I took a long break during 2020. I survived so much. I was unable to serve very much in the birth field. I lost a child just before 2020 started. The pandemic hit. I was banned from supporting my clients in hospitals. I had to watch mothers birth alone, miscarry alone. I advocated and felt a sense of uselessness, that turned into exhaustion. We took a huge hit financially. I got a job as a nanny temporarily. It was short lived... I ruptured a disc in my spine, in a major way that took away my ability to walk. I was imobile for months. Then faced with major surgery. It was terrifying. The mental health impacts were huge.
Every year, around the time of resolution making, I choose a word to push me on, to inspire me. Something that speaks to me.
My word for 2020 was fire. I expected it to be more like me embracing my fire within, learning to live boldly, passionately. But it literally turned out to be FIRE. The whole world felt like it was on fire at times! I feel like 2020 really kicked the legs out from so many of us, for me literally. It was about learning to walk through fire, with grace. Learning to withstand fire, with hope. Though fire is not the year I wanted, it taught me so much. I really learned a lot about how to live through things, in a way that makes room for more when the flames subside.
It is a new year. Time not to throw away the whole last one, but to value its lessons and survivals. To stand back up, after the shock of what has transpired. We know better now. We have picked up a few tools. We know that the future is uncertain, and that even things like going out to eat at a local restaurant are precious opportunities that are not guaranteed. Try to refrain from categorizing 2021 before it's even happened. There is much hope here. Not because the world has changed, but because we have. We are not "there yet" in the sense that this is far from over. But we are there, in the sense that we can now wake up and find ways to thrive and not just survive even in the midst of a pandemic. Even in the midst of racism. Even in the midst of political uncertainty. We can still be the change as corny as that sounds. We have time, nothing but time to heal and give and help. It doesn't matter where you are at in this pandemic, in this year. I wish you well. I wish you strength and healing. I wish you the realization that the power of healing is in your own hands.
My word for 2021 is Love.
I am giving it.
I am receiving it.
I am calling for it.
Keep driving. But do so intentionally, not in a panic. Keep moving, but do so with awareness of who moves around you. Keep surviving, but don't forget to live. Keep living, and don't ever forget to Love. Yourself and one another.
All my love,
Birth Photographer and Birthkeeper serving Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Clemmons, Asheboro, Charlotte, Durham, All of North Carolina and beyond. Travel birth photographer.