2020 Mid-Year Report Card

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” (Maya Angelou)

We’re halfway through what will undoubtedly be one of the most significant years of our lifetime. It’s certainly not the year anyone was expecting. This seems like a good time to engage in a bit of introspection and self-evaluation, a “report card,” if you will.

Tom Bodett once said, “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

What lessons have we learned over these last six months? How have we been tested? Individually and collectively, are we passing, or has our failure been illuminated? Let’s take a few moments to think about the classes we’ve all been enrolled in, and how capably we’ve faced the tests they’ve put before us.

Our first mandatory subject came to us in March, Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Coronavirus. Try to imagine what it would have been like if, in high school, you had progressed directly from freshman algebra into advanced calculus. That’s pretty much what happened about four months ago. But, instead of suddenly facing differential equations, multilinear functions, and finite-dimensional vector spaces, you are tasked with navigating a world in which “normal” has been replaced by invisible hazards, ceaseless anxiety, and a rapidly-spreading pandemic.

Then, in May, a new class was added, 21st Century American History. This one has a twist: it’s history in the making, and we are more than mere students and observers—we are the history-makers. The curriculum for those of us with white skin and white privilege is to look around and look within and assess whether as a country and as individuals, we are the best we can be. Many of us took the pretest and saw that we’ve been failing for a long time, in ways both obvious and subtle. The pledge of liberty and justice for all is, at best, provisional. It’s time to do some remedial and hard work. Continue reading

Querencia and Friluftsliv: Two Concepts to Guide Us Through a Pandemic

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” (Jean Shinoda Bolen)

It’s been two months since the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus to be a worldwide pandemic. By now, disbelief has given way to acceptance and adaptation for most of us. Depending on where you live you may be living under a quarantine or you may be cautiously venturing back into a limited social environment.

Most of us have accepted that our world has changed and the post-pandemic atmosphere is likely to be very different. Just what those differences will be remain a mystery, but it’s a sure bet that some will be devastating and some will be hopeful. That uncertainty is creating a lot of apprehension. I’m finding two concepts that go a long way toward easing COVID-19 anxiety.

I first wrote about querencia back in early 2017. It’s a concept that has become abundantly relevant in these days of fear, isolation, and uncertainty. Continue reading

Back Off, Marie Kondo

The life-changing magic of NOT tidying up…

Bear hunting in our neighborhood

I have mild hoarding tendencies—nothing serious, but sometimes I find it difficult to discard items for which there may be some future use. My biggest problem is paper—articles I’ve saved for future reference, notes and handouts from conferences, and scraps on which I’ve scribbled brilliant, budding ideas that I hope will grow into mature, wise, and literate prose. One of my goals during this period of enforced isolation is to tackle the piles and files and miles of paper. I try not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, but to devote a certain amount of time each day to purging, sorting, and deciding what stays (and where!) and what goes.

I am frequently reminded of Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I read it when it first came out and was inspired to . . . do very little.

Marie and I would not be friends. While I am sure she is a lovely woman, “tidying up” is not something I aspire to. Continue reading

Hello in There, Redux….

Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

~John Prine, Angel from Montgomery

John Prine, Wikimedia Commons

I was saddened to learn this morning that the great John Prine died yesterday, another casualty of the coronavirus. I have loved John Prine’s music since I was a teenager. His voice is as piercing as his lyrics, illustrating why Rolling Stone proclaimed him “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”

I wanted to link back to a post I wrote in 2016, which talked about my very favorite Prine song, “Hello in There.” It describes the isolation so many elderly people feel in our society, and it’s particularly poignant today, in the midst of COVID-19, as isolation confronts us all in different ways. I hope you’ll follow the link and listen to Prine’s song and then think about who in your life, or in your neighborhood, could use a “hello” from you.

Thank you, John Prine, for your songs and your spirit. https://ayearoflivingkindly.com/2016/08/18/hello-in-there-hello/

 

Hit the Reset Button

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

I’m not big on making New Year resolutions (What’s she talking about, Leonard? Doesn’t she know it’s nearly April?). But what I do try to do at the beginning of each year is think about who I want to be, what I hope will be different, and what I want my life to look like at the end of the year. Then, I set my monthly, weekly, and daily intentions with that vision in mind.

It’s very organized and kind of nerdy (and maybe a tiny bit OCD). It works for me.

But, here at the end of March, 2020—a month during which the world changed in ways that were unimaginable a short time agoI find it’s time to rethink my priorities and reset my intentions for the emerging brave new world (which, I hope, will not resemble the one imagined by Aldous Huxley).

I wonder, as we hunker down—giving colossal thanks to those on the front lines who cannot hunker—if it would be healthy and wise to take some time to think about who we will be and what the world may look like once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. Continue reading