Can we all agree to agree with the inspiration of Rainer Maria Rilke who says as we welcome the New Year may it be full of things that have never been.
Or is that just inviting trouble through our unhinged doors?
Last year I wrote, 2020 The Road to Perdition, ignorantly thinking our hellish circumstances were coming to a colossal end, something the historians would rewrite for posterity, muddled with preconceived ideas about a reality in which no one actually lived.
I could not have been more wrong, but ask my family, you’ll find this is quite common.
The fact remains our little bat shit Virus did not wrap itself up, it mutated, and prospered if you will, along with cast iron pans, cats, and Netflix.
How does that speak to the human condition?
If I were forced to summarize our current situation I would say even though we’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death, we continue to live in fear, six feet apart, masked up, and understaffed. Our tables are less than bountiful, we’ve become human Petri dishes, and most of us feel as if we’ve been runneth over by the world’s number one enemy ~ COVID. [Palm 23 adapted]
Oh, bonus, goodness, and mercy have left the building.
And for the record, the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet is a party crasher, Moderna stock is making a killing (so to speak), and if 2021 felt like an anomaly, that’s because it was.
If memory serves, last January I was still teaching via Zoom, my students resembled a zombie apocalypse, and their faith was under duress along with the rest of the country. Restaurants were closed, thank God, because our grooming standards were in shambles, and beards became the height of fashion.
Just when I thought things could not get any worse, we stormed our own Capitol, our besieged lame-duck leader was impeached once again because he likes to be first in everything, as we try to imagine what the rest of the world thinks of the USA?
Joe Biden took the presidential oath, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to hold the office of vice president, and I have to admit I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.
If January was astonishing, February was the month of overachievers, as Tom Brady wins like his 7th championship ring, I say dude try something else. A cold front on steroids hits Texas and Oregon causing blackouts, road closures, and all sorts of calamities. COVID deaths are out of control but there is some good news on the horizon, promising vaccines are being rushed through the authorization process, available according to age. It’s like taxes, I’m not old enough to get the benefits, but old enough to suffer the consequences.
After being roped and steered by a cohort of midnight cowboys they dropped the whole herd immunity propaganda? What the hell?
A severe chip shortage leaves us scrambling for transportation, used car sales skyrocket, and brand-new unfinished cars sit dormant on lots across America. Or is this just a conspiracy to restrict our mobility? Chip shortage, wink, wink.
Millions of people are vaccinated in March which translates, to sore arms, immunities, and mild systems across the globe. Biden signed an enormous stimulus package, I got my first poke with the Pfizer concoction, and Beyonce is the official Grammy Queen.
The artist known as Beeple sells a digital work of art at Christie’s for 69 million, launching a craze for nonfungible tokens. For those of us born in the sixties, a non-fungible token is not a mushroom, it’s a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger. Yeah, I know, no help at all.
Just when I think things are looking up life puts her mighty foot on our proverbial neck, a massive cargo ship runs aground in the Suez Canal, disrupting shipping worldwide and all my Amazon orders are delayed.
Don’t you dare ask how can it get any worse?
In April, waves of anger flood the world as if a tsunami, with Minnesota the epicenter of all the controversy. Derek Shoven is convicted of murdering George Floyd as Daunte Wright is shot and killed during a traffic stop when Minnesota Police Officer Kim Potter mistook her gun for a Taser.
That’s not like mistaking salt for pepper, the US will experience an enormous spike in gun violence this year, this includes, homicides, suicides, and mass shootings. Our lack of knowledge about gun safety, mental health issues, mixed with public unrest seems to be a lethal and destructive recipe.
If there ever was a need for renewal, new life, an Easter if you will, it’s this year.
There is some good news, after being closed for 412 days the happiest place on Earth reopens, with Micky himself reminding park visitors to “stay six feet apart.”
My twin granddaughters turned four in the midst of all this chaos and I kept thinking if only I could arrest the aging process until we get back to normal, as if bears that hibernate all winter, all would be well, but apparently, once you’re woke, you’re woke.
In May, while I’m toying with the idea of retirement, a cyber attack cuts off our key gasoline supply, and vaccinations become available to 12-year-olds. I celebrate yet another birthday in isolation before returning to the classroom under a sadistic model of teaching called hybrid, which clinches it for me. I officially retire with a heartfelt note sent to administrators and colleagues, but tragically while I’m teaching my last class at Notre Dame, a mass shooting occurs at the VTA in San Jose, killing 9 people.
Oh, what a world.
In June President Biden signs legislation to make Juneteenth an official holiday commemorating the end of slavery, when a condominium complex in Surfside, Florida, collapses in the middle of the night, leaving dozens dead. The Pandemic stubbornly remains, Bill Cosby plays his get out of jail card, rivals dislodge Isreal’s longest-standing leader, and paying rent becomes optional.
Is this year ever going to end?
In July, while we’re battling the Delta wave, Branson beats Bezos in space travel time, and I lose my battle with eczema, graduating to full-blown psoriasis, lovely. I’ll never wear a bathing suit again and shockingly no one’s organizing a protest.
Marvel’s “Black Widow” opens, with an estimated $80 million, the largest North American box office opening since the pandemic began, which makes total sense. Who isn’t confronting the darker parts of the past, surrounded by dangerous conspiracies, pursued by a force that has no boundaries? Masks come on and off and on again, Gavin is in hot water, and our reservoirs are at an all-time low.
So nothing has changed at all.
After a year-long delay, the 29th Olympic Summer Games begin in Tokyo with a traditional opening ceremony, and no spectators. The hot weather is so severe, Spain’s Paula Badosa left the tennis court in a wheelchair due to heatstroke. If that wasn’t crazy enough, Russian player Daniil Medvedev says he would finish his match if someone would take responsibility if he died. Is that ironic or what?
August is a scorcher, California is once again on fire, and the second-largest wildfire in California history, the Dixie fire, burns more than 463,000 acres through a large swath of Northern California. As homes and commercial buildings turn to ash, it reminds me of a prayer we say at funerals, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope, our vile body changes according to the mighty will, whereby God is able to subdue all things.” I’d say God has much to alter and subdue, not to be an alarmist or anything.
I think it was still August when Como stepped down under a “me too” controversy which is established as credible. Shocker.
Biden pulled our troops out of Afghanistan, the Taliban militants completed their takeover, moved into the capital of Kabul, and demanded the unconditional surrender of the Afghan government. There was chaos at the airport, people died, and not only Americans but vulnerable informants were left behind.
We call this progress? We call this progress. Punctuation matters.
September puts a kibosh on promiscuous sex when the Supreme Court clears the way for Texas to enforce a ban on abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. Interestingly, the overbearing father of Britney Spears is demoted after 13 years of running dominion over her estate, and her right to procreate. Her popularity soars, his not so much.
In October, the Facebook files go public, ends up Instagram is toxic for teenagers, and they’ve known this for years! Oh yeah, Gavin beats the recall, as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 passes 700,000, and I’m wondering if anyone else is searching for government-sponsored rehab centers?
In a rather phenomenal historic moment, the World Health Organization endorses the first malaria vaccine, which will stop hundreds of thousands of children from dying, just as Alec Baldwin pulls the trigger on a prop gun that kills cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Seriously?
One step forward, three steps back…
OnlyFans says it will stop allowing sexually explicit content starting in October, leaving not only many sex workers wondering how they’ll earn a living, but their customers frustrated if you get my drift. They quickly reverse this decision. Let’s not examine that too closely.
When calamity and opportunity collide, Larry and I reach for the dangling carrot, which came in the form of a cruise. The industry, desperate to get their ships back at sea, offered initial rates for a post-COVID voyage that were too good to be true. We signed up for an impromptu Crystal Cruise, a ship designed to house a thousand guests, but less than 200 of us found the courage to endure a weeklong Bahamian voyage. Wasn’t it God who said be not afraid?
Traveling with Jim, Sue, Marta, and Ken translates to laughter, late nights, 5-star meals, phenomenal excursions, not to mention endless Pimm’s and lemonade while lounging by the pool. I actually felt retired for the first time since June. Staying six feet apart was not a problem as the ship was nearly empty, repeated testing was required, along with proof of vaccination, and I’m thrilled to report not one of us suffered so much as a cold.
It was a wonderful break after a tumultuous year.
The Atlanta Braves capture their first World Series since 1995 defeating the Astros in November. Malala Yousafzai, the 24-year-old Pakistani survivor of a Taliban shooting, announces her marriage on Twitter, as a ninth person dies from injuries sustained at Travis Scott’s Astroworld concert.
Our beloved dog Shaggy passed away just days before Larry and I celebrated thirty-eight years of marriage. Shaggy gave us twelve years of unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion. A valuable lesson for the times in which we live, for all our relationships, especially marriage, because most of us need love and acceptance more than we need advice. We are left with many fond memories and a huge hole in our hearts.
Just when you think COVID has nothing left in its arsenal, borders open and slam close, as South Africa announces a new coronavirus variant has been detected. In the days to come, it will be called the Omicron variant, and as if a third wave of cancel culture, she takes down Christmas without remorse. On Christmas Eve, Delta and United Airlines canceled dozens of flights, because of illnesses tied to this new variant, which have taken a toll on their flight crews.
Ho, ho, ho, “Merry Christmas.”
As the Supreme Court debates a woman’s right to choose abortion in December, the Biden administration announces plans to reinstate the “remain in Mexico policy” for migrants seeking to enter the United States. Our ability to choose, our humanity, and our intrinsic hope seem drastically challenged in the modern world.
Extreme weather and COVID-19 have become proficiently destructive, enduring, and deadly. At least 79 people, most of them in Kentucky, have been killed after a series of tornadoes tear through the Midwest and Southeast as COVID-19 deaths exceed 800,000 in the US. But as Mr. Rodgers says when I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
But not all is lost, the weather has shifted, and the thirsty state of California is being deluged by much-needed precipitation, this newbie variant is mild and most believe it will exit as quickly as it came, and after 20 seasons of being reality television royals, Keeping Up with the Kardashians is finally canceled, leaving us all to wonder if big butts will still be, well big?
My New Year’s resolution is to stop lying to myself about making permanent lifestyle changes. Clearly, I’ve failed as a rabbit, recluse, and organizational guru. I’ve decided there is much that sparks joy in my life, and not only am I keeping Larry until death do us part, but I’m hanging on to that sliver of hope dangling as if tinsel from the Christmas tree. I’m so done with resolutions, rules, and restraints. How about we visualize a brave new world, one that is inclusive, less polarized, restrictive, one that finds us all healthy, wealthy, and a wee bit wiser because against all odds we’ve kept love in the game.
Thanks for Living in the Gap with me, Happy New Year, and be so kind as to join me in the comments.