When HBO’s John Oliver “blew up” 2020 for viewers of his comedy commentary show Last Week Tonight last year, I actually grew teary-eyed, which is perhaps not the reaction he and his staff might have wanted from the average viewer, but it is understandable, I think: 2020 was difficult for each one of us in ways unique to each one of us.
That endless year had featured several deaths of family, friends, acquaintances, and my father’s death of COVID in the first wave of the pandemic, as well as the first of many responses to the pandemic: lockdowns, local businesses shuttered, friends and family on video calls, recovery meetings on video, funerals on video, the first tentative steps out of lockdown (a cosmetologist friend came here to cut my hair a few times), experimentation with mask styles, and the wait for a conclusion that we would all know was a conclusion and/or new start whenever we might see it. Oh! and there was an national election campaign followed by a constitutional nightmare.
The year before this one also saw the start of a creative collaboration that continues to this day (new video up this evening!), which is probably only just beginning even after almost two years.
So when Mr. Oliver blew up 2020, I grew teary-eyed. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I get choked-up quite easily, and the signs of an imminent cry are obvious: my voice cracks, sniffles start, my eyes darken. And then nothing happens. The emotional explosion never comes, unlike the John Oliver’s farewell to 2020 (Last Week Tonight had run the same joke before, but 2020’s goodbye was a bit bigger):
In a conversation with my mom last week, I reported that I felt like I spent 2021 in anticipation of that conclusion we would all recognize as the moment “life would return to normal” (mass vaccinations), but because that moment never arrived, the year slipped by for me in my distracted wait for, well, that moment.
More family, acquaintances, and friends left us permanently in 2021. One friend, who’d suggested in 2020 that he and I hike in the Shawangunks here to memorialize my father, he’s gone now, too. I had waited for the perfect moment, the moment when we could “go back to normal,” to take that hike with him beyond usefulness, beyond my friend’s own life.
I know that I am not the only individual who feels in his emotions that tonight’s New Year is the start of 2021 and not the start of 2022. There is even a website titled “COVID Standard Time”:
I do not know what 2022 will bring, but there were many useful experiences in 2021: my community of people I have not yet met in person continues to grow, and there are friends in this year’s list who are dear to me now. We all continue to be adventurers in new connections.
Further, 2021 can not be viewed as a waste if the lesson that I have always needed to learn and embrace: to live in the here and now rather than await a perfect moment, if that lesson leaves the world of theory and becomes a fuel to power the remainder of my life, be it days, months, or years that lay ahead for me.
I know one other thing: my wish that this year will treat us all with gentleness and good humor and that anyone who reads this who like me needs to learn how to seize the day and even have a good cry for some deeper happiness does so, also. I plan to report back here this time next year.
This is for us all:
and writer/performer with the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy improv group, now in its thirty-first season:
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