Last year, I decided to do a short form of New Year's Resolutions by selecting My Three Words. These were three words that would guide me through the new year and keep me on track. In 2020, I picked "Relationships, Community, Joy."
Well. So much for that. Once COVID hit, building relationships became about a million times harder, and I wasn't able to do any of the community-building things I had hoped for. No volunteer programs at the library, no board game night, no brunches with friends. No toddler playtime. No date nights out with my husband. No street potlucks.
And then the wildfires started. In an instant, the invisible danger of the pandemic gave way to the very visible danger of every mountain around us burning to the ground.
We were evacuated from Santa Cruz, and then evacuated again from Morgan Hill, and we ended up driving down to Southern California to stay in an RV parked in our inlaws' backyard for a couple of weeks. When we came back, I helped a friend do a full clean of her smoke-damaged house, and danced in a Zumba fundraiser for the families who had lost everything. In our neighborhood, handmade signs popped up everywhere - thanking firefighters, sending love to the victims who had lost their houses. And because being indoors during a pandemic was too dangerous, we spent lots of time hanging out in the middle of the street, masked up, talking with our neighbors.
This is to say that even during the worst of it, our relationships and community grew stronger --and maybe I shouldn't say even. Maybe it's because the worst happened that we pulled together so strongly. When was the last time you had to rely on your neighbor for something? When was the last time you asked for help from your family? It's seen as a weakness to be dependent on other people, but independence has its own costs.
On Thanksgiving, we sat around a fire in the middle of the street with our neighbors and talked about how grateful we were to have our houses still standing. One of the neighbors works at the hospital. Another is a home health nurse. We talked about how grateful we were for each other, and for our community working together to fight against the pandemic.
The winter rains started, and we were on the evacuation map for mudslides if the storms got too bad. My daughter overhead us talking about packing bags. "Are we evacuating again?" she asked excitedly. "Do we get to go stay with Gyo and Baba and Auntie?"
On Christmas, we walked around the block with the kids from next door and had a Zoom call with our extended family. No big plans. No fancy meals. And at the end of the day I asked my daughter if she had had a good Christmas.
"Yeah!" she said, beaming. "This was great!"
She's got the whole "joy" thing down. I'll count that as a win for 2020, even if it didn't happen the way I had planned.
My Three Words for 2021: "Patience. Presence. Playfulness."
Patience to get me through the hard times and tantrums.
Presence to enjoy my family and friends, and to fully appreciate each moment.
Playfulness to help me stay young.