Up Close and Personal with Patti Callahan Henry
Hindsight is 2020
They say hindsight is 2020. Woof! This is when a cliched adage drives home the deepest truth!
As we near the end of this year, we can’t just wash ourselves of 2020, because honestly it has unalterably changed us.
The year seemed to start somewhere near the end of February, the rumblings of a virus, of something amiss. At first it was annoying – events cancelled, confusion reigned with conflicting information. Then came the fear and then something we hadn’t imagined except in our novels and movies: a pandemic with a lockdown. A lockdown!
How could we have imagined that when we wrote our naïve 2020 goals in our planners?
But here we are at the end of the year. We did it. It wasn’t always pretty – sometimes it was downright ugly. Oh, the things we said and did when things got rough (cringe). But the beautiful things we did and created when we reached out to help and support others or found peace in the midst of chaos.
And here we are: We can look back at it and be astounded that we got through it. Let’s keep going!
So, what do we keep from 2020? What do we leave behind?
The Friends and Fiction ladies chime in!
Patti Callahan Henry:
What I want to keep: There was some beauty in the dark days, and I will hold onto some of the light. For the things I will keep—the Friends and Fiction community we have built. The stories I wrote. The time I spent with my family that I would have never been able to have in a normal year. The books I read. The deeper conversations that happened because we had the time to sit still.
What I want to let go of: I want to let go of the fear of uncertainty. Our world changed so quickly and we lost so much, and yet resilience and perseverance grew. I desperately want to let go of the fear of change.
Kristy Woodson Harvey:
What I want to keep: I am a bit of a homebody, but the last few years I have spent so much time on the road. 2020 has taught me that I need to really consider what work travel I’m saying yes to because I have gotten so much writing done this year. (Fun travel? Bring it on!) On the other hand, I’m so, so ready to run out the front door, hop on a plane, and hug readers somewhere far away from here!
What I want to let go of: There are so many things I have really loved about 2020, but the fear of it all hasn’t been one of them. I am so thrilled to let go of that in 2021, to move forward with clarity and purpose and let all that uncertainty fade away.
What I want to keep: One thing I learned in 2020 is that as much as I’ve always valued making my world big (with lots of travel and adventures and experiences), there’s something to be said for making it small, too. Prior to the pandemic, I rarely spent time at home; we were always racing out the door to the next adventure and filling our days with activities. But there’s beauty in the quiet, and peace in the standing still—and I hope that once the world opens up again, I always remember that.
What I want to let go of: Kristy is completely right about the fear; I hate that there are things I used to take for granted that actually make me feel scared now. I’m also ready to let go of the social distancing. I’m so ready to hug my mom and my nieces and nephews and all the people I love outside my immediate family. I’m so ready to hug all of you! Keeping my distance and avoiding physical contact just feels sad and lonely and disconnected.
Mary Kay Andrews:
What I want to keep: Appreciation for the things that matter: Family and home. The pandemic lockdown meant our world got smaller. No more casual get-togethers with friends and neighbors, which we mourned. But our grandkids pivoted to virtual learning in March, their parents switched into work-at-home mode. We spent weeks together at our beach house on Tybee Island, and back at home our Sunday dinners became sacred rituals. I’d also like to hold onto the focus that 2020 brought me. Not having a lot of outside distractions (or a six-week book tour!) meant I was able to focus on my work. I started every morning with “writing sprints” with my Friends and Fiction pals, which meant that for the first time in my three decades of writing I handed in a book a month before due date! I also plan to hold onto an emphasis on empathy. In fact, maybe I’ll make empathy my word for 2021.
What I want to lose: The Covid 30!
Mary Alice Monroe:
What I want to keep: Isolation, quiet, gives one a sense of perspective we are apt to lose when caught on the hamster wheel of dashing about, meeting friends, shopping, book tours, deadlines. Forced solitude in 2020 brought me a new and strange peace during the months that would have been my book tour. I was up in the mountains sheltering in place with my sisters. “The Summer to Remember” as we called it allowed me more writing time and moments of calm for introspection. We gathered in the morning to read poetry. I began (still trying) longer walks. I looked out the window in a stillness, with no expectations. Gee, that’s an interesting bird… Yes, I miss going out with marine wildlife, the thrill of research, but in isolation I took the time to enjoy the everyday visitors at my bird feeder, the frogs in the yard, the bees (I saw a killer bee!) and always, the butterflies. I paid attention to what was growing--and visiting--in my own back yard. I intend to keep a pace that allows moments of serenity, however I can find them.
What I want to let go of: I’m getting off the hamster wheel. I’ll still work hard but I want the pressure off so I can sustain those “keep” items above. This week I did my end-of-year house cleaning. I sorted all the stuff from my kitchen drawers (lord, where did I get some of it?), arranged towels and linens, and eliminated excess. It was a glorious purge! I’m also doing that with my mental clutter. I’m choosing what to keep, and what to toss. How to spend my time with more clarity and joy. Yes, 2020 was a year for restrictions, limits and fear. But remember what Confucius said: "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail." ― Confucius