Looking back on 2021, I have to think hard about when it began or what happened. It feels arbitrary to slice a period up with names and numbers. I figure we’re still in Year One which started whenever COVID-19 hit your place hard. For me, that’d be 15 March 2020.
We barely shook off the pandemic last spring — I think it was last spring? 2021? Yeah, last spring when, during the heady days of the initial vaccinations, it looked as if things would return to the way they’d been. We went from that strange muted time of lockdowns, to a brief and fun flare up of bonhomie, back to a diminished normal.
The seasons are blurring into each other, too. In Colorado, we receive most of our snow in March and often in April. We had a wet spring, then a summer that lasted until a few days ago when it became winter again.
And that’s what it feels like in my memory — certain times are drawn out, others compressed.
Events happened. Boy, did they happen. My county was hit by two horrors: a mass shooting and just now, a conflagration that devoured an entire suburb.
You can rattle on all you want about the uncertainty of life, especially when you read existentialists in college. I read Heraclitus. Life is change. I get it, you tell yourself. Then you go off to have an espresso, filled with the self-loving fatuousness of youth, calm in the face of the decay and deaths you have no real conception of.
But when a real and shocking change happens in your life and the life of your city, it shakes you up. Grief strikes.
Both events seemed unlikely. And yet, utterly predictable. We have lax gun control laws that enable a man who’s unfit to stand trial to buy an assault weapon, no problem! And yeah, those record temperatures combined with a record drought? That just might cause a problem when a spark hits the brittle, bone-dry grass in a windstorm.
In retrospect, the shooting and the fire seem inevitable. We haven’t acted to solve either gun control or climate change. And, no, I’m not sure who “we” are. I suppose I mean the people in power — those ogres of greed, the drooling monsters who won’t take some simple measures of self preservation because it would mean shaving a few cents off their treasure trove.
And the voters who buy their lies and keep putting the stooges back in power.
And those damn coal-fired plants in China that keep me in cheap consumer goods.
And me, too.
Gun control and climate change seem like issues you’d want to take seriously, even from your bunker in New Zealand or your office in the Capitol. I guess oligarchs don’t read John Donne. The bloated poseurs in Congress skipped some key verses in that Bible they like to wave around when they’re not busy corrupting the Republic.
For myself and the people I care about most, 2021 has been okay — ups and downs. These fall into the regular category of life being one damned thing after another. In my extended family and circle of friends, it’s been rough. Some died. Others were diagnosed with cancer. Another had a heart attack, but recovered.
Applying business methodologies to your life is weird and reductive. “In Q2, after careful measurement, I decided to log three more hours a week at Level 2 cardio, make two more friends and take up soldering as a break from my crypto hustle.” Perhaps if I took that sort of thing seriously, I’d be farther along.
Anyway, it’s good to reflect and think, yes, but don’t use a grid or spreadsheet. Please.
People — bloggers, and influencers and gurus, oh my! — like to list What They Learned in 2021. I don’t have many insights. But I’ll pass a couple along: A few days ago, I wished our pharmacist in Paris bonnes fêtes — happy holidays. She returned the greeting. Then she looked out of the window, paused, and said, “We should live every day like it’s a holiday.”
She said this with a dark, grim edge. One that tells you she’s someone who’s been through some trouble, and that she’s someone who knows that life changes in an instant.
So: Live every day like it’s a holiday.
And, a friend of mine wrote, “Abandonnez les souhaits que ne se realisent jamias et vivez vos désirs” (“Give up on wishes which never come true and live according to your desires.”)