Guest blog by Amanda Sutton
As I reflect on 2020, I am curious how this time will be remembered in the future. It is not the first time that a global pandemic has occurred, and I am sure it will not be the last, but this is the first time in my life where the whole world seemed to come to a screeching halt. As someone who thrives on productivity, it was especially difficult in the beginning. Up until the Stay-At-Home order was issued for our state, I was working 40-50 hours a week, commuting 2.5 hours a day, volunteering for a local non-profit, going out to the barn to take care of my horse, juggling a crammed social calendar…the list goes on and on. Events with friends and family were penciled into the calendar weeks in advance and days were spent planning for the next. Then, COVID-19 hit and everything changed. Work slowed as we all tried to figure out what to do next. Social gatherings stopped as we discovered that interacting with others might be dangerous. ”Essential” took on a whole new meaning in so many ways.
Gratitude was something that was an afterthought for me. Of course I was grateful for my life and the people in it, but there was so much that I took for granted. I rarely paused to reflect on myself or my life. 2020 has been an awful year for so many reasons, but I am grateful for it because it allowed me to refocus on what was really important. My friends and family, my pets, my community, my health. The things in my life, no matter how small, that make me smile. The way the bartender at my favorite restaurant makes my favorite “fancy” cocktails and the food is ALWAYS amazing. The sound of my friends all laughing together at something silly. The way my mom always answers the phone in the same voice or the way my dad always calls me “princess” when he says hello. The way my cat flips over on her back for belly rubs every time I walk in the room and the sound of the horses chewing on hay while meadow larks sing in the pasture. Small things that I took for granted before became the bright spots that got me through the dark times of this year.
Don’t get me wrong, 2020 has been the most stressful and exhausting year of my life and I will not miss it. However, the silver lining is that it shook me out of the cycle I was in. The trap we can all get caught up in. Running from one thing to the next, so focused on the climb that we don’t enjoy the view. Getting so busy that we don’t see everything we have. 2020 has reminded me of all that I have to be grateful for and how incredibly lucky I am. I live in a place where I feel safe, I have a warm home, happy pets, loving friends and family, access to healthcare and food, clean water, and a hot shower. While some people have handled stress better than others, this year has brought out the good in people. Friends and neighbors helping each other and supporting each other. Asking how someone is doing feels more like a genuine question filled with caring support as opposed to an automated greeting. I feel closer to the people in my life even though we remain at least 6 feet apart.
I can’t help but feel optimistic about 2021. Clichés come to mind like, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” or “you can’t have rainbows without some rain.” Honestly, I think the optimism comes from a better sense of myself and knowing that I can handle whatever the next year has in store. I don’t think I will go back to the way things were before and that is a good thing. I have realized that running from sunrise to sunset doesn’t make me happy. That setting boundaries to protect my health and sanity is necessary and acceptable. That I am happiest when I can help take care of others. This year has taught me how truly important it is to practice gratitude for the simple, happy moments in life; to live in the moment with refreshed awareness that the future is always uncertain. I will always be grateful for that.