Reflections on the Worst Year Ever

All good things must come to an end and so too…bad things.

Jason Versey

I think that most people would agree that 2020 was the worst year in recent memory. The Coronavirus, relentless political drama, racial injustice, the most named storms in history, murder hornets… If 2020 had been pitched as a movie concept, Hollywood would have rejected it for being too over-the-top.

But for 12 months it’s been our reality.

It’s noon on New Year’s Eve and I’m counting down the hours until 2020 is in the rear-view mirror. I don’t make resolutions, but I have set intentions and created vision boards in recent years. This year, I decided to celebrate what I managed to accomplish, despite feeling wiped out, beat up, and wrung out.

I invite you to do the same. For, like me, you didn’t receive a How to Survive 2020 manual. Even if we and our loved ones were fortunate enough to evade Covid19 itself, we all had to adapt to months of quarantining, social distancing, working remotely, home schooling…

I’d be willing to bet that most of us are suffering from some degree of the “prolonged traumatic stress” mentioned in the article “Your brain on cortisol: Why overstressed gray matter is leading us astray in lockdown.”

The prolonged traumatic, or “chronic toxic,” stress that most people have been experiencing throughout the pandemic makes it more difficult to keep desires in check, and it in turn promotes illogical pleasure-seeking, said Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor emeritus of pediatric endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of “Metabolical.” In scientific terms: When brains are flooded with the stress hormone cortisol on a long-term basis, it inhibits the function of the prefrontal cortex, leading to excessive activation of the “reward center” of the brain — triggering the excessive baking, drinking, smoking and shopping that filled the idle hours of 2020.

Elaina Patton, platforms editor for NBC News, 12/25/20

In layman’s terms, our minds have been flooded with cortisol 24/7 for months. And we’ve paid the price.

Of course, I can only share how 2020-induced “chronic toxic” affected me.

I was angry. My anger was generally sparked by politicians and conspiracy theorists who mistook speaking loudly with speaking the truth.

I was afraid. Sometimes that fear was full-fledged fight-or-flight mode, but most days it was merely anxiety cowering in my amygdala.

I had low-level depression that waxed and waned. I functioned, but not at full capacity.

While I did sell some articles, my freelance writing career basically stalled out. Writing, like many things, felt pointless.

I could list all the ways that I didn’t deal with 2020 “right.” But that would be disingenuous since, as I mentioned, there was no guidebook. Everyone was playing it by ear.

I want to give myself credit for the things that I did accomplish during this unspeakably horrible year.

In no particular order I:

  • Wore a mask in public to help keep me and others safe
  • Learned how to do Tunisian crochet
    • Created over a dozen scarves in a variety of stitches
  • Bought a tank drum and have been playing it just for fun
  • Didn’t eat everything in Manhattan and gain a ton of weight
    • Although my food has been far from perfect, I actually lost weight.
  • Didn’t drink even though the thought crossed my mind more than once
  • Maintained my meditation practice and continued attending my dharma class (virtually)
  • Walked for exercise while it was warm and rejoined the gym when it got cold
  • Started studying Spanish again
  • Made a concerted effort to improve my handwriting
    • Included journaling semi-regularly

I pray that 2021 is better for America and for the world. May there be a swift end to the Coronavirus and a return to normal.

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