Yesterday’s post tried to recall just a whiff of the profound and dismal fear pretty much every sentient one of us faced around this time last year. I remember waking up every day and re-remembering, the morning shock of the totality of it hitting with both hands. “Oh goddamn!”
But then we got about our day and tried to be as useful as we could to others and as kind as we could to ourselves, even if that kindness wasn’t always in our long-term best interest. About drinking bourbon alone deep into the night, a friend said, “Well, it is relaxing.”
Continuing to look back, I think the people who had the hardest time in 2020, psychologically speaking, are the people (and parts of each of us!) who have the most invested in seeing themselves, and in being seen, as authorities on life.
If you weren’t practiced in saying, “I don’t know,” if it had been awhile since you’d let your mouth hang open in fearsome wonder at the size of the world and the insignificance of your place in it, if you weren’t equipped to sit down and just goddamn cry every once in awhile …
… you had to relearn fast.
Because the only alternative to taking on a muddle-through mode of humble hope and faith in the general goodness of the grown-ups in charge, was continuing to pretend you were in control, or in the know—about COVID, about George Floyd (and thus the entire American racial equation going back to 1619) and about the presidential election.
Which of course predisposed you to adolescent rejection of authority, to self-righteous screeching in defense of “the science” (which during much of the year was evolving rather rapidly), to reactionary talk about race or to conspiracy thinking about the presidential election.
Some or all of which most of us probably entertained, from our own points of view, even if only privately.
One day early last March, I wrote that “my Facebook feed indicates that people are reacting to coronavirus in these ways”:
Trying to be helpful. (Occasionally by mansplaining, which women do too.)
Trying to lend perspective. (Also occasionally by mansplaining.)
Implying that this is happening because everyone is dumb and cowardly except themselves.
Ripping on the president for being the feckless son of a bitch they always knew he was.
Pretending it’s not happening.
As I acknowledged then, “My own blog indicates that I’m reacting in all these same ways.”
And those basic responses would continue, for—well, to this day.
That’s why I think it is important to look back, as painful as it is, in as much detail as we can, on how we were feeling last year at this time, what we were saying last year—and how were sounding last year, to the selves we’ve become in the course of the year.
Because it’s a rare chance, especially for hard-headed middle-aged grownups, to truly and deeply learn.
I think I have learned more over the last year than in any year since I graduated from college. I feel this nagging need to consolidate those lessons, articulate those lessons, and write those lessons down, to make them permanent, before they slip away.
How about you?