“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.”
Every January, at least for the last several years, I like to choose one word to focus on for the year. One year it was authenticity; one year it was resilience. This year I decided upon discernment. I really like that word. To me, it means problem solving in a calm and unhurried manner. It aligns with mindfulness and intention. And I knew this year would be one where I would need to make some difficult and very intentional decisions. 2020 began and quickly threw the world for a loop; pretty early in the year, I realized that my word should change. It had changed. Thus, discernment morphed into connection.
In March, I began to get outside and walk with friends. I did this for sanity, health, an excuse to leave my house, human contact. Connection. And for a while during this crazy, global pandemic, I had a pretty good walking streak going. 65 days without pause. 65 days of tying my shoes, meeting my friends in the cul de sac, and hitting the side trail where we could space and be together. During this time, I was experiencing a personal trauma. I was losing my sweet daughter to cancer. So this walking, this connection with a small group of neighbors and friends, carried me through a difficult time.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve experimented with different ways to connect to friends and family. Zoom. FaceTime. Google Meet. You all know the drill. Though it’s not the same as in person contact, the purpose is the same — connection. It is good to talk to loved ones, hear their voices, see their facial expressions. I’ve zoomed with high school girl friends, my family, book clubs, church moms and more. These virtual sessions have sustained me. For me, being with people, even virtually, fills me up and keeps me going.
This year, I have also been lucky enough to get to connect at work. I teach at a Pre-K – 4th grade elementary school, and we are in person with kids. Yes, there have been adaptations. I’m masked. The students are masked. We distance. We check temps upon arriving at school. But folks, I am IN PERSON with kids doing what I do! (I teach library and computer.) I get to work with my teacher-friends and teach and laugh and learn and be with people. And though teaching during this pandemic is both physically and emotionally challenging, I’m just so grateful to be connected to my students, their families and my co-workers. My connection at work is a gift.
Aside from being a teacher, I’m an outgoing human – an extrovert. I like and need people. This global pandemic helps remind me of the importance of connecting with people. My husband and I have hosted many small, outdoor gatherings, even when the temperature outside dropped, just to be around our friends. We’ve watched movies on our patio, huddled by fire pits, hit up some restaurants that feature outdoor eating areas just to be with our people. Again, connection.
In so many ways, this pandemic has affected us all. We’ve all struggled, and we’ve all learned a wealth of lessons. Like the rest of the world, I’m ready to go back to “normal.” And yet, I hope we don’t forget the lessons of 2020. I hope we remember to get outside, as Covid has forced us to do. I hope we remember how much we missed hugs and to disperse these freely once we can safely do so. I hope we remember that we humans are built for connection, companionship, contact. And I hope we continue to reach out to the people around us.
Meanwhile, as we embark upon a new year, I encourage you all to think about 2021. What will the year bring? What will we learn? And what will our new word be? What is the one word that will capture our intentions for a new, hopefully better, year? I look forward to finding that just-right word.