2019 was not a year beloved by many.

Have we ever been more ready for a new year, let alone a new decade? Millions of us hold the hope for better things ahead. 

That’s not a typo up there. It’s the entirety of a draft from last year. ( See, I meant to post.)

I’m dusting it off now because I love irony. We thought 2019 was bad.

We had no idea what 2020 would look like. Wildfires, a pandemic and accompanying economic pain, an unhinged election year, a resurgence of open white supremacy…the big picture is grim. The news was so bad, and disasters, both manmade and natural, piled up so quickly that our attention shifted before we could properly absorb the last bad thing.

And yet. Our air and water quality improved world wide as a result of the shutdowns. Wildlife got a break from human encroachment on the environment. Humans, at least the lucky ones, were given an opportunity to slow down, reconsider, and revise their routines. The election cycle ended, and the guy with experience and a commitment to democratic norms won by a decisive margin.

And yet again. Appalling numbers of humans reject science and continue in their old habits, maskless, putting the rest of us, especially those who have no choice but to work, at risk of illness or death. A new, more contagious, strain of the virus has been identified in at least two states. Our leading expert in infectious disease warns us that this January will be worse than what we have seen so far.  “So far” is over 3,000 deaths per day. Our own government abandons us to stay afloat as best we can, ignoring the successful examples of other countries. For the first time in US history, the incumbent president (who pardons war criminals and co-conspirators, while ratcheting up federal executions of other prisoners) flatly rejects the results of an election, and demands support from his party. His heavily armed supporters, apparently ignorant of the way our system works, seem eager to engage in violence on his behalf. QAnon is a thing. People have lost their damn minds.

It’s a very good time to shelter in place. January 1, 2021. Nothing guaranteed but a new number on the calendar. Catastrophic climate change, deadly disease, a possible coup or civil insurrection. How trivial it seems to be pondering tweaking my exercise routine, home improvement projects, or what else to eat today besides Hoppin’ John and greens. But what else is to be done besides hunkering down, staying out of the way, and keeping a wary eye on the outside world?

Focus on what I can control- my mental and physical health and my immediate environment. The trivial things turn out to be critically important; all of those squirrel pictures I took from my window last spring kept  my mind off of the fact that I was trapped at home, and unable to visit my husband in the hospital. He’s home, and fine now, but he went in abruptly, and until it was over we did not know it would be 10 long days. Squirrels, long phone calls with friends, and painting the hall baseboards got me through  it.

We who have survived 2020 have no choice but to keep going. This year will be bad, but it will also be good. It’s up to us. Except for when it’s not.