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What's Behind Us and Before Us

Three years ago, I started making a vision board between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Quite frankly, I had considered it to be part of my cancer treatment since imagining myself to be whole and healthy again had become a regular ritual. I set about cutting out motivating images, positive affirmations, and healing slogans from the magazines I had stockpiled and glued them onto a small poster board; then, I placed it in my closet where I would be sure to see it on a daily basis.

Yes, I know, it might have seemed more like a rather juvenile craft project than a form of therapy, but it gave me something encouraging to focus on at a time when it would have been far too easy to envision the negative prospects of the months ahead. At that moment, I needed rainbows and unicorns, sprinkled with fairy dust, even if I had to make it myself. And interesting enough, those boards have been rather inspiring, encouraging me to think that no dream is too big, no goal unattainable.

I look at the one I created last December with a bit of 20/20 hindsight. (That's pretty Ironic, and an appropriate pun, right?) I saw so many possibilities on the eve of this tumultuous year. I am pretty sure that you did, too. None of us could have imagined that these twelve months would feel like living in a bad movie, one with a convoluted plot,. And while some of us fared better than others, all of us were affected by the threat of Covid-19 (Corona, a deadly virus with the same name as a Mexican beer). Who could have predicted that just a few months into 2020, we would be on lockdown, that tumble weed could have rolled down the middle of Main Street in Anytown, USA and nobody would have been there to witness it? Even the bright lights on Broadway were extinguished. As businesses were closed, jobs were lost, and sadly, so were people. The talking heads pointed fingers, while the nation mourned. It has been an unsettling time. And who among us might have foreseen the collective distrust, racial unrest and senseless violence, the severed relationships as folks argued over whose lives mattered the most? Who anticipated the lines drawn in the sand over philosophical and political differences, where censored social media became a battleground instead of a place to connect? I don’t think any of us expected a challenging year like this one.

But quite frankly, we weren’t meant to have a crystal ball view into the future, to see into tomorrow and know what is to come. That’s probably a good thing, since there would always be folks hell-bent on changing things and making a big mess in the process. Life is meant to be lived one moment at a time, and like it or not, we are supposed to accept the bad times along with the good. We tend to rage against that. Sure, we are all looking for joy, but it really is a temporary state, a place you get to visit from time to time if you are lucky. And who knows: maybe if we were always happy, it wouldn’t mean as much. Sometimes, life is difficult. It just is.

This year has turned many of us into arm-folding pessimists, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is in our nature, I suppose, that we tend to focus on what we expect to happen rather than what we want to happen. And because we have been conditioned to think the worst, that sometimes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a terrible way to live both as individuals and as a society. Truth be told, the natural state of being human is messy, and it can’t be solved like some math problem. That means that there are no right or wrong answers either. I kind of like that part.

It is interesting to watch the tide of public opinion change like the weather in spring. I have often wondered what influences those sweeping modifications in peoples' perceptions? Is there some magic formula to turn around the way we reason? Who knows? But if we want to move forward as a nation, we must. What if we created a collective shift-in-thinking? What if we considered what we wanted our world to look like instead of what we hoped to avoid? What if we craved peace and love and happiness, refusing to accept hatred and strife? What if we shed our need to be right? What if we all embraced tomorrow, confident that we might make it better than today? It could happen, of course, but is up to each of us to "be the change."

I guess I tend to become hopelessly idealistic on the eve of a brand new year. The chance to begin again when the clock strikes midnight is appealing to me. Besides, a big dose of optimism can’t hurt. I keep the faith, always. There is comfort there, and I have needed it this year more than any other. Haven’t we all?

We have been given the right to choose how we think and how we act and what we accept as true. I choose to believe in better days to come. Powerlessness is the opposite of hope. But like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, all we have to do it click our heels and believe. You see, we, too, had the power all along. We just have to remember that. I have held onto those old vision boards , but I think I am going to toss them. Those were yesterday's dreams, and I have new ones to imagine. I hope that you do, too. So now, I am off to pour myself a glass of wine and do a little cutting and pasting. 2021 is going to be an amazing year. I just know it!

Happy New Year, my friends.

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