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A therapist friend of mine often says “just another flipping growth experience!” when life throws challenges at her. Well, she uses a different “f” word, but you get the idea. Her words always pop into my mind when things get tough – and as far as tough goes, this year wins hands down over any other year.

I do believe that we are on the planet to learn and grow. We can choose how we respond to hard times, and hopefully, we will learn from our experiences, at least most of the time. 2020 has not been short of lessons for all of us. I thought I’d share some of mine as this year comes to a close.

I’m more resilient than I gave myself credit for. I’ve always felt that I have led a pretty charmed life. Of course I’ve experienced challenges and loss. None of us can escape that. But I have never experienced anything close to the relentless stress of this year. The lack of human contact, the constant anxiety and fear, the unabated onslaught of bad news – some days, it took all I had just to get through the day. But somehow, I made it this far, and picked up a few new coping mechanisms along the way.

Alone does not have to mean lonely. I’ve been on my own for a very long time, I’m a strong introvert, and I love my independence, but this year has kicked my butt with a lot more time to myself than even I need. But much to my surprise, I still rarely felt lonely. Of course, having Allegra’s loving presence makes all the difference, as does staying connected to friends in various ways, including socially distanced outdoor visits with two or three local friends (one at a time.) I’m grateful that I know how to be alone without feeling lonely.

The present moment is all we have. This is certainly not a new lesson, but if ever there was a year to hammer this message home, 2020 was it. In the spring, we all thought surely things would be better by summer. Over the summer, we thought surely we would have a normal holiday season. I don’t know about you, but I’ve given up on trying to plan anything, because none of us know what trajectory this pandemic will take. But right now, in this moment, I’m okay. And that’s all I need to know.

And this brings me to what for me has been the biggest lesson of 2020:

I will never take anything for granted again.

Who would have thought that simple things like going to the grocery store, the movies, a concert, or a restaurant with someone you don’t live with would be fraught with risk, if not impossible?

I’ve had my groceries delivered since March. I can’t even remember the last movie I saw at a theater. The last concert I saw was in February. I  miss live music so much. The last time I was in a restaurant with a friend was March 8. I used to eat out several times a week in the “before times.” I can’t wait until it feels safe again to resume all of these activities – and I have to believe it will be safe again. Maybe not anytime soon, but some day. And when it is, I will give thanks and hopefully never take such seemingly small things for granted again.

I’d love to hear from you. As you look back over 2020, what were some of the lessons you learned?

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