“I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have.”
I reposted this quote from The Chalkboard a few months ago. It hit me, but it didn’t really hit me. There’s so much speed and so little processing when it comes to social media. Major lessons become minor blips. The endless scroll is an endless temptation, but life has a way of bringing lessons back around, sometimes in the form of a gut punch. Let’s be real – very frequently in the form of a gut punch.
As the holidays loomed, I felt that gut punch. I found myself mourning my past relationship, even while celebrating a new one. Human emotions are complex and anything but neat and linear. I felt the insecurity of jealousy, of failed expectations, and the loss of all the peripheral relationships – siblings, parents, grandparents.
Then, I found myself on a rather impromptu trip to Thomas, West Virginia. It’s a beautiful mountain town with a strong sense of community and creativity. Our host invited us to an intimate gathering to celebrate the Winter Solstice, where luminaries glowed in the snowy hillside, and kindred spirits gathered around a fire pit to “kill their darlings.”
I wrote my “darlings” on a snowy piece of paper, the watery ink manifesting what I wanted to leave behind. As the negative feelings burned in the embers, and the celebrations continued, I really did begin to appreciate everything I have. I had fixated on how my choices led to loss and missed how my choices opened the doors to gain.
When the pandemic demanded isolation, I found new parts of myself. I found more quiet contentment and a deeper companionship with my sweet girl, Julep. I found a slow and patient appreciation for nature while simultaneously trusting more in my body to be a part of nature. I walked and hiked miles and miles. I swam in a flowing gorge. I stretched and danced into a healthier version of myself. I pushed my kitchen resourcefulness, and eating alone made me later appreciate eating with others all the more.
It’s easy to look back at the big picture of this year and slip into societal standards. This wasn’t a resume-building year. I didn’t walk away with a bulleted list of tangible accomplishments, but I’m immensely proud of myself this year. I am someone who is learning to speak for myself. I am someone who shows up for my people. Above all, I am someone who appreciates everything I have.
Looking Back on 2020: Quiet Times & Deep Connections
I hustled to put the finishing touches on so many apartment projects, so I could have a fresh start to the year. Julep will take you on the full apartment tour.
Prioritized setting dates with friends and reconnecting. Celebrated my birthday with a ridiculously fun roller skating party. Carried the baton of my mini birthday-cake tradition.
Read More: 36 cakes for 36 years
Co-hosted a maker fair at Ace Hotel right before the world closed down. Invested in a few meaningful pieces from our vendors. Made a choice to have dinner with friends in spite of exhaustion after all the maker fair logistics – one of my last shared meals before COVID changed everything. Looking back, this time reminds me not to shy away from moments of connection because we never truly know if we’ll have another chance. One week later, we were all ordered to shelter in place, and our lives changed forever.
Slowing way down. Embracing simplicity and the slow transition to spring. Committing to work my way through The Artist’s Way and celebrating the one year anniversary of my first-born, The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook.
Read More: Practicing Creativity with The Artist’s Way
Read More: On Seasons and Looking Back on Spring
Read More: The Making of My Cookbook (My Book is One!)
Leaned into and sat with my loneliness. Sought joy in tiny moments like setting the table for myself or figuring out new ways to bake for others. Appreciated and nurtured the importance of my chosen family all the more, especially after a very special [platonic] doughnut proposal arrived at my door.
Read More: A Whole Grain Peach Emoji Pie for Annie
A friendship-solidifying trip to Marlene’s hometown of Ithaca, NY. Hiked for the best vertical views of the iconic gorges, attended outdoor wine tastings, swam at the local watering hole, made epic brunch boards, and partook in the South African grilling tradition called a Braai. Started a monthly herbalism class called The Alchemy Path with Alison Garber of Land Spirits. Fostered a growing spiritual practice – an unexpected journey that emerged during the pandemic.
Read More: Visit The Ithaca Farmer’s Market
Read More: A South African Inspired Braai
Said “yes” to summer as often as possible, and in the course of the many “yeses,” I met Dylan. Established a friendship that blossomed and deepened as the summer continued. Plenty of hikes, long walks, and adventures to Lake Erie. Birthdays, grills, piñatas, and fireworks.
Disconnected so as to connect with my family to surprise my dad for his 80th birthday! Cornfields, country drives, cheese boards, lake trips, and smoking meats. Long hikes. Many a picnic.
Another friendship-solidifying trip with my “pod,” aka The Dondolos. Basked in the warm weather of Stone Harbor & Cape May, NJ. Made my Wildwood boardwalk matching sweatshirt dreams come true.
Read More: An Epic Seafood Boil in Stone Harbor, NJ
October – November Highlights
Friendsgiving, Friendsgiving, and more Friendsgiving. A constantly warm oven. Plans changed many times, but above all, it was a fulfilling month of finding more ways to connect and cherish the season.
Forged so many new traditions. Chrimukkah. A gift exchange, a trip to Thomas, WV to say goodbye [for now] to Dylan, the heartbreaking loss of Honey the dog, a white Christmas, letting go to lean into cozy times with friends. And a very sparkly New Year!
Read More: A Memorial for Honey
Thank you for joining me on these journeys. Thank you for your comments and conversations along the way. This year has filled me with immense gratitude for everything I have, and the friendships I share. May we all remember the hard-earned lessons of 2020.
Here’s wishing you a belated but bountiful 2021!