Sunday, December 10, 2023 -
Print Edition

2020: Was it a waste?

As we stand and face the waning days of this historic year 2020, so many thoughts compete in my mind.

Certainly there have been the humorous dimensions of coping with this new COVID life that abruptly landed at our feet, shattering our world as we knew it

Who remembers the toilet paper memes?

What about the game of tailoring classic book titles to our new reality or to coping with quarantine, such as “The Old Man and The CDC.” Try it — it’s fun!

But . . . quarantine! A word out of the Middle Ages has entered our lives, and in casual normative reference.

So much new phraseology and nuanced dialogue centered around unusual logistics — had we spoken of them in 2019, anyone who heard us would have deemed us crazy.

But it was 2020. And in the world of 2020, so much of life reduced many of our previous behaviors, habits and even conversations and words to altered, new meanings and new ways of navigating a new world.

There has been so much heartbreak. Little children, whom you always try to protect as long as possible from having contact with mortality — collectively, that bubble was ripped open, exposing them to so much about life that you’d normally want to pass down in careful thought and emotional sensitivity. This generation’s formative years have been the experience of COVID, no doubt forging who they are, reaping many lessons we or they might not know or understand until far into the future.

Yet, instead of becoming paralyzed in place, we have witnessed the power of adapting to something as huge and unexpected as COVID.

There have been so many lessons we’ve all learned. So many moments we each had to dig deep inside and learn to rise to challenges never navigated before.

We’ve met our truest selves in hours of great loneliness, pain and uncertainty.

We’ve overcome many situations that, had someone mentioned a year ago, we would have balked and thought the person crazy.

Well, here we are.

Or were, rather.

2020 is behind us.

We have all been tested in so many ways. Emotionally, mentally, ethically, spiritually, psychologically, interpersonally.

I think the metaphor of the storm resonated with us all. I came across this: “We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes, and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whomever you can.”

I’ve heard people say what a waste 2020 was and we need a do-over. But was it a waste? What is the metric of a productive, fruitful year? Is it only in times of ease that life doesn’t feel like a waste? In life we reap what we sow, and the greatest challenge is to sow good even in times of bad. This is one of the lessons we shall carry as life continues into a hopefully blessed time when COVID of 2020 will seem but a dim memory.

To be sure, there are scars. Everyone has weathered some COVID-related life change; it is different for each of us.

For those who succumbed to COVID and for people who lost loved ones, there are no words. 2020 will forever be qualitatively different for the bereaved families and friends than for everyone else. Their heartbreaking bereavement, compounded and deepened by the isolation of that bereavement, is crushing, something always remembered.

But for all, coping with COVID was inescapable. It was the centerpiece of this past year, the defining structure to everything else that might have been transpiring.

There will be some COVID-related dimensions of our lives that we can’t wait to shed. And there will be some lessons learned or changes we made that we will welcome and try to carry forward.

This has tested all of us in ways we could not have imagined.

We stand at the cusp of a new calendar year. We will harness the power of this pandemic into renewing 2021 as hopefully a better, kinder, more compassionate world.

Copyright © 2021 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

Leave a Reply