While its certainly convenient now during the fourth quarter to recall my childlike enthusiasm for 2020 within the first fourteen days of January, I find that I’m at a place where I need to take stock. There is no apt way to put emotions or logic into a neat little box, or pack them into tidy paragraphs. What has happened has happened and, like most everyone on the planet, I mentally toil with how to move forward.
As though I’d slammed a full pot of high-octane coffee a few days after the start of the year, I was bouncing with an anticipation that I’ve rarely felt in my 52 years. Each morning I’d wake up with a curiosity that coursed through my body. I was hyper. I felt that something was going to happen, for good or for bad. Several times I turned to my wife, whether it was when making the bed or after a long day of work, and told her, “I’m sure of it.”
We have been married 26 years and I’ve reached that point in which I have lived with her in my life longer than I have without. She knows me. She was confident in my confidence about an impending reveal in our lives. As January came and went, with news from overseas steadily picking up on its coverage of the coronavirus, we continued to grind through our day-to-day, with one eye towards what might unfold with this premonition of mine. Our three cats continued running their Olympic games through our bedroom at odd hours of the night and all remained normal.
There are times in which we find that hindsight is seductive, that the lure of looking backwards is (ultimately) a trap. We reassure ourselves with such statements of, “I should have seen this coming” or “Well sure, all the signs were there and I should’ve seen them.” Our vision is sometimes at its sharpest when we have the luxury of days gone by to bring moments into focus. I find myself questioning why I didn’t pay more attention to the media reports about China or how I could’ve been so flippant at the end of February by jokingly greeting some friends with the “Wuhan Shake.”
The world shook on March 13. My body became sore as all that energy I’d been harnessing abruptly left. My mind sat with an unfamiliar and unwelcomed numbness. As I entered the pandemic, I wondered when I’d exit. From then until now, my life has been filled with asterisks. *
A definition of “asterisk” that I have adopted is, “to stand for omitted matter.” The sporting events I was to work, the vacations I was to travel, the friends I had planned to see, and the champagne I was looking forward to drinking are all events didn’t happen in 2020. They receive an asterisk (Admittedly, the definition of “asterisk” that I use is not being applied in the correct and traditional way. Nothing about 2020 has been correct or traditional, so I trust you’ll look the other way as I take creative license with the word).
When we look back on our lives, when we mark a year that was filled with deprivation and invasion-without-mercy, many of us will assign an asterisk to our “supposed to’s” and “should’ve’s.” This will be a year which we reflect in our own personal ways. The pain, the disappointment, the sadness, and the minutes that turned to months will be wrestled with through the unabating struggle. Perhaps, we will be empathetic towards one another as the dark moments continue to stand within the doorways of our homes. With hope, we will be kind to our neighbors, not just the ones next door, but also those who we don’t even know. Possibly, we will stand together and unite for a common goal.
It would’ve been an amazing treat if what I had been in experiencing in January had shown itself as “for good” instead of as “for bad.” And yet, those feelings in those first three months have been replaced by a sincere nod of gratitude be. To able to move through 2020 with my wife and our three cats makes me thankful and blessed. Asterisks be damned.
* all our lives have been interrupted, not just mine.