Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021!


Goodbye 2020.  HELLO 2021.  This is how I'm feeling as I'm ready to begin a New Year--a year of health, tranquility, and peace of mind.

2020 was a year of anxiety, grief, and sadness.  We lost both my mother-in-law (Ninny) and my great aunt (Aunty Kiki) to Cancer, which led to many days of tears and regret.  Regret as in why didn't we invite Ninny to more pool parties, or why didn't we ask Aunty Kiki to come on vacations, like Woodloch, with us?  Still, when I give myself the opportunity to take a step back and examine the "why," I realize it wasn't a "one-way" street.  Sometimes I did extend invitations, but it was my relatives that lacked the time...

Anxiety came in many forms this year, too. First and foremost, I was worried about contracting COVID and bringing it back to my mom (something that still worries me); I was also worried for other compromised friends and family members.  My sister-in-law actually had it and was hospitalized.  At that point, the disease became very, very real.  One night in August I lied awake in bed having a panic attack because I thought I had actually caught it and gave it to my mom; we were both feeling cold and flu-like symptoms during the summer!

Fear took hold in other ways, too.  Was Lewie going to struggle with distance learning?  Was his fifth and sixth grade education going to be compromised?  Was he going to feel isolated and alone because he wasn't allowed to have friends visit or sleep-over the house?  

Also, what about job security?  Would we see a cut in our salaries or be asked to take a furlough?  Would my mom be forced to file for unemployment and then have to retire early?  Would her friends at work miss her?  Would she feel just as isolated and alone as Little Lewie?

Then, of course, there was discord on the national front.  Devastating fires and hurricanes, police brutality caught on camera, riots, hate groups, militias, political divisiveness etc.  I could continue, but why?  

Unfortunately, 2021 will have some of 2020's baggage.  There will be more deaths to COVID, more political unrest, more unemployment, more bankrupt businesses, etc.  Our hope and faith will be tested, for sure, but there's a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Perhaps the most profound moment of 2020 is when I participated in a neuroscience webinar about emotional adaptability.  I'm not a psychologist, so this was a beginners' version.  It taught me a lot about the brain and how we think; our brains are actually wired to have negative thoughts (as a means of survival).  Eighty percent of all our daily thoughts are negative and 95% of those negative thoughts are the same ones we had the day before.  

Surely, we can't change our brain chemistry, but knowing this is all the more reason for us to pay attention to "mindfulness"--"a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment," including "one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations."  Being aware of our negative thought patterns is half the battle--the second part is to try and change the narrative.

This year, my one resolution involves changing the narrative.  I spent so much time worrying in 2020 that it negated the good times, such as adopting our puppy, Bruce; watching Lewie excel at distance learning and be named the first "virtual" Student of the Month; enjoying family dinners and game nights; and having more time to walk, reflect, and be in the moment (instead of making the mad dash to and from work each day).

Mindfulness is not going to change the fact that my brain, like everyone else's, will still continue to produce 80% negative thoughts, but those thoughts can be stopped and redirected to be happier ones.  This year, I will redirect my fear and worry and redirect all the negative self-talk that tells me I'm 1) too tired to do anything, 2) too unorganized, 3) too old, or 4) too boring.  I'll also try to stop the phrase that repeats itself in my head over and over again, "There's not enough time."  

What if this year, I started saying, "There's plenty of time" or "I will find the time?"  What if I used the words energized, organized, young, and fun in my vocabulary to counter the other words?  It won't be easy as our brains like to hold onto predictable patterns, but my mantra this year is Energy, Organized, and Fun.  If I believe it, then it becomes truth, right?

Above all else, I will remind myself to let go of fear.  Fear is part of our brain chemistry (found in all animals) that is used to keep us safe, but when left unchecked, it festers.  It turns to worry, stress, anger, and even hate.  It prevents us from living in the moment, from seeking adventure, or even from bettering ourselves.  This year, I will turn the life lessons of fear, anxiety, and regret in 2020 to start a new beginning and a new narrative.


  1. Fear and anxiety were certainly rampant this year. That's why I'm thinking my word for 2021 should be Hope.

    1. Hope is the perfect word, Dara. Let's hope for a bright 2021--whenever there's a tomorrow, there is hope.


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