I get it. Most of us want to say a big fuck you to 2020.
Others got a puppy, and it wasn’t the worst year of their lives.
2020 wasn’t the year any of us expected, and maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe we need to say fuck you to our expectations and the idea that we have as much control as we think we do.
“Disappointment requires adequate planning.” –Richard Bandler
I’m probably preaching to the choir, because part of the gut-punch of an MS diagnosis is getting over the expectation of how you thought the rest of your life was going to be (not just the next year), and then figuring out how to pivot, and reinvent, and live your best life anyway. My life with MS is hard. Full stop. But, one of the best surprises of the past 20 years was discovering how much joy MS wasn’t able to steal from me.
Living without expectations means being open-minded; being receptive to uncertainty, surprise, and wonder. It means going with the flow. Shit is going to happen whether we like it or not. Life is easier when decide we can roll with it, rather than be rolled over by it.
For me, living without expectations means making an effort to believe that, despite MS, all my best days aren’t behind me.
As much as most of us want 2020 to die already, remember that we all wanted to torch 2019 too. Even in the best of times, we don’t always recognize what’s good about our lives until it’s missing. As we flip the calendar and embrace a fresh start, the sobering reality is that in 2021 the proverbial slate won’t be wiped clean. The worst of what 2020 wrought isn’t over.
I’m not convinced we’ve earned our 2021, but time marches on whether we’re ready or not. Yes, there is light ahead (way ahead), but there’s still hard work to do. There will be more restrictions, more confinement, more death well into 2021.
Nobody could have predicted what happened in 2020 (okay, Bill Gates, kinda predicted it). 2020 was a startling reminder that the unimaginable is possible. And if you don’t trust Gates and his doomsday prophecies, why not listen to an even bigger nerd–like 17th century super-scientist Sir Isaac Newton. This dude LIVED THROUGH BUBONIC PLAGUE, and proved that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Ergo, if a bunch of catastrophic, earth-shattering shit can go down, it must also be true that some wildly positive, if equally unfathomable things are possible.
According to Newton, we must accept the prospect that dogs can talk, Miss Vickie’s chips cure hiccups, Mindy Kaling and I are besties, and everything’s free at Sephora on my birthday. That’s science.
I’m heading into 2021 embracing uncertainty and being open to possibility, without succumbing to the pressure to have a happy new year. I mean, the bar is pretty low for 2021 to impress me; but, who am I to say that I know my future and that it gets worse or better? The only plans I’m interested in making right now are little ones. Which book I’ll read next, what kind of cocktail I’ll sip tonight, which track pants I’ll wear to the living room. (Spoiler: the ones I slept in.) There’s something liberating about not having to think about a 5-year plan, or even a 5-month plan right now.
The lesson of 2020 is one that those of us with MS already know: we can do hard things. As we move into 2021, let us think about the little things we can influence like our outlook and our efforts to keep each other safe. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Find joy in small things.
The pressure to have a ‘happy ’ new year feels a little ambitious right now, and even a little weird to say in the middle of a global pandemic. So, instead, I wish you a peaceful, safe, and healing new year; a 2021 that leaves room for the possibility of wonderful things we haven’t even imagined yet. Let’s hunker down and get cozy; it’s going to be a long winter.