January 1, 2021 by 8junebugs
1. What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?
This is this year I became a solo sculler…of necessity, not by choice, but if there’s one constant in my life, it’s that rowing will teach me what I need, whether I want to learn it or not.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Well, I did say I’d be fearless. What I didn’t realize was that managing uncertainty and anxiety in the face of a global pandemic would be characterized as fear by half of my nation’s citizens.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A longtime teammate became a dad and it was the sweetest thing to see.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. But the way this pandemic has been managed, I’ve just been very fortunate.
5. What places did you visit?
Gardnerville, also of necessity. And Arnold, first with another family from our preschool village, then to get the boys out in the lake while Graham did some estate stuff.
6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?
Nope. I’m not touching this one with a 30,000-foot pole.
All right, fine. I’d like to regain the ability and desire to plan, even in uncertainty. I was pretty good at this—I like to make a plan to feel secure; I am more confident shifting a plan than flying completely by the seat of my pants. This year has broken that down quite a lot…and although I can fly by the seat of my pants successfully for a while, it doesn’t serve me well for long.
7. What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
These are etched more for what didn’t happen than for what did: Last practice on the Estuary, last erg with the team, missed regattas and vacations…
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
We kept our family safe from a global pandemic. In the long run, that’s probably the most important one, but it’s also not really the achievement of one year. Having the resources and stability to keep us safe, healthy, and reasonably sane is the result of a lot of other years of work.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Looking back over this year, there have been a lot of things I wish had gone differently, but…here’s the thing: I’m not taking the hit. I fought for more than six months to get Grayson’s doctors to finally treat the anxiety that caused behavior issues at school. I gave a project manager everything he needed for a meeting he insisted on having without me, then played clean-up for months because he couldn’t keep the details straight, even with an annotated spreadsheet.
A lot of things went a little squirrely this year, is what I’m saying, but I’m over feeling guilty for things not entirely within my control.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope. Hunkering down for the pandemic actually kept all of us healthier than we’ve been in years.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
A BPRC membership. For $200 and a couple of check-in lessons with one of my former coaches, I was able to roll into solo sculling in June and have a safely distanced place to get the kids outdoors and on the water. New memberships everywhere are on hold, so that was good timing.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Two things have kept me sane: Extreme flexibility at work (for everyone, no exceptions) and staying connected to my crew. There are people behind all of that.
Our CEO and staff really nailed their response to COVID-19, sending us all home immediately, outfitting thousands of unexpected home offices, rolling out additional paid leave options and company-wide “holidays,” engaging support services to help us manage. I have yet to hear of a company that’s managed it better. And my direct boss and team are phenomenal; although I’ve built a lot of meaningful friendships throughout my career, this is where I am, as they say, my authentic self. Every day. I know how uncommon that is and it makes a huge difference.
I knew—I’ve always known—that my teammates had my back on and off the water. They’ve lifted me up through so much over the years and this one is no exception. It started in WhatsApp and built out to morning Zoom workouts that ramped up almost immediately and went on, voluntarily, for nine months until we went back into lockdown and the coaches took on some of the work. There were distanced visits and bike rides and hikes and movie nights and cookie deliveries and cards and…
You know what? It also meant we were still connected when two teammates got engaged (to their respective partners), and then one got married, and we could all celebrate together, if apart. Who doesn’t need something to celebrate in the midst of all this?
I can row with anyone, but my heart belongs to my EBRC Competitive Women.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
74,223,744 Americans and anyone who refuses to believe in science, care about their communities even when it’s inconvenient, or acknowledge that their world isn’t THE world.
I recognize there’s a lot of overlap in that Venn diagram, but there are folks on my side of the political milieu who are still missing the goddamned point.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Costco and Harborside, probably. We blew the doors off the self-numbing budget.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
We’re SO CLOSE to being a diaper-free family!
16. What song will always remind you of 2020?
“Hard Love” by NEED TO BREATHE. It was my 2019 rowing theme and…it just continues to apply to all the things.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Pretty fucking ambivalent, if you want to know the truth.
b) thinner or fatter? A little fatter now. I was maintaining for a while and #14 started to catch up with me.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, but for crappy reasons.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Everything. Anything. But any racing at all would’ve been awesome. (Racing an old grammar school pal to 100k on the erg in May doesn’t count and it should’ve been more of a blowout.)
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Sitting. Hunching. Scowling at a screen. Micro-managing IEP shit.
20. How did you spend Christmas in 2020?
Our tradition is COVID-compliant—we already stay home. This year my dad and his wife Zoomed in for Christmas morning, which was nice, and we spent the afternoon delivering some cookies. It’s hard to emphasize the “giving” part of Christmas with how shopping works now and this year made it even harder, so we tried something new.
Next year, I’ll be able to plan that better.
21. Did you fall in love in 2020?
A little bit. Solo sculling feels a little co-dependent, though.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
To reiterate something I posted to Facebook a while ago, Discovery is not only good Trek, but also very much the Trek we all need right now. It’s left me in tears repeatedly and the characters and storylines will save lives. Real ones.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2020?
I finally got out in a 1x on my birthday. FINALLY.
24. What was the best book you read?
It’s a short list this year, but I’m leaning toward “How to Find Love in a Bookshop,” mostly because it was so lovely and cozy that I read it in a day. “Untamed” was also a wild ride through a similar subsconscious.
I have a better prepared reading list for next year. I really need more page-turners in my life.
25. What did you want and get?
Recognition at work. Confidence in a 1x and following on that, my own oars.
26. What did you want and not get?
A trip to New England and more racing. <—Well, that held up. Also, appropriate school support for my kid.
27. What was your favorite film of this year?
“A Most Beautiful Thing.” Arshay Cooper wants to teach the world to row and I am here for it.
28. Did you make some new friends this year?
Nope. Okay, maybe a few, but I think it’s more likely I made a few enemies by advocating nonstop for my kid in a time when, let’s be frank, my bright and privileged but still SpEd kid isn’t at the top of anyone’s list.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Living in a country where people believed in supporting their communities as a cultural construct, not an individual virtue signal. If you’d rather give individually to someone’s medical crisis GoFundMe than prioritize universal healthcare so we wouldn’t need them, I don’t even know what to say to you anymore. No one’s health and safety should be up to whether I remember to click on a public request they’ve had to swallow their pride to make.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?
Honestly, as a long-time remote worker, it’s been a delight to see my personal fashion preferences reflected in so many Zoom windows. Gym Rat Couture for all!
31. What kept you sane?
Perennial answer: Crew.
Baking helped, too. I’ve got some killer cookie recipes down.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Dolly Parton did more to speed up a COVID-19 vaccine than every useless, self-serving Congressional jackass now cutting the line to ensure they’re protected from the virus they downplayed and let kill ~~checks latest and still inadequate data~~ approximately 1 in 1,000 Americans.
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
This question seems grossly inadequate this year. However, let me just say that having Kamala Harris packing up for Number One Observatory Circle fills me with joy and pride.
34. Whom did you miss?
Everyone. Well, more or less.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.
I’m going to hijack something an acquaintance posted from a dating profile she saw: I have learned to be peaceful and confident in my power.
Everyone is tired, I think, of me recommending Elizabeth Moon’s “The Deed of Paksenarrion” books, but I’ve read them countless times and I kept coming back to these quotes this year:
“She had built against that fear a vision of power not wholly selfish—power to protect not only herself, but others. And that vision—however partial it had been in those days—was worth following. For it led not away from the fear, as a dream of rule might do, but back into it. The pattern of her life—as she saw it then, clear and far away and painted in bright colors—the pattern of her life was like an intricate song, or the way the Kuakgan talked of the grove’s interlacing trees. There below were the dream’s roots, tangled in fear and despair, nourished in the death of friends, the bones of the strong, the blood of the living, and there high above were the dream’s images, bright in the sun like banners or the flowering trees of spring. And to be that banner, or that flowering branch, meant being nourished by the same fears: meant encompassing them, not rejecting them.”
“Courage is not something you have, like a sum of money, more or less in a pouch—it cannot be lost, like money spilling out. Courage is inherent in all creatures; it is the quality that keeps them alive, because they endure. It is courage…that splits the acorn and sends the rootlet down into soil to search for sustenance. You can damage the creature, yes, and it may die of it, but as long as it lives and endures, each living part has as much courage as it can hold.“
“Not free of pain, nor free of fear, but free of the need to react to that fear in all the old ways. She had no anger left, no hatred, no desire for vengeance, nothing but pity for those who must find such vile amusements, who had no better hope, or no courage to withdraw.”
I haven’t quite achieved “nothing but pity,” but I’m working on it.
What’s this year’s word?
I didn’t even know where to start with selecting a word for this year, until I did.
We had a rough day. Grayson is a bit off-kilter and the shift back to a school-friendly set of limits on his favorite things is bugging the hell out of him. He let me know it—when we wrote out our items for the 2020 Bad Stuff Bonfire (a tradition begun after 2019 went to hell and stayed there), he wrote “Mama” down as something he’d like to leave behind in the fire.
If you’ve never had an already intense kid who’s dealing with anxiety and PTSD, this probably made your heart skip a beat. It sure as hell did mine. When pressed, my 7yo said, “What? You’ve made this year really hard.” And from his perspective, that’s pretty true. He did back away from it eventually, but between writing our Fuck Off 2020 notes (my term, not family term) and actually building the fire in the grill, I needed to blow off some steam, so I got on the erg. There’s nothing like 5k with your feet out to clear your head, to keep you connected at the finish.
And there it was. Connection to the water. Connection to my crew. Connection to my family and my friends.
There have been a few moments this year where I did something and someone on the other end of that something let me know how much it meant. Maybe, when we can’t hug each other, we just have to put more words around how we feel, but it’s been different this year. And, much as losing Grand years ago taught some of us not to get off the phone without saying “I love you” to each other (because you just never know, right?), I’m going to let 2020 teach me to just do the damn thing. Tell someone when I think they’re amazing, send the card, drop off the gift…just embrace the impulse, however goofy, to let someone know they matter to me.