Yesterday, as I pondered topics for my thought article for this month’s newsletter, one of my staff suggested that I write something about the end of the year. “Everyone writes about what they will be doing in the new year,” Chris said, “but no one ever writes about year end. In order to have a new year, you have to end the old one.”
Much like 2020, 2021 was one to endure and survive from a COVID perspective. Vaccines gave us a whiff of normal that we inhaled like the rich scent of baking cookies. And then Delta arrived and now Omicron. Places opened and closed and opened again. Friends of mine who travel overseas extensively found a new pastime sharing stories of rescheduled trips, delayed cruises and last-minute changes.
At least that was my perspective until Chris said what he said, and it got me thinking in a different way.
I awoke thinking about writing this article as I watched the sky change from black to blue and orange. My new home has a feature I just love. I have a large picture window in my bedroom that looks out on a quarter mile of mangroves until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. The home I started 2021 in also had a wonderful view, but my bedroom was not configured so I could look out on anything. It was four walls around me. I felt safe there and it was lovely, but now in the morning I get to look out my big window and see the colors of the sunrise to the east reflected from the clouds to the west. I see moon shadows on nights with a bright moon. I am greeted in the morning by a flock of red-wing black birds, the occasional heron, wood stork and egret, and the ever-present ducks. At night, an owl hoots, reminding me that not everyone sleeps at the same time. This big window has given me a much different morning perspective.
My carpenter friend, who helped me with moving doors and replacing trim when I first moved in, has embraced retirement in a grand way. He helped me build out my last three kitchens, and I fully expected him to be all in on this one too. But age has a way of changing your activities, and it has changed for him too. He now serves as my mentor, and as I’ve struggled to figure out what he already knows from his years of practice in the art of building his own homes and others, he will come and share with me. He always encourages me with, “You will get satisfaction from knowing you did it yourself.” And he is right. Seeing the cabinets hanging, knowing they are plum and square, and that I did it myself gives me a strong sense of achievement.
As we go into the holiday season, the end of the year, I reflect on the other changes that have happened this year. My daughters now both have homes. Large, beautiful homes, homes they can start a family in and then live in until the end of their days. My oldest daughter moved into hers in July and one of the first things she did is ask if she could host the family for Christmas. My other daughter, who is moving into her new home as I write this, has called dibs on hosting next year. I am so happy that they have a strong sense of Christmas and want to spend it together. I’m also thrilled this year to see the schedule including many of the events we have made into traditions in my home. The open house on Christmas Eve that brought together so many friends who were not able to spend the holidays with their families, and the families who would come en-mass to celebrate together, we will be enjoying in another state with a new group. The casual brunch on Christmas morning and planning for the gourmet dinner later for family. Exchanging small gifts that fit into hand-made stockings is going to migrate too, since I’ve been asked to bring the stockings. Watching my daughters build their own traditions in their own homes with their fiancés gives me another strong sense of accomplishment.
I don’t spend much time thinking about accomplishment. I’m always focused on what’s next. But as I write this, I find I don’t want to start wrapping it up. I love the feeling I have looking at what this year has brought to my life. As soon as I hit “save” on this, I know I’ll go back to “what’s next” and this little bit of magic will be a memory. But for now, I’m savoring it like a fine wine.
My perspective on 2021 started out earlier today as another COVID year, filled with uncertainty and isolation. Looking at the end of 2021, I realize that this has been a very rich and full year. It’s been a string of new experiences and challenges. It’s been one of great sadness since I lost two very close friends. But it’s also been one of great happiness as I have watched my daughters embrace their lives and put down roots.
Thank you, 2021, for giving me a year of personal growth. It’s not been an easy year. But growth rarely comes from easy. It comes from challenges. Challenges that sometimes even change your perspective.