Today ends one heck of a year. I started out feeling low in January. It was a familiar, but unwelcome feeling. As with many of you, the days felt long, but the weeks and months were short. Before I knew it I was leaving a job that no longer fulfilled me, I moved in with Kevin, and was completing an online class I had started in May.
The second half of the year and especially the last two months have been filled with anticipation and excitement. Kevin asked me to marry him on October 11, 2021 and we wed on December 17, 2021. Navigating work and wedding planning did have its up and downs, but we wouldn't have had it any other way. Early on in our relationship I told him I didn't want an engagement ring and he obliged. We wanted a small wedding of just family and a few friends (luckily we could make this happen - even with COVID restrictions). It was small and intimate and perfect.
We had selected a few passages to be read and reflected on during the ceremony and to be honest I had forgotten what they were until Chet, our pastor, read them aloud.
"I have found the one whom my soul loves." Song of Solomon 3:4 (unsure which version) and
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
There was an audible agreement among our family and friends as Chet read these and meditated on what they meant for our lives. To me this affirmed the love they see between us and it was a symbol of their blessing as our relationship deepens.
These passages make perfect sense when I think about my past. If you have followed my journey at any point, you will know I had given up on love a long time ago. I did not feel worthy and when I sought it, it was not there for me. I had to start believing I was worthy and he had to take a risk for the chance of finding something so special as our love. Our souls were waiting for each other.
We were fortunate to have my nephew, Liam, read for us as well. Although this passage is often used at weddings and can feel inauthentic at times, it really fits who we are as a couple.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6 It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Love will last forever... 13 There are three things that will endure‑‑faith, hope, and love‑‑and the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:4-8, 13 (NLT).
Two weeks into our marriage we have a lot to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. We close out 2021 full of love after spending time with family and friends. And although I cherish these memories dearly, I remember a time when the Christmas season was hard to bear.
It may be hard for you to bear right now.
I hold you in my heart, you who may be struggling to find joy in the little things, you who is full of despair as I often was, you who lost a loved one this year. I hold you in my heart.
At the beginning of 2021, I learned what languishing is (first hand). I had a hard time explaining, even to myself, what I was going through. It felt different than depression, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then, when I read Adam Grant’s article in the New York Times months later, it confirmed what I had been feeling.
Something needed to change and I set out to make that uncomfortable feeling go away (before it led to depression). In searching for one thing, I ended up doing a lot of things (all within a few months of each other).
If I have been slow to respond to emails and texts, this is likely the reason why.
These things done separately bring about their own level of stress. These things are all positive. These things brought me out of my comfort zone. But together (especially for someone who does not like change or taking risks) it may have been too much for me to handle. Hello anxiety. That said I do not regret any of these things.
Now a few months removed from all of those things I have learned a few lessons firsthand:
We hit a milestone today. In a year that no one could have predicted (beside perhaps epidemiologists and other infectious diseases experts), we have been forced to live through a collective trauma.
Not in my lifetime, or those of my friends, have we dealt with such despair. We have not personally lived through a war, famine, global pandemic - such as the 1918 flu pandemic, or the like. We only know what it may have been like, through the stories we have been told in history class or accounts from grandparents. We truly can not relate to such distant memories.
Coping with such a fundamental shift in our lives has left some of us numb, hopeful for a new “normal”, tired, scared, or wishing to go back to the old “normal”. What was thought, by some, to be a short disruption to our daily lives, turned out to be a long period of:
The last few months have been the hardest for me. I often feel SAD during this time of year. But for the first time in a long time I felt depression stirring inside. I pushed the feeling down, equating it to nothing more than a few bad days. But days turned into weeks. Sleep was becoming harder and harder to come by. There was no denying it anymore. Although I had been coping rather well (by my standards) through the first 10 months, my mind was now telling my body, something is not right. I wonder if it’s “typical” situational depression or if it’s tied to the pandemic on a deeper level. Do our bodies truly know it has been a year. Are our bodies saying, "no more". No more pretending to be OK, and no more doing things on our own and not asking for help. I hope to explore these questions when I talk with my therapist next week.
After living through this trauma for one year; the one thing I know, is that empathy, patience, and kindness for oneself leads to empathy, patience, and kindness towards others. And we need that more than ever as we head into another year of uncertainty.
P.S. This year showed us that collaboration is possible. The scientific community worked tirelessly to make a vaccine. Canada has now approved four vaccines (in less than one year of the WHO declaring the COVID-19 pandemic). The fastest vaccine ever made previous to this was by a man named Maurice Hilleman. In four years Hilleman developed the mumps vaccine.
"Hilleman cranked out more than 40 other vaccines over the course of his career, including 8 of the 14 routinely given to children. He arguably saved more lives than any other single person." - Radiolab
I am a daughter, sister, auntie, wife and friend.