For me, the theme of 2020 has been waiting: learning to wait, summoning the B (balance), C (courage) and D (determination) that Type A’s struggle to find.
If someone had told me in February that I would wait months to see my children and grandchildren, that I would wait more than a year to score a Shake Shack burger, that I would wait, mostly in my home, to hug a friend . . . I would not have found it credible.
Our collective big wait has been for a viable Covid-19 vaccine, and now that it’s here, we’re waiting for our turn in line. I remember when the Salk polio vaccine was administered in my public school in 1955. They told us kids to line up in size order in the cafeteria, and I knew I would be first. Now we wait based on other criteria: age and general health and value to the community as front-line workers.
We wait, too, on the political front. Every process, from the Mueller investigation to the impeachment, to the election and now to the inauguration, has dragged out in agonizingly slow fashion. “Breaking news” generally means we will live with a story for countless days and weeks with little or no resolution. The Trump presidency has forced us to learn patience. Some of us have been waiting for more than four years for the foolishness of the conspiracists and the racists and the ill-informed to be swept into the past. Now it seems more patience will be required.
As we wait, we hope this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. It sinks in slowly that more than 320,000 of our fellow Americans have died in the past year from the disease. As we wait, we come to realize that many might have been saved if we had acted sooner. As we wait, we grieve the personal loss of friends and family and the suffering of 17 million who have struggled with the challenge of raising kids, going to work and getting health care while sick with the coronavirus.
There are epic stories of waiting. My favorite is from the novel “Waiting,” by Ha Jinn, which won the National Book Award in 1999. Based on a true story, it recounts the life of an Army doctor in China who waits 18 years to get a divorce from his wife in their home village so he can marry the woman he loves, a nurse who serves with him. While you’re waiting, you might give it a try.
How ironic that we are the children of the instant-gratification culture. From Amazon addiction to DoorDash to the ability to connect to others in a heartbeat, we have been trained to be impatient. We expect immediate satisfaction of our needs. We impatiently waited to ride bicycles and then to drive cars and to graduate from schools, and we wait to get through treatments and to dance at landmark birthdays and anniversaries.
But 2020 pushed back. The demands of this year forced our attention outside ourselves. Think about this remarkable year, the year we hope to survive, the year we will never forget.
It is said that the lesson of nature is patience, as we wait for seeds to sprout and babies to talk and trees to flower. During the days and weeks and months of waiting, we have become keener observers of smaller things. When you are homebound forever, you notice fluttering red wings outside the window that never caught your eye before. You take the many hours of a day to put together the ingredients of bread, feeling the stretch and pull of the dough because you actually have time to think about it.
For women, the iconic wait of our lives is pregnancy, the time we go inward and focus attention on the seed of life growing inside. The young women I know who have had babies this year seem more intensely focused on this life event, more careful, and now they are waiting patiently to introduce their new children to the world outside and to other people. For many toddlers, life has been confined to rooms. We are all waiting for them, and the teenagers, to bust loose.
I have tried to find music and art and conversation to get me through. But I am desperately awaiting 2021. I want to quietly close the book on 2020 and leap into a fresh new year.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.