where wildly different is perfectly normal


When I chose harmony as my 2020 Word of the Year, I had plans of building upon the positive momentum of 2019. Last year was a pretty good one for me and my family, and while I know it was horrific for a lot of people, I was grateful to finally have a good lap around the sun. 2011 & 2012 were comically bad; so bad that it’s taken nearly a decade for me to even mildly snicker at the crap that was happening at us, because happening to us wasn’t strong enough to describe the sheer volume of poop hitting the fan factory.

So I’d intended to ride that wave and do more in 2020. Weave together all the disparate harmonies of my life into a musical mosaic and conduct the symphony of my life. Cheesy, yes, I’ll own that. For six weeks or so things were awesome. I was the least stressed I’d been in years, I enjoyed teaching more than I ever had (much to my surprise and delight), and while I had less of an idea of what might transpire than I had last year, I was confident it’d all be okay.

And then Pandora opened her special little box and out flew a metric ton of shit, most of which I’m pretty confident came from the back end of the Four Horsemen. There haven’t been enough street sweepers for said cursed equine droppings, and as someone who has marched parades dodging steaming piles, you can never have enough sweepers.

Suddenly I found myself teaching middle school band through a computer screen, washing my groceries, and yelling at my parents to stay home don’t make me come over there! All four of us were home, working and schooling and trying not to panic. Living in a fog. For a long, long time I was the only one who left the house. I had the occasional reason to dash up to school, I got the groceries and ran the rare errand…the first few weeks were so crazy, so chaotic, so frightening, that I didn’t want the guys to go out. It was easier to contact trace if only one of us was leaving the house, plus (and I’ll admit this is selfish) I couldn’t manage their anxiety on top of mine if they went out and got as freaked out as I did. The silence in stores, the barely controlled panic as people shopped, the complete lack of eye contact as though that was the way COVID was passed from person to person. This new musical phrase crescendoed through the spring until it was deafening.

In rolled dark clouds and the music turned silent and ominous.

Economic downturn. Crash. Unemployment numbers sky-high. Layoffs. Uncertainty. Pay cuts. So much loss on top of uncertainty on top of disease on top of fear.

More clouds, still darker, the music gut wrenching and disturbing.

A murder. Peaceful protests. Escalation. Non-protestors using the protests as excuses to riot, loot, burn, slash, fight. Escalation. Teetering on martial law in the UNITED STATES. And then again, this time much closer to home. Fear. So much fear. Fear for family and friends, for my students, for my community. Fear of more COVID cases. Fear of still more ominous clouds lined up just over the horizon, out of sight but ready to roar over the landscape.

This is not the 2020 any of us expected, and we still have a long ways to go.

There is no good way to plan for the future now, because the future changes with every deranged tweet from the White House. Harmony may be my 2020 word of the year, but in hindsight I should have chosen something like survive or cope or breathe. I mean, I’m experienced in laughing at the chaos around me, an old hand at I can’t go on I must go on, but this has stretched me to my breaking point. Trying to weave a single shining thread of hope and positivity through the dark ropes of life today is exhausting…and oftentimes the only thing getting me up in the morning. I’m so weary. 2020’s music is the worst kind of ear worm; it’s blaringly loud, you cannot escape it, it digs deep into your skull, and there is no end in sight.

Buckle up, my friends. The lights are dimming, the ushers are shushing, and the second act of this hellish year is about to begin.

Whaddya think?

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