They say hindsight is 20/20.
My word for 2020 was courage. I vowed to step through, over, under, or around my fear and pursue those things I’ve been dreaming of incorporating into my life. If not now, when? Life is too short to wait.
I wrote those words in January 2020. And we all know what came next. We’ve experienced nearly endless lists of challenges, heartaches, and loss that swept through our lives these past months.
As I sit with a hot cup of coffee before the sun rises a month into the new year, I’m reflecting on some important lessons I learned in 2020. Maybe some will resonate with you.
(1) Real heroes, whose work literally saves our lives, are everywhere. People willing to put their own lives at risk, doing the hard work that provides the myriad of necessities none of us can live without: healthcare, food, education, shelter, factory work, and endless other examples. Why are some of these same people often the lowest paid in our society, struggling now more than ever to keep food on their own tables?
Lesson re-learned: life isn’t fair.
Please . . sit with that for a moment.
Could we improve life for millions and reduce a few of our nearly insurmountable societal issues by getting our priorities straight around wealth distribution (don’t get me started on multi-million-dollar contracts for athletes)?
Absolutely. Do I think it’ll happen? Honestly, no. It’s a struggle as old as time. But 2020 has made me even more aware of these discrepancies and has increased my commitment to help where I can.
(2) How we work is changing. We learned many people can perform their jobs from anywhere. How will business owners react to the forced lessons brought about by a world-wide pandemic? Will they incorporate some of these lessons into their business models or revert to what they’ve always known when this health crisis is over?
Just as importantly, I’m curious whether people will even want to go back to old ways of working. Or will they use technology to build new types of careers with more flexibility and balance?
(3) Government alone can never save us. Government is critically important in providing a structure within which we can prosper, but some problems take all of us to solve, working in tandem and not in conflict.
(4) Fear breeds hate and nastiness. Loneliness kills.
Darn it. I wanted to avoid the darkness in this post. I’m tempted to hit the backspace and delete everything I just wrote.
But I can’t. If we learn nothing from this heartache and pain, what’s the point? None of us can know what the future holds. This has always been true, but the difficulties of this past year have made this more obvious than ever.
So, what do we do about it?
There are no simple answers, no “quick fixes”. But as long as we are lucky enough to witness another new sunrise, we can each work to bring some positive light into our lives and the lives of others.
My word for 2020 was COURAGE, and I needed it. We all did. I’m tired of the heaviness of it all. We aren’t on the other side of the troubles yet, but I hope we’re moving in the right direction.
I’ve decided my word for 2021 is LIGHT. I want more time outside, with my face to the sunshine. I want to focus on those things that light me up on the inside, that spark my joy.
I plan to redefine how I approach this new year. I want to focus on making the most of every single day and less on “achieving” specific things. Now more than ever, it needs to be about enjoying the journey.
My family is my greatest blessing. Spending time with them, even if it’s virtual, will continue to be my priority. Helping our young-adult kids navigate this crazy world where so much is changing and so many things we took for granted have all but disappeared can feel overwhelming. But we’ll find fresh ways to move ahead together.
I’ll work on my health. I challenged myself to walk at least 10,000 steps every day in 2020. While the number itself is arbitrary, the habit I’ve engrained has been life-changing. I have no intention of giving up on this daily activity!
I’ve taken my mental health for granted, but 2020 taught us we can’t do that anymore. I need to incorporate daily activities to protect both my mental and physical health in 2021. Creating habits is the key. Good rest and better nutrition will have to play into it.
Since last March, I’ve spent most of my time at home. It took time to adjust, but I’ve grown to enjoy it. My discretionary spending has changed drastically. I’m spending significantly less on gas, eating out, clothes, and other random items. Things we thought we “needed” no longer matter as much. Saving money in one area allows us to support more of the causes we care about. So many worthy organizations are struggling right now. Every bit counts.
2020 revealed huge knowledge gaps for me. To help combat this, I’m reading more than ever, and I’ve become a voracious podcast listener during my long daily walks. I want to learn more about so many topics:
I enjoy my days at home, but I miss my friends and family. Can you relate? I’m hoping the coming months will eventually allow for more time together, doing fun things and catching up.
2020 was a year of both heartache and blessings, revealing deep cracks, and we can only pull things back together by taking to heart so many tough lessons.
I love the idea of focusing on the light in 2021. The rising of the sun at the end of a long, dark night is like a beacon of hope. I hope that our world can begin to heal, to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a novel way that forms a better picture.
My hope is that you’ve weathered the storms of 2020, and though perhaps battered, I hope you’re able to discover a well of reserve within you that can allow you to look ahead with optimism and tenacity.
Sometimes it takes darkness to remind us how magical the light can be.
What are you focusing on in 2021? Do you like to pick a word that encapsulates your vision for the year ahead? If so, please share!
The days are slowly getting longer now in North Dakota (always a subtle yet powerful reminder that there is light after darkness). Life is a gift.
Sending you wishes for brighter days! Always cheering you along, Kim
I don’t need to tell any of you how tough these past months have been. We are living in a time of great unrest. Health concerns, divisiveness over many important issues, and economic hardships abound. I won’t reiterate these in detail because we are all living them daily.
Now, more than ever, we need to do what we can to stay positive. For many of us, our days don’t include the variety we were used to. We think twice before leaving our homes. Things we took for granted for so long are no longer a given.
But here’s the thing. I had a problem, even before our world turned upside down. I sat too much and moved too little. Some of you might be able to relate to this. We all know our bodies need movement. But knowing isn’t enough.
It may have started when my brother remarked that he hadn’t missed his daily step goal in something outrageous like a year. What? Is that even possible? Not in what was my reality. But he’d planted this niggling little worm into my brain. If he can commit to something like getting a walk in every single day, why couldn’t I? He works a demanding job and has a full life. Technically, he’d have just as many handy excuses as I did to avoid a daily exercise habit.
Please don’t stop reading if you hate the idea of exercising every day. Trust me on this.
When I commit to doing something, I’ve found that I’m better at sticking to it if I make a game out of tracking my progress. But putting a check mark on a calendar probably wasn’t going to cut it. Besides, I used to have a Fitbit watch, and it was fun to see how far I’d walk every day. So I asked for a new Fitbit for Christmas (my old one was long gone, and, besides, the new ones are cute!), and there began my journey.
Like so many things in life, my journey started small. I had to figure out how to get steps in each day, living in North Dakota in the dead of winter, working in an office building all day, and not owning a treadmill. I’d canceled my gym membership because I seldom used it. But I couldn’t give up before I even started.
I’d have to walk inside, at least sometimes, for the time being. At home, I paced around inside our house. I got creative at work. When I was the only one in the office, which happened often, I’d walk in our immediate area, hoping no one would walk in and find me looping around in tennis shoes and “business casual” attire. Before long, I was able to get permission to walk on the locked, vacant floor above my office. That turned out to be ideal.
Two givens while I walked: decent tennis shoes (if you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis you understand the wisdom here) and something to listen to. I’ve listened to countless podcasts and audio books over these past seven months. No depressing news stories while walking!
I began my walking journey to improve my health, but it became a lifeline.
In February, I was lucky to travel with a friend to a conference in Arizona, our flight at risk of being canceled as we navigated our way to the airport through blizzard conditions. I got to “do my own thing” while she attended her work events. My thing was writing and walking outside, in beautiful, sunny weather, in the middle of winter. It gave me a glimpse of how it might feel to design my days, doing things I love, unfettered by a set schedule or a harsh climate. I could get used to that!
By the middle of March, things were starting to feel different. We began working from home, and we found ourselves thrust into a new way of living, one we hoped would be temporary. Life revolved around scary news reports on television. Our college-age daughter came home after her university pivoted to online learning. We wondered whether it was safe to bring the milk carton we’d bought into our home or did we need to wipe it down with disinfecting wipes first and let it sit in the garage for days first. And, by the way, don’t use too many wipes because stores were out of them.
Despite everything, I walked. The weather was still questionable outside, so I usually had to do it all by pacing inside my house. I’d start early in the day, take most of my work calls while looping through my living room, kitchen and dining area, driving my husband and daughter nuts. But suddenly, getting my steps in felt like nearly the only thing I could control.
By the first of April, COVID struck close to home. Not literally, but within our family, while my father was visiting my brother a thousand miles away. Suddenly, the danger and seriousness of what was happening became very real. The details are not mine to share, but suffice it to say it was a very dark, incredibly scary few weeks, and the statistics on the news suddenly became real people.
With time, our prayers were answered as amazing, brave hospital staff worked quickly to discover a treatment solution that beat back what felt to us like a monster—the virus. There was little we could do from afar, and the feeling of helplessness and despair were nearly overwhelming.
What was this strange way of life we were all suddenly finding ourselves in? But still, I walked.
Days turned into weeks, and eventually into months. Health returned for our family members, but the experience left indelible scars that will take time to heal.
Somewhere in the middle of the storm, I was starting to realize that my walking was one of the few things I felt in control of, and one day I realized my steps were beginning to add up. At the beginning of January, I committed to walking every day, no matter what (never dreaming how different “no matter what” would look in the not too distant future.) Within a few weeks, I was walking a minimum of 10,000 steps, because I’d heard that measurement thrown around for years and it had always felt unattainable, given my sedentary desk job. For me, this equates to around 4 miles a day.
By the end of April, it didn’t feel like things were getting much better in our world. What had begun as hopefully only a month or two at home was starting to feel like perhaps it was the beginning of something longer. When would life “get back to normal”?
So I kept walking. With the arrival of springtime, I was able to transition to walking outside in our neighborhood. We live in a small community outside of a small city, so I usually only encounter one or two other walkers. Social distancing is never a problem out here.
One day, I noticed I was three months away from my next birthday. What if I kept walking my 10,000 plus steps every day until then? If I kept my commitment to myself, something I’d never done in my life when it came to daily exercise, how many miles would I have walked? I remember feeling a jolt of surprise over the math. It would be an impressive number. Something fun to strive for, this game I’d started playing with myself on January 1 of a year for which I’d held out high hopes.
But it wasn’t a nice, even number. What would it take to hit an even bigger number, one with a nice ring to it? How much farther would I have to go every day to beat that? If I pushed just a little harder, walking at least 12,100 steps from then until my birthday, that nice round number no longer seemed quite so out of reach.
I’d proven to myself over the past 128 days that I could walk every day, no matter what. Why couldn’t I walk that extra couple thousand? I was still staying home almost all day, every day. The weather was so much better. I bumped up the daily goal on my watch and felt a little thrill at having something new to strive for amid a still very uncertain world.
Today is my birthday and I’m turning 54. I started walking every day on 1/1/2020. I tracked my steps, stuck to my commitment, and never missed a day. On July 23rd, I watched as my Fitbit hit 6,777 steps in the middle of my morning walk. I’d done it, with five days to spare.
Me, who had never stuck to an exercise routine in my half a century on this planet, hit my target.
I’d walked 1,000 miles since the first of the year.
Walking has been my touchstone, reminding me that while everything else in life feels topsy-turvy, there are still things, essential things, within my control.
Why am I sharing this journey of mine? Because I’ve learned some valuable lessons, and if by sharing, I can inspire you to challenge yourself in some aspect of your own life, that is what I’d love to be able to do.
We need to live in harmony with others and with nature. One day, early in my 2020 walking journey, I thought I was utterly alone on the vacant floor as I did my laps around, listening to “The Secrets We Keep” on audio. I noticed something out of place in the large, carpeted room, now void of the rows of cubicles that previously lined the floor. A small smudge of brown, poised against a vast expanse of wall, no bigger than an apple, caught my eye. It was a little mouse, watching me.
I stilled, curious at the utterly unexpected sight. I’m sure the mouse felt the same. Normally, I’d have hustled downstairs to find our maintenance man, let him know some traps should be set up. But I paused. It watched me but didn’t scurry away in fear. I continued with my walk, careful not to pass too close to it, and kept an eye on it. It kept an eye on me. I snapped a picture of it, blurry because I didn’t dare get too close. In the end, I let it be, and it left me alone. A month later, that little mouse might have been the only one roaming the halls, since we humans had all gone home to work in the face of a pandemic.
So I will keep walking. It feels like the first 1,000 miles was just the start.
Our journey along the dash between the day we are born and the day we die is ours to do with as we choose. These past seven months have reminded me that there are things in life we can still control. Don’t let the chaos of the outside world make you forget your strength. We’ve got this!
Cheering you along! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!