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Kristin Armstrong Column for Winter 2020: Looking Ahead to 2021

“Like sea glass, some of our sharper edges have been worn smooth by the pummeling waves”

I played soccer in high school. Not saying I played well, but I suited up and have two abiding memories: AC/DC blasting from a jam box during our pregame warmups, and a teammate named Steph who was a killer on the field. She would get a certain look on her face when a ball was coming into her strike zone, and if you were nearby you could hear her—every time:

Sayo-F$%#in’-nara,” she would grunt, booting the ball to kingdom come. Gone.

Sayonara is the collective, pervasive sentiment for the end of 2020. Good riddance. Adios. Au revoir. Buh-bye.

It is absolutely time for a new year, and it finally is coming, just around the bend. But before we bid adieu to this epic, unprecedented year, we better be damn sure we wring every last lesson from it so we don’t have to repeat this grade.

In a year disfigured by shock, loss, change, grief, anger, fear and confusion, there are also fresh telltale scars of healing, adaptability, endurance, patience, growth, recalibration, intention and unconditional love. We have had separation from some beloved family members and friends, as well as the gift of time with others—connection that would never have happened any other way. We have adjusted our schedules, our careers, our habits, our worship, our finances, our travel plans, our hobbies, our education, our exercise, our routines, our traditions, our holidays and our relationships to meet the ever-evolving concept of new normal. We have forfeited and filtered so many aspects of our lives that our sacred priorities remain, sparkling and radiant like sea glass scattered after high tide recedes. And hopefully, like sea glass, some of our sharper edges have been worn smooth by the pummeling waves of 2020, turning ordinary broken glass into treasure.

If we choose to participate fully and consciously in the soul curriculum of our lives, we can choose to compost 2020 into our garden of 2021. What are we going to leave behind, and what will we choose to carry forward? What will we weed out, what will we nourish and what will we plant? What are we cultivating? One thing is rather clear if we are even halfway awake: We cannot cultivate by default anymore.

Some people (myself included) choose a word to represent themselves in the new year. In years past, I have chosen words like Love, Abundant, Open, Freedom, Adventure, even Balls (sorry, I needed courage that year). I was listening to a podcast recently that was discussing the power of choosing a word as a theme, or even as the basis for how we frame our identity or tell our story. The hosts cautioned listeners about how careful we really need to be. The example they used was the word Resilient. At first glance, it seems like a pretty great word to use to define ourselves, the ability to adjust or recover from adversity or challenge. Someone adaptable, strong, flexible, persistent.

And yet, by the very nature of the incorporation or assignment of this word to our identity, we necessitate and perpetuate struggle. If we view ourselves as resilient, we consciously or subconsciously must find (or create) something to overcome. So if we choose a word like this, and if we also deeply desire things like success, abundance, satisfaction, ease, harmony, flow, comfort, connection and peace—we are effectively canceling ourselves out with conflicting energy. It’s like praying for patience and then being surprised that you are getting tested and thwarted and provoked at every turn. We get what we ask for, we find what we seek, we harvest what we sow.

When we choose our word, we must look at the energy that surrounds it and the implications embedded in it, being very clear that it is what we really mean, what we really want, who we really are or are wanting to become. Some might say we got blindsided by 2020, but we cannot say that in the same way about 2021. Blinders are off. The unexpected is more expected. We move forward (ideally together) with eyes, ears, hearts, hands and minds wide-open.

Inherent in any end is a beginning.