As this year comes to an end, I want to thank you. There has never been a year that I have felt so surrounded by you as this year--the year of social distance. (So not.) Every single one of you has given me love in some way. This year has shown me that all the broken stones that we are, together form something magnificently strong. I wish you all a beautiful last day of the year, and still more beautiful days, ahead: A year when we will hopefully fully enjoy the beauty that life offers us, and everything we offer to each other.
This is my translation of my cousin Fenneke's New Year's Eve post, which says so perfectly what I feel. So many people - even all the donation-requesting non-profit organizations in my inbox - are bidding good riddance to 2020, but I look back and I see a year to remember with love. Yes, I was lonely, often. Yes, our (and many, many others') finances were hit by the financial fallout of lockdown. Yes, we lost people we love; people who mattered in our community and families. It was a terrifying year in many ways, as forests, monuments, villages and cities all over the world burned (and even exploded, in the case of Beirut); violence and hatred erupted all over the place, and all under the threat of this terrifying illness that even now is not quite understood (and what we don't know is always so scary!) Three people in my close and extended family also had cancer, and my own health took a nose-dive.
But you know what? Those three beloved people also BEAT cancer (or are in the process of doing so). My health nose-dive meant a deeper connection with my partner, as he learned to care for me and the children. He gained a feeling that he was a capable house-man, and he did so while also working fully from home. Being stuck at home with my children and partner 24/7 for ten months now has meant the building of deeper relationships and the discovery of what is important to us.The raging forest fires are yet another in a series of wake-up calls about the plight of our home, and next year's fires will be worse. That's a good thing, because we apparently need a bigger kick from behind to get us moving. It's slow, but finally, I feel we ARE moving. The violence in the streets is frightening, but an inevitable part of our culture's evolution. It's long past time that we begin to see each other as equals, and I am glad to be witnessing the rise of people who have long been squashed in the shadows. Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter, too, and even covid is showing us how horribly unfair our society is. Covid, BLM, climate catastrophe, and even the relatively insignificant struggles of privileged people being forced to cancel holiday plans are wake-up calls that we desperately needed.
If we can't bring ourselves to cancel our New Years plans just to protect the vulnerable, how will we ever make the massive, sweeping changes that are needed to save our species? Our habitable planet? It's like Fenneke says: Each of us a broken stone, but cobbled together, we make something magnificent. And here we are. We can do this. This year has given me hope. Thank you for being there; for making the difference you make in my life, and in the lives of us all.
Here is Fenneke's original message in Dutch, because it's much more eloquent than my translation:
Zo op de valreep van dit jaar wil ik jullie bedanken. Er is geen jaar dat ik jullie zo om me heen heb gevoeld als dit jaar. Het jaar van de sociale afstand. Niet dus. Ieder van jullie heeft me op z'n eigen manier liefde gegeven. Dit jaar heeft me doen inzien, dat al die gebutste steentjes die we zijn, samen een prachtig sterk werkje kunnen vormen.
Ik wens jullie allemaal een mooie laatste dag en nog heel veel mooie dagen. Een jaar waarin we hopelijk weer volop kunnen genieten van al het moois dat het leven te bieden heeft en van wat we elkaar kunnen bieden. Heb het goed. Liefs, Fenneke