12 in 2020: A Year in Pictures

And now for a yearly tradition: recapping the year that just ended by sharing one photo per month.  I try to choose some of my best pictures, but sometimes I have to forgo quality in order to pick one that really captures the flavor of the month, as you will see.

JANUARY

Baby Benjamin, my sister’s baby and the youngest member of the extended family, celebrated his first birthday in January with all the pageantry such an occasion demands.

FEBRUARY

John and I made our third trip to San Francisco to see our middle son, Teddy.  And this time with the added attraction of meeting Molly, his girlfriend.  The photo above is of Mission Dolores, the oldest surviving structure in the city, and the newer Basilica.

MARCH

I spent a lot of time walking this year–it was my way of coping with quarantine.  Hence, I took a lot of nature pictures.  This shot of apple blossoms was taken on the grounds of All Saints parish, just down the street from me.  At the time, I was walking there every Friday because it was Lent and they have outdoor Stations of the Cross.

APRIL

I also spent a lot of time sitting on my front porch staring at my garden.  My grandmother’s  irises outdid themselves this year and I really need to divide them.

MAY

When our local lockdown ended in May, I was horrified by the immediate incursion of door-to-door salespeople.  I put up this sign to accompany my Divine Mercy Jesus and have not been bothered since.  I will hate to take it down!

JUNE

Graduations were delayed a month and we opted out in any case, but our Senior consented to don cap and gown for this picture.  He started virtual college in August.

JULY

For a most of the summer, Rum Swizzles, something I experienced on our anniversary cruise to Bermuda, were a Saturday night ritual.  This was just one of many such rituals that I created to give a rhythm to life during the pandemic.

AUGUST

I’m not a big selfie-taker–in fact, I don’t like my picture taken at all–but voting is important!  I was impressed with the procedures put in place and it gave me confidence to vote in person in the Presidential election later in the year.

SEPTEMBER

I cannot say often enough how blessed I have been by the construction just a couple of years ago of Plumb Creek Park, which would be in easy walking distance of my house if we had sidewalks.  I have been there almost every day this year, and it has become my happy place, whether I am doing laps or hiking the nature loop.

OCTOBER

I took this picture on Halloween night.  I had never seen a moon with a corona before.  We also saw a big green meteor earlier that evening.  And enjoyed trick or treating, a blessed bit of normal fun in an abnormal time.

NOVEMBER

It was a quarantine Sweet Sixteen for Lorelei, who made the balloon decoration herself.  All the family gathered in our driveway, six feet apart.   We all remembered the last party at our house, for William’s birthday in early March, when we expressed disbelief that there was talk of families not being able to celebrate together.

DECEMBER

We had a white Christmas, y’all.  To give some perspective, this has happened only three times before in my lifetime (that’s over half a century), and only once so far in my kids’ lifetimes (back in 2010).  It was so beautiful, and felt like a gift from God at a time when He knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere anyway.

To see photo essays from past years, click the links below:
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019

There Is No Foreseeable Future

There is no foreseeable future.

Read it again: There is no foreseeable future.

Now, this isn’t a grammar rant, though that irksome phrase cries out for one.  Because, y’all, unless you believe in clairvoyance (and actually even if you do!), no one can foresee any part of the future–that time which has not yet come.

Still, the ubiquity of that utterance suggests that we think we can, and worse, that we think we should be able to.  And both beliefs are a recipe for suffering, especially in the Year of Our Lord 2020.

2020 Vision

Remember all those memes in December and January, all that clarity we were sure to experience in a year when we would all finally have 2020 vision?  Now we’ve moved on to memes about that most useless of all purchases: a 2020 planner.

If you take nothing else away from this unprecedented year, I hope this is it: there is  no 2020 vision when it comes to the future.

Planning and Control

Many years ago, I encountered a newspaper ad that triumphantly declared: “The secret to a happy life is planning!”  Y’all, I am here to tell you that planning is NOT the secret to a happy life. (Want the REAL secret? I wrote about it right here.)

An obsession with planning reflects a grasping for control.  Guess what? Not only can you not foresee the future, you also cannot control it.

Let me share a couple of examples from my own life, moving from dramatic and life-changing to small and mundane.

Nine years ago, we left town for a few days to attend a funeral.  While we were gone, our house burned to the ground.  I promise we did not see that one coming.  That unforeseeable event changed our lives–it changed our futures.  We moved to a different part of town–somewhere I never envisioned living.  There were new schools and new friends for the kids, changing job opportunities and pastimes for the adults. Even my outlook on life took on an entirely new shape because of that one event.

On a smaller scale, a couple of weeks ago, Lorelei and I were making dinner.  I had the whole evening planned out–I’ve coped with quarantine by devising and living by a regular daily schedule.  But then Lorelei sliced open a finger while opening a can of fruit.  We spent the whole evening in the emergency room–breaking our strict quarantine to hang out in the last place one would wish to go during a pandemic.  That was NOT the evening I had “foreseen.”

Given 30 seconds to think, you would come up with your own examples, of course.  But the truth is that not even our next breath is promised us.

Those who know me might think I’m attempting to justify my family’s haphazard existence–it’s true that we’ve always been a leap-of-faith kind of family.  But I promise it’s not.  I actually love planning things–more than doing them, if I’m honest.  I own a Catholic Women Shine planner and I’ve used it to accomplish quite a bit while safe at home this year.  It’s very natural to look toward the future–which we imagine we can foresee because generally it has a somewhat predictable shape–work, school, vacations.  It’s the absence of that shape right now that is so disconcerting but which also offers us a lesson and an opportunity.

Planning and Worrying

Our attempts at foreseeing the future are especially dangerous for those with a tendency toward anxiety and a predilection for worrying.  It’s called “living in the wreckage of the future” and it is a miserable way to spend your life–imagining every worst-case scenario and suffering RIGHT NOW over events that probably won’t happen.  And even if they DO happen, being miserable NOW, wasting the opportunity you have NOW for happiness, won’t change anything.

I may have mentioned a time or two that we Shollys are extremely focused Star Trek fans.  In the pilot episode of Deep Space Nine, Commander Benjamin Sisko finds himself explaining the concept of linear time to the god-like beings called the Prophets who exist outside of time.  At one point they show him a painful memory of his wife’s death, an experience which continues to cause him guilt, anger, and grief.  He says:  It’s difficult to be here, more difficult than any other memory. . .  this was the day that I lost Jennifer. I don’t want to be here.
One of the Prophets replies:  Then why do you exist here?

This encounter helps Sisko to move forward with his life.  Most of us understand that living in the past is a bad idea, but living in the future is just as bad.  As Leo Buscaglia said:  “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

So I have a proposition for you.  Rather than worrying about everything that could go wrong in the future–in fact, even rather than dreaming about all that could go right with it–what if you do your best to focus only on the day in front of you? What if you let yourself see the future as a beautiful surprise just waiting to unfold?

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.