Guest Columnist

Thank you, 2020

Finding peace in the wreckage

The sun sets behind a tree standing despite having lost a few branches in the Aug. 10 derecho at Cleveland Park in Cedar
The sun sets behind a tree standing despite having lost a few branches in the Aug. 10 derecho at Cleveland Park in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. I look out my window daily to a number of trees like this one, some in worse shape, some in better. It’s a constant reminder that things aren’t back to normal over three months after the derecho in Cedar Rapids. Things do feel better for most of us — I don’t have a pile of debris in front of my house anymore, neither do my neighbors. But, even contrasted by such a beautiful sunset, the trees stand to remind us that things are indeed different. Cedar Rapids is forever changed. For me, personally, it’s a bit comforting (or maybe just validating) to have that reminder. We did go through a lot as a community. The regrowth of our tree canopy will be a generations-long venture. It may not be so easy to see, but we will get too watch our community grow and continue to recover post-derecho and eventually, post-pandemic. My measure for those may not be as simple as a glance out the window, but I look forward to finding out what it may be. As things have been tumultuous, to say the least, this is something I’ve looked toward to keep me going. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

As this year draws to a close I want to say thank you.

Thank you to each person who:

Stayed hopeful when things seemed hopeless.

Pivoted and adapted to do the best they could in all situations.

Leaned into difficulty with courage and empathy instead of looking away.

Gave as they saw others who needed them.

Found ways to foster connection.

Showed up when it was the last thing they wanted to do.

Pointed out the silver lining in their circumstances.

Shared in the suffering of others.

Stood up and spoke out with respect and care.

Opened up to new possibilities.

Said thank you and great job to someone each day.

Brought love to situations filled with fear.

Thank you to 2020. Although you wrecked most of my plans, in that wreckage I discovered a restored sense of peace at a new pace. Amid great uncertainty you provided enlightening moments of clarity. You showed me that inclusion and unity can exist alongside extreme division. In the loss of my traditional sense of belonging and accomplishment, you shed light on new sources of worth and purpose.

Like you, I am anticipating the end of 2020, but not without gratitude for all the life experiences and lessons learned. The need to slow down gave me space to think about where my energy goes, where I spend my time, what I need to let go of. I had an opportunity to reevaluate what was most important and how I was showing up, so I could live with more intention going forward. I don’t want to go back, and I hope you don’t either.

When hardship happens, it’s our nature to shove it away or avoid it, but when it lasts this long we are forced to reckon with it. In the reckoning we can resist or we can acknowledge and accept. Many of us got stuck resisting and wishing things back to the way they were before. We saw our anxiety and stress levels rise and shut out opportunities to learn and grow from our experiences.

If I learned one lesson, it was that all the energy I put into resisting could be put toward building something new. All that stress could be set aside if I focused on what I could control. I wish for all of us we could get to the state of mindfulness that James Baraz so eloquently explains, “Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”

Our collective struggle in 2020 has been an opportunity to wake up if we are willing to let go and lean in. To hit reset if we wish. The top regret of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” 2020 gave you a new chance to reexamine and redefine ... to live the life you want. Don’t miss it!

Lindsay Leahy of Cedar Rapids is founder of The Restoration Project.

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