2021 Treasures

BEHIND THE SCENES: I’ve had a WordPress “new post” blank screen up on my computer for . . . let’s just say “a long time” . . . trying to think of a title for my end-of-year blog post. Finally, I realized the ridiculousness of such extreme writer’s block, and so, after deciding the title will come to me sometime before I publish my post, I’m going to just start and see what happens.

What a year two years it’s been. In my 2020 end-of-year blog post, I mentioned that 2020 “might very well be the worst year of our lives,” with a pandemic that separated us from each other and to some extent, kept us from living our lives in a way we were accustomed.

Little did we know what 2021 would hold. I summarized the year in my annual Christmas letter. Rather than re-hash the year, you can read about it here.

In the last couple of months, I’ve become better acquainted with an online friend, Corinne Westphal. Though I hope to have the pleasure of meeting in person one day, for now, I’ve been happy to be a part of her writing community. After purchasing her book, Unearthing Your Treasures: Journaling Toward True Self, I joined her NaNoWriMo-Lite group on Facebook in November. As a result, I began a memoir, something I’ve thought about doing for many years and managed to write over 12,000 words. That’s more writing than I’ve done in the last couple of years!

Now, with November passed, Corinne continues to hold what she calls “Tasters,” where writers from all over the world join via Zoom to sprint and sometimes share their writing. Yesterday, she led a “Celebrating 2021” Taster that I unfortunately was not able to “attend.” But, she shared some of her prompts on Facebook. I thought they’d be perfect to summarize my thoughts on 2021. So, thank you, Corinne!

How have events of 2021 changed your relationship with:

  • You partner and/or family
  • A friend or friends
  • Co-workers
  • Yourself

What was a significant moment or experience that occurred for you this year?

  • Why is it significant?
  • Was it a learning moment, a challenge, an accomplishment, a setback, or a realization?
  • How did it affect you and/or your family, and what did you learn from the experience?

2021 was a year of many changes, but the biggest one, the one that changed me the most, was the death of my father on February 1, 2021, after a long and hard-fought battle with prostate cancer.

One of the weapons he used to fight this battle was to think positively–never fully accept that he was dying. Being a believer in the power of positive thinking, at first I found his strength and determination reassuring and admirable. Even in his last months, I, too, believed if he could continue to deny the seriousness of his illness, focus only on healing, he might miraculously make another comeback, as he’d done many times over the twenty years of his cancer.

But as he weakened, and as treatment after treatment of chemotherapy and radiation failed to do anything but weaken him further, I began to have doubts, and wanted to have “end of life” conversations with him. I wanted to tell him how I appreciated that he chose me over his blue Jaguar, that I always admired his goodness, about how he was my rudder and how I would miss him.

But “end of life” conversations would leave an opening for the negativity that he resisted, I believe, until the moments before his last breath.

A part of me regrets not being able to say those things to my father at the end of his life, but a part of me also believes he must have known some of it. I told him often that I loved him. But I never talked in much detail about how I appreciated the father he’d been or that he was, and will continue to be, a “little voice” that guides much of my life.

My father’s death changed me in two ways. First, it taught me not to wait for “end of life” conversations to tell loved ones what I want them to know. So much of my life, I’ve hesitated to express my feelings about some things to some people. Death has taught me the finality of “it’s too late.”

Second, it reinforced the brevity and speed at which my remaining life is passing. My father was 24 years older than I. When I think about how quickly the last 24 years have flown by, and when I think about how the next 24 years will fly even faster, I realize and understand that there’s no time to waste. No time to waste hesitating to say what I want to say. No time to waste putting off spending time with those I love.

It’s one reason we chose to move from Dallas, Texas to Avon Lake, Ohio–to be closer to my children and grandchildren.

Corinne’s next writing prompt question was:

If we were to create a time capsule representing life in 2021, what object(s) might you choose? And why? Can you choose something that represents something positive? (This is for generations 100+ years in the future.)

In our two, going on three pandemic years, social media has both held us together and torn us apart. I’ve been grateful for Facebook to keep up with family and friends, especially when it hasn’t been possible to physically be with them. But, Facebook and Twitter have also been terribly divisive, and although I could fill a whole other post with my opinions of how social media has torn us apart, I’ll just leave it at this: social media is both positive and negative. It all depends on how you use it.

So, I tried to focus on how social media has impacted us positively and chose the following symbol:

With the isolation of the pandemic, and more recently for me, with moving away from many of my friends, Zoom has been a wonderful way for me to stay in touch. I’ve enjoyed happy hours, birthday parties, many conversations, and now, writing camaraderie via Zoom. I even get to “see” my co-workers back in Dallas for our weekly meetings, although that’s via Teams.

Technology can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse–so much so I’ve come close to cutting it out of my life completely.

BEHIND THE SCENES, PART II: Wouldn’t you know–a title for this post just came to me. (I knew it would!)

2021 was one of the most challenging years of my life. But thanks to Corinne Westphal’s writing prompts, I managed to find the silver lining–the treasures of 2021.

May you, too, find the silver lining, the *wabi sabi, the treasures–even during challenging times.

Happy New Year to all!

*Wabi sabi is a way of looking at the world with a kind of quiet insight; to find beauty, even in imperfection.

Wabi Sabi for Writers – Richard R. Powell

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9 Responses to 2021 Treasures

  1. ssteven2 says:

    Jan, I’ve missed your blog posts. Thank you. I find it hard now to have the conversations I long and need to have with my mother. I agree that positive thinking is fine, but so is facing the end with some realism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan Morrill says:

      So true, Sara. I know you must be going through the same difficult stage with your mom–so much you want to say. If only we could each live with acceptance that we could die at any time, perhaps those important conversations would not be so difficult. Sending you lots of love. ❤

      Like

  2. Hi Jan! I miss you so! Your talk if your father touched me. I, too, have felt the need to share with my parents in word & action – how thankful I am for them. Thanks for sharing. Love ya

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan Morrill says:

      I miss you, too, Lea! I hope you will say the things you want to say. Imagine how it would feel for you to hear your children say they’re thankful for you! I hope you have a happy New Year, my friend. ❤

      Like

  3. Always a joy to see a post from you and then two!! I’m happy to read that you’re writing again and some of what you posted here really hit home. Starting from the bottom: appreciation of Zoom/FaceTime. This is our second Zoom Christmas and it was quite lovely, stretching all the way from California to France! We also spent part of Christmas Day with my parents, the reason we moved to Arizona in the first place. They’ve both deteriorated physically quite a lot since we arrived just under two years ago but my mom most of all. So we’ve been having end of life talks, memory talks, difficult talks about what comes next/what sort of care is needed/what can and can’t be done. I’ve also certainly had those thoughts of how fast life is speeding by. My parents are 93 and 92 and in only 25 years I’ll be almost there. How is that even possible? What do I want to do with those years to make the most of them? On the other side, 25 years is just under a third of what I’ve already lived, so looked at from that POV, it seems like quite a lot of time. 🙂 We shall see.

    Much love to you both,

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post are always very thought provoking, Jan. My parents have been gone for several years now, but they will always be with me. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to do a Story Corps interview with Mom when she was 90. It’s nice to slip in the CD and hear her voice again.
    Glad to hear you’re writing a memoir. Mine is more of an autobiography than a memoir, but I’m glad my cousin Jerry Hogan suggest I write one. I have found it both theraputic and enjoyable to document scenes from my childhood and teen years. Hopefully, two or three generations from now some descendant will find it interesting to learn what it was like to grow up in the 1960s & 70s in rural Arkansas.

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Russell! Your interview with your mom is a treasure. Thank goodness I have several recent videos of my dad. Unfortunately, not so many of my mom, although last month I was able to listen to her singing on reel-to-reel tapes that were over 50 years old! I still remember the day she recorded one of them.

      That’s great that you are writing an autobiography! You’re right–it’s both therapeutic and enjoyable. I’m also pretty much writing in scenes, as my memory isn’t good enough to remember a lot of the details.

      Happy New Year to you, Connie and your family!

      Like

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