2020 a real “annus horribilis”

For more than a decade, my year-end blogs have typically presented readers with a list of headlines I hoped to see in the coming year. Some were aspirational, some were funny, some were caustic. You often contributed your own imaginings to the list.

Last year, my top headline for 2020 announced Donald Trump’s defeat and departure, with his brood, for Mar-a-Lago. The process has been ugly and is not yet complete, and we are waiting to exhale upon reading a January 20, 2021 headline: Joseph R. Biden sworn in as 46th President of the United States. Cue the fireworks. Pass the tissues. Hard work ahead, but we mostly survived. Sadly, more than 345,000 of us did not.

Many of my aspirational predictions for 2020 went bust, including Amy McGrath’s stretch-goal defeat of Mitch McConnell, Irish reunification post Brexit, the defeat of Benjamin Netanyahu, and Charlie Baker’s straightening out the MBTA. (And let’s not even talk about my predictions for Tom Brady or the Red Sox.) I never foresaw the scope of the pandemic, the depth and breadth of Trump’s depravity, the epic timidity of his gutless enablers, the selfishness of his acolytes and others refusing to wear masks.

But I also missed predicting some really good things, stories that redeemed my faith in humanity and kept me going. I so appreciated the selflessness of health care workers and front-line providers; the importance of the faceless workers who deliver our packages and take away our trash; the courage of election workers of both parties who professionally carried out the tasks that underpin our democracy; the young people who turned out to vote in greater numbers than ever before; the journalists who dug deep and ferreted out the stories we needed to know; the creative artists who produced new music and art that made us laugh and cry and touched us deeply; the friends who reached out to us in our isolation, the neighbors who were there with a helping hand.

Never one to accept change easily, I learned in 2020 that, even at my age, I could evolve. Armed with chocolate and tons of reading and viewing opportunities, I could be patient in a way that previously seemed a most unnatural act. I came to understand, in a more profound way, the value of a sunny day, a long walk with no particular destination, time for reflection, good health and, above all, friendship. I also came to understand that, despite several close relationships with people of color, I had so much more to learn, not having walked in their shoes. Having spent most of my career writing and delivering opinion, I became a better listener. As a New Year’s resolution, I pledge to do even more of that.

And so, dear readers, I wish you a safe, happy, healthy and peaceful 2021. 2020 is where it belongs: in the rear view mirror. We can back up over it and do violence to it, or we can put the car in drive and move forward with optimism and sheer, unadulterated relief. To which I say, Amen.

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