Well, it is the end of 2020 and I will gladly say along with everybody else on the planet, "Good Riddance!" It has certainly been one helluva year.
Earlier today I was revisiting a season of life from 2017 that was hard. So hard I really did despair of life itself. There was a time in the spring of that year where it was blow after blow after blow of more stress and complications of life than I was able to handle. I distinctly remember standing up at church, telling people that I understood how some people are so beyond hope that they choose to end it all, and begged my church family to remind me that somehow, some way God was making something beautiful out of it all.
I compared that season of life to the disaster that has been 2020. Both very hard years, but very different kinds of hard. And I realized that, while 2020 is not a year that any of us would want to repeat, the hard has been so much more bearable.
The difference is camaraderie.
What I have suffered in 2020, pretty much everybody has suffered. We understand each other's pain. We can empathize. We can commiserate. We can "me, too" all over each other. At every turn we read articles about why things are so hard. How many people are struggling to make ends meet or how loneliness has skyrocketed. We can all bemoan together the polarization of society. Whichever camp we fall into, we can find others in our camp. And those of us who are too liberal for some and too conservative for others even can commiserate with one another. Even the Island of Misfit Toys is getting rather populated.
The difference between 2020 and any other year is that suffering has been normalized.
I have had some really rough years in the past. I remember saying, at the end of 2019, that 2011 was a horrible year. And 2014 was a horrible year. And 2017 was a horrible year. And I was really just getting kinda skittish about 2020, math being what it is and all.
But all those other years, the hard things in my life were private. Many of them seemed to be of my own making. If I had parented better or worked harder or could just suck it up enough then things wouldn't be so bad. My pain was hidden and, in some ways, it was my hard life was own damn fault. Or so it seemed. And all the while everybody else's lives seemed to be on cruise control.
There is a lot out there written about what kind of pain gets support and what doesn't. I've even written on it a time or two myself. A death gets support. A divorce does not. A physical illness gets visitors and casseroles, a mental illness gets silence and shame. It is the aloneness that is so devastating.
There is something about collective suffering that makes it easier to swallow. When we are all carrying a load, it seems lighter. In some ways, years like this year level the playing field, even if just a little. Toilet paper was scarce...everywhere. Kids were out of school...everywhere. Parents were pulling their hair out... everywhere.
Even in the midst of all of the conflict over major issues and minor ones (and people will fight over EVERYTHING), there still seems to be the universal recognition that all of this is hard. For whatever reason, that acknowledgement is incredibly comforting. Pain acknowledged is less powerful than pain ignored.
So while 2020 has been a rotten, rotten year and the future is still so unsure, I can't say that, at least for me, it has been the worst year ever. I am incredibly thankful for the honesty, vulnerability, and compassion I have experienced and witnessed this year. Thank you, my friends.