And then, as I sat with my family in my living room, my precious children unpacking their Christmas stockings, the warmth of love and a fireplace washing over us, accented by the early morning light - we were all assaulted by the shockwave energy of a car bomb - slowly, methodically rumbling to a horrifying crescendo - passing through our house and our bodies and our beings in just a few seconds. The energy was palpable; the source then unknown. We all leapt to figure out what the hell had just happened.
Moments fearing mass casualty. Moments of terror. Protecting Christmas morning for my kids. Early pictures coming in. A bomb in an RV. Processing. The energy of the bomb still echoing and bouncing around within me. Gifts to be opened. Fire still burning. Merry Christmas.
The slow, unfurling of trauma - the new climax of what actually started in March.
And still, I have felt the need to apologize or add a disclaimer for my commentary on 2020.
After all, I didn’t lose my business or my home in the 2020 Nashville tornado or the massive wind shear just a few weeks later. I lived it, but only lost a chimney. I know people who lost everything.
I didn’t lose my job in a collapsing economy - and yet tens of millions have.
I didn’t lose the end of my kindergarten year and all of my first grade year. I didn’t lose 2nd and 3rd grade. My daughters did.
I didn’t lose my home to foreclosure.
I didn’t lose a child or a brother or a friend to police brutality or racial violence.
I have not even lost a close friend or family member yet to Covid.
Neither my house nor my business was bombed on Christmas Day.
I’ve seemingly been on the edge of it all. Indirect hit after indirect hit. Yet, I have felt it. I’m wearing it. I see it in my own face.
For months, I have been “white knuckling it.” Gripping the fucking wheel and focusing on the road right in front of me. Control what I can control. Stay present. Manage.
And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is probably most of us.
I have been traumatized by 2020. We have been traumatized. Regardless of my or your lack of personal tragedy in the year, or direct hit from the year - if you too have been so lucky - our basic empathy seeds our trauma. Practically demands it.
So, “moving on” from 2020 is going to take a lot more than a shot in the arm. There is no inoculation from trauma, and we have more grueling months of the pandemic ahead of us and more to endure.
The work of moving past 2020 will require each of us to do deep work on ourselves and with others to understand how 2020 has changed us. Surely, we have all learned something about ourselves and the world and our values and our politics this year. But, what is less clear is the emotional toll the year has taken on us. We must be aware how we have changed emotionally to ensure growth and avoid emotional stunting or regression. We must grow.
We must cultivate our hobbies and our physical, mental, and intellectual health with deliberate investment and intentionality that has never previously been required.
We must recognize that the energy and spark that our passions once brought may be only sufficient to keep us afloat rather than making us soar. We must stay afloat. But, we also must find new ways to stay afloat, so that we again may soar.
We must find reasons to smile in isolation and seemingly without reason to replace the happenstance smile and joy of an interaction with a stranger on the street or with a server at a restaurant or running into an old friend out of the blue.
We must hear ourselves when we talk to our kids and our spouses and those we care about most in the world and ensure we nourish our own patience and invest in our own presence such that we may also model it for them.
We must be aware when we feel the walls of our homes closing in on us - as home continues to be office (and school) and office continues to be home and find our way to more open spaces within and around us.
We must deal with our trauma.
In other words, we have to work our asses off in 2021 (and beyond). Normal will not return. The new normal - at least a healthy one - won’t just happen. We have changed, been changed.
We have been traumatized. We must now live and work to transform this reality into a healthy and necessary new foundation for any meaningful recovery.