The Contrast

Photo by Philippe Leone on Unsplash

It is the twenty-eighth day of December. Enough days to be removed from the maelstrom of the holidays and plenty before the resolutions and goal planning of the New Year. I am sitting on a chair, next to a fire burning in our wood stove with my feet up, and it is the first real relaxation I have had since June. I am honestly not sure what to do with myself.

As a full-time metalsmith, the busiest time of each year has just come to a close. Yet for some reason, this year and quite unexpectedly so, the busy season started in July and did not let up until December twenty-first when I closed my online shop until the new year. What usually is two months was six and to say I am tired in every sense would be, well, accurate. In the past few days, I’ve slept twelve hours a night and a nap in between. I ask myself why I don’t feel like going for a run in the new, beautiful running clothes my husband gifted me for Christmas and it comes down to exhaustion. We need to fill our cup before we can pour from it.

I know I am not alone in this. This year was exhausting for most in some sense. The world-changing events of this year, long overdue for some (anti-racist work), shocking and confusing for others (COVID), would leave anyone ready to lay down on the sofa for an extended period of time. Whether you had a schedule similar to mine in which you worked or thought about work more than fifty hours a week consistently for several months or the opposite of this with no work to do and more time than you thought existed for several months – there was contrast for everyone.

What did our lives look like before March? Does anyone even remember? My daughters and I were watching a movie the other night with a football stadium scene in which no one was wearing a mask. Because the movie was filmed fifteen years ago. When my eldest commented on how no one had a mask on, we all agreed that it was the first thing we noticed. How has this year changed us? There are some ways that are obvious, such as in our actions with mask-wearing and working from home. But what about all of the little nuances that maybe we aren’t aware of yet? One example of this is that I really enjoy my alone time, but maybe I enjoy it more now than is good for me. I always feel better after an interaction with friends, but I am more quickly depleted when in a small group of people than I was before. Will it take social weight-lifting, so to speak, to return to my pre-Covid extrovert fitness level?

A gift, I believe, hidden in all of this is the contrast. For most of us, our lives look very different than they did this time last year. And the gift in that is that it broke us out of the schedules and routines we possibly held for years and the chance to ask – do I want to go back to the ‘life before’? Maybe some parts, yes – consistent work, leaving the house, social interaction, hugging. Yes and yes and yes. But the details of our daily lives that we knew for so long that we realized maybe we don’t love? Do you want to go back to waking, looking at your phone/watching the news, getting ready for work and leaving the house? Or did you take a break from that one day last March and realize it is much better to make a cup of coffee and sit and look out the window still in your pajamas without the outside world coming in before you can take your first breath? Or the opposite, similar to my situation – did your work ramp up to the point that it left you tired most of the time and when you used to be drinking a cup of coffee, you were already in your second hour of work? Either way, this year left us questioning if this was what we wanted to continue to create into the future.

This contrast on life gave us a chance to take stock. Even if it was a temporary shift in our lives, it served as a splash of cold water on our faces. Do you want to look for a new job in the field in which you were furloughed? Or do you want to change gears and focus on that novel you started to write in your spare time? Even if you do go back to that same previous line of work, your love of writing was rekindled and a small flame that was inside of you was fanned, thanks to the contrast.

As this year comes to a close, what do you want to take with you? What do you want to leave behind? Sit down with a notebook and take stock. What excites you about opportunities that you weren’t aware of or didn’t entertain that now present themselves and seem possible? What do you want to create? It has always been up to us but now that is more evident than ever.

The hardships this year were plenty, but I would argue there was beauty hidden within – they showed us we could survive. The hardships created a crevasse that the light could shine through, that could illuminate the contrast of what was and what could be. My hope is that we are all brave enough to look.