At the end of 2019, I went for a walk in the woods after a fresh snowfall and recorded a video. I had some lofty goals for 2020 and wanted to record how I felt at that moment, looking at the year ahead. On New Year’s Eve, I took some time to pull up that video and watch it for the first time. When I watched it, I didn’t remember what I said. It turns out, I didn’t even remember what I felt, but in tears, I said, “It’s hard to feel optimistic about the future because life happens.”
Life happens. If that’s not a good way to describe 2020, I don’t know what is. So many people start out the year with plans and goals but in 2020… life happened. Halfway through the year, I realized my top goal probably wouldn’t happen. 2020 just wasn’t the year for it. Not only that, but my vision for that goal had also partially changed the more I thought about it as the year went on.
As I continued talking in the video I quoted a line from Written to Speak, “In all that is heavy, there is hope.” And I talked about the heaviness: some of the heaviness I’ve felt in recent years is heaviness I brought on myself as I examined my beliefs about everything in life. And some of it was brought on by life. The heaviness I felt as I wrestled with faith, and politics, and so many of the issues that we’re faced in with life isn’t a heaviness that I wanted to be free of.
I don’t expect life to be easy. I’m not sure I even want it to be easy. This isn’t an easy world that we live in. But in order to get through the bad; in order to get through the not-so-good and the heaviness, there needs to be hope.
At the end of 2019, I don’t think I felt hopeful. I know that I hadn’t felt hopeful for a few years.
I organized the notes on my phone over the weekend and found notes that I took while listening to a sermon from one of the pastor’s I work with. Happiness is circumstantial. If things are going well, we experience happiness. Joy transcends our circumstances.
How I view joy and hope is probably rooted in my faith. I have hope because I know that Jesus died on the cross to forgive my sins so that I can be in heaven with him one day. My hope isn’t found in this current world I live in. But having faith doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to find hope, to find joy. Sometimes I have to be intentional about choosing to live with joy.
At the end of 2020, my sisters invited me to go through a process called Hello, Goodbye. In order to say Hello to 2021, we need to say Goodbye to 2020. Part of this process involved going through 2020 month-by-month to write down what happened. When I saw what happened in my life in 2020 on paper, there was a lot of good. I discovered the hardest months were the months that I was buried in the heaviness of the events that occurred in 2020. Months that, as I told my sisters and mom on our Zoom call last night, I grew stagnant because we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. It was when I made an effort to find an adventure that I pulled out of it and I was able to find that hope and joy again. I took advantage of good weather to go for walks in different state parks. When I heard we might be able to see the northern lights, I drove north to find a dark place to try and view them. (We didn’t, but the adventure can be found just in the attempt.) When we heard about the Christmas star, my sister and her family and I drove out to find it.
I learned that I need to be intentional about seeking out the things that bring me joy and that when I do, it makes the heaviness, the circumstances of 2020–of life–much more bearable. When I’m filled with joy, it doesn’t make life less stressful and it doesn’t take away from what’s happening, but it gives me the hope and motivation I need to continue.
So that’s my word for 2021, my reminder:
The reminder that joy isn’t based on my circumstances; it’s something that fills me. It’s something that, when the heaviness of life takes over, I need to be intentional about drawing out of myself. Whether that’s through a walk in the woods, trying to find the northern lights, or even just the small, stay-at-home moments like giving my pup tummy rubs, making a hot chocolate board for a KDrama night with my niece and nephew, building a fort, playing my flute, spending time with my plants, or painting.
Life happens. It’s how I choose to face it that matters. And as I move forward I want to face it with joy.