Well. It’s over. Our family closed out 2021 in Minnesota with Covid. It’s been mild but complicated. Everyone had a very different idea about what it meant to get a positive test result. We were the county—first-in-line vaccinated, no-way-in-hell unvaccinated, vaccine-undeclared, and vaccine-agnostic, all breathing the same Covid air. And then there was the blizzard, the kind that comes around once a decade and leaves a glistening three feet of snow at the doorstep. Leaving was not an option. It was American theater at its finest. I imagined a curtain rising to reveal my mother walking around her living room doling out vitamin C and reminding everyone to wash their hands, three teenage girls sit around the kitchen table with dueling sewing machines, one of them is wearing a mask. Menfolk sit around a card table soldering a shortwave radio set while someone tinkers on the piano. I am offstage, in my childhood bedroom reading aloud CDC guidelines for tumultuous times. Every conversation, every meal, every decision reveals the fault lines between us. It is a scene that is playing out in houses across the country.
I had set an intention before we arrived: I would love hard and stay connected no matter what. I even had matching t-shirts made so we could all be on the same team. Love in theory is very different than love in action. I would like to say that I was generous, kind, and curious. I would like to say that I came away from the trip feeling closer than ever to my family. But, I retreated, as I did when I was a kid, biding my time until I could get out and lashing out at my brother when he questioned my concerns. I cannot claim to know what is right. What I do know is that every challenge is a chance for growth. And, as with all living things, we grow toward the light.
Fortunately, the virus passed through the house quickly and mercifully. As I write, Joe and the girls and I are holed up at an AirBnB in Minneapolis with a bottle of bubbly and a deck of cards ready to ring in the new year. I am grateful for the exposure (pardon the pun) to loved ones with different opinions and beliefs and the chance to practice being in relationship. I wouldn’t call it pleasurable but it is definitely practice. And with practice comes pleasure.
A PLEASURE PRACTICE FOR CLOSING OUT THE YEAR
Here’s what I am doing tonight to close out the year. Join me.
On a piece of paper, draw three columns. On the left side, write down 10 challenges you faced this year. This could be in the domain of finances, health, love, housing, career, family, energy, and aspirations. In the middle column, write down the ways you grew from each challenge. And now, on the right side, write how you feel about your growth. Be generous with yourself. Let the love come in.
A PLEASURE PRACTICE FOR BRINGING IN THE NEW YEAR
Do this with a partner if you can. Find an old photo of yourself. Take a good long look at it. Share a story about this time in your life or write it down if you are doing this solo. What would that person in the photo be excited to know about the person you are today? What would surprise them? Delight them? What do you want to tell past you?
Now, imagine you are looking at a photo of yourself in the future — a few years or many years away. What would you, the present you, be excited to know about future you? What do you want to tell future you?
FROM THE INSTITUTE OF PLEASURE STUDIES
SAVE THE DATE
I have been studying a form of communication called UPLVL with Kenya K Stevens. She is a game-changer and I am excited to bring her work to all of you. Read her book and join us for a discussion and some practices on January 12th at 7 PM EST.
Happy New Year to you all. Peace Out 2021.