This post is a “both/and”: I’ve been desperately wanting to write this post AND been avoiding it like the plague. Thank you in advance for bearing with me in the probably chaotic, highly emotional AND deeply personal space this post will take us. I’m sharing it because I want to share my gratitude with you all, since you and this project is part of what I am grateful for.
I’ve spent much of this year trying to cultivate a gratitude practice – writing down one thing I’m grateful for that has happened every day. I haven’t done it as consistently as I’ve wanted to – AND whatever I have cultivated is already more that before, so I’ll take that “win.”
As part of that practice, I promised I would reflect back on this year – never expecting THIS year to be what I would be reflecting back on. AND it is THIS year, THIS 2020, that I am reflecting on (there’s that “both/and” again – it starts popping up everywhere when you actually start practicing it).
Before my rant, for those of you wanting some clarification on what I mean by “both/and,” it is a term I am very grateful to Dante’s school for introducing me to. As part of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, it has implemented multi-cultural communication guidelines in the school space and introduced it to all members of the community. “Both/And” is a guideline that has deeply enriched my communication, perspective-taking, and empathy. I have come to realize that it best explains so much about my experience of this world.
An example I would always hold in mind is that you and I can be in the same room, at the same temperature, with the same clothing on – I might feel hot AND you might feel a bit chilly. BOTH can exist at the same time. BOTH are equally valid. Neither displaces, excludes, or diminishes the other. The harder one for me is – someone doesn’t value Y (one of my core values) AND I might be able to have a meaningful relationship with them (depends on the core value).
So, here the “both/and” of my 2020. And may I dare ask you all to share some of your “both/and” of 2020 in the comments? I’d love to create a space of sharing around this.
2020 Has Been Both . . .
2020. What can I say to you? I want to rip you apart, tear you to pieces, flush you down the toilet, remove you from my memories and forget you ever existed. You have brought me some of the deepest pain I have yet to experience.
You took my father away and (despite being so physically close) didn’t even give me a chance to hug him goodbye, to see his face one last time, to look into his eyes so he could feel my love from the depths of my soul before this terrible virus suffocated him to death, to bury him properly, to allow me, my mom, and everyone who loved him to honor his life with a service.
You didn’t let me apologize to him for all the times I couldn’t empathize with him. You didn’t give me a chance thank him for all that he had done for me. You didn’t let him repair with his sister or his niece. You didn’t let him hold his wife in his hands one last time or her him. You didn’t let him see his grandchildren one last time, to light up his eyes with joy one last time before you plunged him into respiratory hell.
You took capoeira away from me. Capoeira – CBLA – a new community I so deeply felt and connected with, that helped me in my journey to reconnect with my body, that got me moving again, that vibrated deep in my soul with its rhythms of the pandeiro, atabaque, berimbau. I find tiny moments – the teeniest of slivers of time – to do some gingas here and there – but in the tight space, on top of each other, children needing more presence than ever before, have to make sure they don’t walk in on one of Marino’s meetings or start screaming right outside the door, dysregulated because of so much screen time. . . I can’t make it through a single virtual class. . . and forget about in-person classes – the risks are too high for bringing the virus home to my mom.
You took away my couple hours a day to find peace and quiet (NOT JUST to get 5 minutes of silence in – but to actually get S*&T done!) while Leila was in school. Everything I need to do now gets squeezed into snippets here and there when I have the time – reorder Baba’s medicine or call about solar for the van? Solar will have to wait another day! The list has grown so exponentially, sometimes I don’t even know where to begin. You took away my time to catch up with friends – with children’s anxieties through the roof, Mama doesn’t get to step out long, if at all.
You took away our immersion summer in Russia, the one I was supposed to finally go see where my parents grew up, where they went to school, where my mom worked at the radio, where my dad hopped the fence to steal candies from the factory, where my dad’s been wanting me to go by the Black Sea, where I can finally visit the town my dad was born in Siberia, where my children could grow a stronger connection with their Russian roots and practice the most difficult of the home languages we speak.
Then, there’s what you did to my children’s social/physical/sensory development. You ripped them away from their friends, from problem-solving with similarly-aged children, from imaginative play that expands their mental horizons, from swings that help with proprioceptive sensory integration, from the resources at the fingertips of their schools that we just can’t afford to have at home – from light tables, to giant climbing structures, to climbing trees, to a full edible garden. You took so much from them.
You took all of us away from our dear school communities, other parents and staff and teachers with whom we have felt so connected, those Fridays at school cooking our children’s hot lunches and getting to sneak peaks into their school/peer lives, those mornings before their sings (assemblies) or drop-off that we built into our schedules so that we could disconnect from the mundane everyday and just share with one another as parents, children and staff.
It pains my son to do school zoom dance parties so he avoids them, I tear up every time there is a zoom sing (assembly). The only year Dante gets to be an older partner at school – a reading partner, he has to do it online when he is SUCH an in-person being. He’s supposed to be in woodworking, he should have had the chance to block-build the topography of Alaska, to learn about the empowering work of Alaskan indigenous communities, to gather around with his class and taste the foods from the different countries they’re all studying, to join together with his school and eat meals together for Friday hot lunches, and to cook together for their Fall feast.
Leila is 4 – she can’t do zoom, even when she wants to. We’ve tried preschool on zoom, dance on zoom, capoeira on zoom. . . It doesn’t work. She wasn’t meant for it – no child was. And so, she’s lost her friends, her teachers, her school, her dance and capoeira that she loved so much. Even her best friend who has been in her life since she was 4 months old – a few minutes at best before tapping the screen, zoning out, walking away.
Others got to go back and will get to go back and my children will have to watch them on a zoom screen as others get to reconnect, while we stay away and keep Baba safe.
You took Deda away from my mom. My mom lost her daytime companion, her bedtime snuggler, her crossword partner, the other half to her singing old Russian songs duo. . . the one who knew every one of her favorite foods, clothes, and habits, the one who accepted every single part of her unconditionally, her best friend. How my heart hurts for her and try as we might, we just can’t fill all that space in her life that now exists.
It’s a sillier one but you took a Legoland birthday away from Leila. She is rarely the sole focus of attention. She rarely gets to pick and plan something as exciting as this. Plus, her brother got to do one of these and she breathed through all the decisions he got to make because she knew she’s have her chance next time – but there was no next time.
I miss everything and everyone so much. I think this might be one of the first times I’m saying it so explicitly. I MISS EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE SO MUCH.
2020. You have devastated me more than I have ever been before.
AND 2020 Has Been . . .
2020. You have set into motion the most incredible life shift this family has ever undertaken. We are leaving behind all societal expectations. We’re sticking with our gut and what we know our family needs. . .
2020, you have given us this greatest of gifts. You have allowed us to reflect on how life can be different – the pace, the time, and the space you have afforded us is something we are NOT willing to lose. You have shown us how much we’ve needed it and how much we’ve lost by not creating it for ourselves.
I am grateful we are choosing to travel the world together, to wildschool/worldschool our children, to check off Baba’s travel bucket list, to check off Deda’s unfinished bucket list, to live (almost) off-grid, to honor our vagabond hearts.
I am grateful for all the moments 2020 has afforded along the way to making this decision: our week-long RV trip, time to plug into worldschooling/wildschooling/van-living communities to see that this is the life for us, time to sell the house, time to research and purchase our van, time to build our tiny-home-on-wheels, time to buy a new home (future rental), time to declutter.
I am grateful that 2020 has allowed me to see just how beneficial this kind of living is to Dante and his highly sensitive brain and body – how regulated he is, how inspired he is to research and learn on his own, how involved he can be.
I am grateful that 2020 has given me more meaningful time with Leila than I’ve probably had since her birth. No longer is most of our day spent driving to school, driving from school, driving to pick Dante up, driving to an afterschool activity, driving while you’re napping, driving, driving, driving. . . I don’t know any child who’s had to spend as much time in a carseat as you and I am so grateful that 2020 put a stop to that. Instead, we have walks in the neighborhood and picnics outside and playdates with stuffies while Dante remote-schools and Marino works.
I am grateful that I started this bl