Break-Up Letter to 2020

Dear 2020,

I am thankful we made it this far, but I am going to say goodbye today. We are finished.

Thankfully,

Denise

When I chose my one word for 2020, time, it was partly because I never had enough. I was never able to accomplish everything (hardly anything it seemed) on my to-do list. I think it had more to do with the fact that I am a teacher than that I was lazy or unproductive.

Ironically, though, early in the year I had more time than I needed. We were sent home from school on February 26, 2020. Learning online continued, and it was stressful at times, but time became much more plentiful. I did manage to achieve some of my hopes for 2020–like doing the NYT mini puzzle each day and taking a one-second video each day. (OK, I know!) But a big hope for me was to be more intentional about building relationships and leadership in those I work with. And, thankfully, this has been a definite highlight.

There were other hopes I did not reach. For instance, I haven’t finished my TESOL certificate or read 40 books in 2020. Why was it that 2020 was not a good reading year? I wondered quite often.

However, I spent some of my 2020 time on things that were not even on my list from last year, ideas that pre-covid were unheard of and/or long-neglected in my life.

  • I learned to cook with spices.
  • I have been exercising and lost 30 extra pounds that did not need to be on my body.
  • I took better care of my mental health.
  • I edited the videos for 40 online worship services for church.
  • I wrote more than 75 poems and more than 150 blog posts.
  • I have not gotten covid-19.

For all these things I am grateful. Since I’ve been practicing thankfulness when I wrote some gratiku and a poem about gratitude in November, I thought giving thanks is a worthy yearlong plan (or longer).

So, for 2021, I am choosing to be thankful, to say thank you every day to my God and to the people around me and in my life. Life is short, and I can’t always be productive. I’m going to embrace life and say thank you for it, even while I keep working for love, peace, change, and justice. While I work, and even when I’m unproductive, my one word for 2021 is Gratitude.

One word for 2021 --gratitude written on a canvas setting on a small easel
My one word for 2021

Images: Hour glass timer by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Thank you blocks by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash

Other one word posts
Voice
Fit
Serenity
Hope
Sow
Time

The Isolation Journals Prompt 122 by Ezra Bookman
Choose one bit of gunk you want to get rid of, something you don’t want to carry with you into 2021. A negative thought you use to put yourself down, a limiting belief or bad habit. Some idol in your inner temple that’s holding your light back from the world. Write it a goodbye letter, as if you’re breaking up with it.

Waiting

Waiting

Are you ready for Karak tea?
My husband’s gift to pour–
Friday mornings, quietly free
This chai, my drink du jour

On this Advent winter Morning
Emmanuel–God with us
Gift of Ransom from our mourning
Rescued from pain and pus

Rejoice, rejoice–God with us, here
In this place, in becoming–
Sipping sweet, spicy, milky Tea
Pause and smile. He’s coming.

The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad Prompt #120 by Cat Miles.

Write about a beloved drink—about how you make it, a memory associated with it, or the way it connects you to others or yourself.

I combined this with another prompt about using Emily Dickinson’s techniques. I attempted #1, writing about a mundane subject with a bigger idea, and #2, using common meter and rhyme. It was also easy to throw in techniques #3, capitalized nouns, and #4, use of dashes. I think I’ll keep practicing! Especially on #2.

“Sugar Cubes”

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

“Sugar cubes,” I read. “Hmmm…we’ve never been sugar cube people.”

“I’ve got nothing. We never bought sugar cubes growing up,” my husband chimed in.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Some months ago for The Isolation Journals prompt, Jenny Boully gave a list of words of which we were to choose 5. I did so and wrote about them here. But I also took all the words (plus more) and wrote each on a slip of paper. They sit on my dining room table and each day at dinner my husband and I choose one and talk about it.

I’m surprised at all the stories that come up from these slips. I’ve known my husband more than 40 years, and I always learn something new about him. And he about me, I suspect.

Today it was sugar cubes. After our initial hesitation, we remembered.

We never bought sugar cubes either, but my Aunt Josephine always had them. Whenever we visited her on the farm, I was so excited to hold a sugar cube ever so gently on my flat palm, being sure to not curl up my fingers so Rony didn’t bite them. She gently plucked off her treat with her tickling nimble velvet lips.

My husband shared about his friend in high school who took a few drops of LSD with his sugar cubes.

That reminded me of standing in long lines at my local school to get vaccinated. I would have been happy to stand in line forever if it meant not getting a shot. When it finally was our turn we were full of fear and trepidation. While I “ouched” and complained about the smallpox vaccine that came through multiple jabs to my upper arm, I was delighted that I also got to ingest the polio vaccine in a glorious sugar cube. It was like getting a sucker at the dentist for being good.

Every day we discuss multiple stories from that one noun on our story slips. We’ve talked about wagons and watermelon, caterpillars and canoes, Ferris wheels and firewood and so much more.

Some future story starters for us…

Poem of Gratitude

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org – Say YES to writing with #TWTBlog and #SOLSC

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~e. e. cummings

November has been a month for me to consciously say “thank you”. I think I shouldn’t wait for American Thanksgiving month to be thankful. (That has been one of my takeaways this month.) It is good to practice gratitude for a lifetime. As Meister Eckhart said centuries ago, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Here is my gratefulness prayer today inspired by e.e. cummings and 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Thank You

I thank you God for most this amazing day–
for the dancing tingling cooling ocean of breeze
and the great green born of
gossamer petrichor and dusty dreams.

Limitless and welcome breath of God,
thank you for swelling my sails
to bear me
through the storm
safely to the other side
of the Bay of Blight.

For the mellifluous music of the ages
Singing softly from the
treetops of joy: It is the birth
day of olive branches
and of keys and of openness and hope.

My eyes have not seen
My ears have not heard
My mind has not thought of
All the delicious dazzling dulcet days you
have prepared for those who love You.
I do love you and I thank you.

Prompt 118 for The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad.

Write a poem of gratitude. Write from your deepest senses. Write of the “great happening illimitably earth” and all its strange wonders (including me, including you). Write with the ears of your ears awake, and the eyes of your eyes open.

Mentor texts:
e. e. cummings “i thank You God for most this amazing

1 Corinthians 2:9: “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.'”

Death

Death

For you, the pandemic is only a
history lesson owned by
old folks who shudder about
having gone to Zoom school
when they were kids.
The fear of fundamentalism
was in its prime back then
And it happened at a time when some
in our country were so poor
they didn’t have
homes, enough food or health care.
Do you believe it?

I am your ancestor and you know little about me
No reason for you to imagine the problems I helpfully solved
or my taste for sweet juicy mango
No reason for you to know that I was a storyteller
and a story writer or that I tried
to help children
own their learning

You will live your life well without knowing how I
could bake chocolate chip cookies as well as Mrs. Field,
nurture sourdough for years without killing it, and
edit videos for online church services.

All my digital files were
put into the Recycle Bin
with one click of
a mouse,
(do you still call them that?)
maybe two clicks.

I remember how I died,
and because I couldn’t stop myself,
Death kindly came for me.

He slowed down for me to smell the
jasmine in the garden,
to eat the spicy rice,
ignoring the chicken.
He let me say goodbye to the butterflies
and cheetahs, the puffins and the elephants
He let me hold a newborn baby, pet a fluffy puppy,
and write once more with a fine pen.
He let me listen to favorites by
Simon and Garfunkel,
Gordon Lightfoot,
and Carole King,
like an old person.

He told me
the unfinished paper piles,
collections of “important” stuff,
unfinished to-do lists
could all be left behind
and no one,
really, no one,
would care.

All those things I had spent decades counting as gain,
I finally was able to count as loss
Looking back,
I can see how
taking Him by the hand
gave me more than
I could ever imagine

Prompt 116 by Mark Wunderlich:
Write a poem in which the speaker is dead but still possesses a consciousness and is capable of thought and speech. Include rich description and concrete physical details, as if the speaker is greedy for the sensory experience of life on earth.

Mentor texts shared by Mark, including one of his own poems. I used ideas or phrases from each of these in my poem:

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

“Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh” by Thomas James

“Our Dust” by C.D. Wright

“To Whom It May Concern” by Mark Wunderlich

and a Bible verse that inspired me Philippians 3:8