Calling the Bet

2020 was the year that kept on giving.

Here’s a funny trend: the last few years have been tough–so tough that as we reach this last week before New Year’s Day, we have habitually wished away the year in hopes the next would be better. 2016 was one such year, as was 2019. Funny, isn’t it? What on earth happened to us in 2019 that convinced us to hurry up with it, to roll along as fast as we could in hopes that 2020 would bring us some kind of respite?

Well, 2020 called our bets and ran the table on us, plowing us over with a merciless pandemic, widespread civil unrest, and an election that annihilated any sense of national unity.

Twelve months ago, for the second time, I patched together a list of resolutions for the year 2020. I pecked out my meager ideas on the old, Olympia typewriter that belonged to my grandfather. Last year (2019), I kept the list on my fridge the entire year and followed up on my efforts.

While the tattered, naive person who wrote those resolutions has woefully come a long way in the last decade year, it is still my solemn duty to report back on my progress toward these hopeful goals for the year 2020:

  • Be kind(er). The year 2019 had left me feeling something like a curmudgeon. I didn’t like it, and I wanted to do more to be kinder to my fellow man. At this point, you might imagine me leaning back in my chair, a wry smile on my face, shaking my head slowly. My ability to abide my neighbor has been challenged. A lot.
  • Fix something on the Jeep. Check. I’ve fixed several things, actually, including replacing the thermostat and a couple of hoses, changing the transmission fluid, un-sticking the parking brake mechanicals, getting the front door jamb switches back in working order, and reviving the Marchal fog lights. The trusted mechanics at Brent’s Automotive downtown contributed an oil change, brake pads, and a tire rotation. We put around 1,100 miles on the Woodrow the Wagoneer this year. There’s still plenty left to work on.
  • Graduate. Done! I completed my Masters in Higher Education Leadership in August. That one felt gooooood.
  • Exercise 4x/week. I’ve done this seasonally. I know it’s good for me, and I definitely can see the benefits when I take time to do this, but I have to admit that it was hard to keep a routine during a year when routines went totally bonkers.
  • Take care of the easy stuff. I love Mark Twain’s advice to eat the frog (shorthand: accomplish your list of to-do items starting with the hardest thing first). It makes sense. I get it. But my to-do list so often gets crowded with big/tough/hard stuff that I neglect to check off easy things, and sometimes easy things are important, too. Sending the little note to someone. Making a phone call to a friend. Easy stuff, but all the more important in a year in which we needed each other. Check.
  • Pray deeply. I kept his on the list for two years. I feel like my spiritual life has gotten a lot more honest this year. (That’s a weird thing to admit, isn’t it?) This year has been humbling. On the topic of faith: I accidentally ended up being the minder of livestream church services for Trinity Episcopal. My church attendance has never been better. But it’s a mighty eerie feeling to be one of only four or five people carrying on mass for a year.
  • Feed the birds. This was the other resolution I kept. The bird feeder stayed full–and became a brief hobby during the early stages of the lockdown, when I would wander out into the yard with our digital camera to photograph the wildlife that was showing up for a meal. Back in August, we had a large, dying ash tree taken out, and the crew doing the work had to also cut down the lovely dogwood where I’d hung the feeder. So I had to move it closer to the front of the house, where it now sits outside the breakfast room.
  • Go camping. What began as an urge to revisit my Boy Scout memories turned into an awfully convenient goal in a year in which outdoor activities were among the few healthy things to do. Thanks to a few good deals on used equipment, I outfitted the family with a tent, sleeping bags, and cooking materials. We started with a modest overnight in the back yard–more for the sake of testing the kids’ interest in sleeping out of doors–and worked up to a trip to Lake Norman State Park. Sadly, I never got to write up a post detailing that trip (dark-thirty visit by racoons and all!) but I will say I very much look forward to the next one.
  • Be courageous. Leap. This time last year I happened to be at an interesting crossroads. I had applied to a doctoral program, and I also happened to be in consideration for a pretty big job that would have required a move. Candidly, I wasn’t sure about either of these two things. I didn’t know if I had the hutzpah to earn a doctorate, and I wasn’t sure if the job was something I could do well. I resolved to summon my courage and try. The job didn’t work out. The doctoral program did. I’m two semesters through it.
  • Celebrate the good. There has been much good this year. There is joy amidst the sorrow. This year has been a constant reminder to look for the glimmers of light through the dark. Hold onto them, embrace them, cherish them, give thanks for them.

Happy new year, friends.


The Earring


Twenty-one is one of my favorite numbers

1 Comment

  1. Bob

    Thank you for this James! One of my grandfathers used to call it “taking stock “ and there is nothing more helpful than being honest with yourself. You inspire me Togo back to an old habit that became a friend.

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