Thankfulness 2020

As a kid, Thanksgiving was an all-family gathering at my house, and meant no more to me than that. My current-day perspective: Thanksgiving is a misplaced celebration of the conquest of a continent, taking joy in having usurped home from millions of people whose ancestors had been here for millennia. I can’t celebrate Thanksgiving any longer. Two years ago, I invented my own holiday to celebrate – Thankfulness.

2020 – a quarantine of a pandemic, and the most divisive election season I’ve ever experienced. How can I write about thankfulness this year? What can there possibly be to write about?

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first… people have died of Covid. I know some of them… Children aren’t receiving proper socialization. How can you learn social behavior from six feet away and behind a mask, unable to go to physical school?… I have never seen so many houseless people in Portland, tent townships springing up in all manner of urban open areas, many streets with tents lining the grass verge… Every time there is a new outbreak, or announcement of further quarantine, toilet paper disappears from the store shelves (it’s not hard to imagine what Freud would make of that)… Chorus can’t meet, a lifeline of my existence… Friends can’t hug, or share a meal, another lifeline of my existence.

I may have left out a few negatives; I got too weighted down to keep going on that thread.

I wouldn’t say the flip side is positives – how can there be anything positive about Covid? I’m known as the Punster and Uplifter of Spirits to quite a few folks on Facebook, and this punster isn’t going to make the obvious one – positives and Covid. It’s too serious a subject for jokes.

While there aren’t positives, there are most definitely silver linings to celebrate. Here are a few, my list of Thankfulness for 2020:

  • I used my stimulus check to buy a badly-needed new computer. From March 17, I was working from home, using an eleven-year-old computer that took half an hour to boot up in the morning, and could only run Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or Firefox – pick one at a time. I graduated to a Ferrari. This may seem like a small silver lining, yet this change meant:
  • I learned how to meld PowerPoint with Zoom, and discovered I excel at creating and delivering this kind of presentation. I don’t know exactly where this will lead in the future, but it can only be somewhere good;
  • If we had to have a pandemic, thank God it has taken place at a time of connectivity; Zoom and FaceTime are lifesavers to this extrovert. I can’t hug friends, but I can at least talk to them while seeing their smiling faces on my screen. I’ve become closer friends with a number of folks after Zoom heart-to-hearts.
  • Though I couldn’t experience it as I would have wanted, I did experience the most beautiful clean summer air since my 1976 move to Portland.
  • Absences makes the heart grow fonder indeed. I will never take chorus for granted again, sharing the air in song. Choruses will be the last to reconvene as the pandemic recedes into history. Back in the mid-1990s, my chorus began offering free flu shots every winter; a week before a December holiday concert, a third of the chorus had come down with the flu and couldn’t perform. There’s nothing like chorus to spread viruses. All that deep breathing in close quarters.
  • Cooking for people is part of my Nia, my purpose in life, as is singing together. I am blessed with many friends to cook with and for, and with the ability to sing for people in chorus. While I will eventually be able to do both again, I will never again take either for granted.

Which leads to my most counterintuitive thankfulness: all the loving interconnection that keeps my heart going every day. Not being able to hug, to share the air in song, we’ve had to find other ways to keep the connection going. Zoom socials. Long phone conversations. The longing expressed in various ways is a constant reminder of connections we often took for granted while conducting our busy lives. The isolation does take its toll at times. And, slowing our lives down to the rhythm of interconnection is also an opportunity to be reminded of what’s most important in life: each other.

Author: reidpdx

I am an honorary lesbian transman, married to a woman, singing baritone in the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. All me, all the time.

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