on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

looking back at 2020

I’m not entirely sure how accurate can a review post be, versus being a snapshot of how one feels at the very end of the year. Memories are always sort of fuzzy, and we tend to have biases. But maybe the mere attempt to reflect is worthwhile.

2020 feels like a lost year to me, and I’m probably not the only one who feels this way. I think we’re conditioned to believe life is a linear upwards journey, and we don’t take it very well when we seem to regress. I didn’t really have plans for 2020, but it is one thing to choose not to have plans, and another thing to be deprived of the opportunity to have them.

On the surface I wasn’t very much affected by the situation. I’ve been living a hermitish life for a long while now, so I wasn’t affected by the distancing measures for the most part. But I felt very anxious for the older folks in my life, and a lot of sadness for not being able to visit them. I am very aware that time is running out for me to spend time with them even without Covid19, and losing months of visitation opportunities made me feel terrible, like desperately trying to hold on to sand tightly with my palm. However they are safe now, and I am thankful I don’t have to endure the losses so many people in other parts of the world are dealing with.

I did have to deal with the inner rage and anger at people’s self-centered behaviour, which is still somewhat manageable if they are strangers off the internet, but not when it is from people I respected and/or cared for. I think this is still something I am still trying to reconcile, and I am not sure if I should or can.

Overall, I am aware I am experiencing a chronic sadness and grief. I know I can be a very self-centered person myself, still I don’t deal well with knowing that so many other people in the world are suffering greatly. Sometimes I cannot help but wish I wasn’t alive so I don’t have to witness all of this. Is that selfish? To be unable to bear the consequences of being alive? To wish to disconnect myself from the reality of the suffering that exists in this world?

I tried to numb my feelings with distractions, but was not very successful. My health this year has somewhat worsened, though I am trying to deny it but I wouldn’t be surprised if a huge part of it is due to the necessary repression of my emotions. I feel like in order to survive and thrive in this world, one will have to be okay with walking away from the Omelas, or live in denial of this knowledge. I try to comfort myself with the oxygen mask theory, that I have to put on the oxygen mask on myself first before I can put it on for others, but in reality I don’t have that much agency over how my psyche chooses to feel.

I am not a very altruistic person. I don’t think it is a conscious choice to feel emotions that arise out of other people’s suffering. I believe it is simply a consequence of being alive and human. Who knows, perhaps if shutting down that part of me was a choice – I may have made it (I guess I can sort of understand why people turn to substances)? To be paralysed with sadness is not a sustainable way to live.

I guess that is my 2020. It is a year of coping, and I feel bad for even saying that I have been trying to cope, when I am safe while others are not. But it is my truth, that probably most things I did this year is an outcome of trying to cope. I was not really consciously choosing to do anything, they were choices made almost out of desperate attempts to numb my feelings.

If there’s any consolation, it would be that 2020 is a rehearsal year of what is to come in our future, with the permafrost melting at unprecedented rates and all that. I am trying to remain Peter Pan-like for as long as I can, hoping to acquire a repository of good memories to tide me through more bad times later. Yet it feels really wrong trying to thrive and seek joy in these times.

How does one cope with incoming losses, an inevitable consequence of aging? This is the question I’m living with these days. I’m an atheist, but I’ve been trying to incorporate more Buddhist/Taoist practices and philosophy in my life. To seek harmony and balance, to be more intentional and mindful, to develop more tolerance and compassion to endure being alive. I am less interested in being judged well or reaching nirvana because personally I think it is philosophically meaningless to believe in an afterlife. I guess I just want to tolerate being in this one.

Though I wrote that 2020 felt like a lost year to me, on an intellectual level I think it is valuable to experience uncertainty and fragility in this manner. It is a reminder to me that everything can crumble in a split-second. I have not dealt with this well, but the hope is that like antibodies after a viral attack my psyche will be more tuned to experiencing what Buddhists call groundlessness.

To be able to walk calmly on even while knowing the ground may shift or break under us anytime, to me that is the meaning of true freedom.

Previous yearly reviews