I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I saw a Facebook post this morning that said they are merely items on a To Do list for the first week of January. Cynicism aside, I do use the opportunity of New Year’s Eve to reflect on the year that’s been and make some plans for the year to come. And lately, out of that process of reflection and intention in my journal, I arrive at one central resolution, or as I prefer to call it, a personal goal.
This goal is not in the traditional sense of weight loss or exercise gain, but a slight shift in the way I want to look at the world, or behave. For example, one year the goal was to say Yes more often to opportunities that present themselves in my life. In another, it was to pay more attention to my posture. And this year, for 2021, I know already, my personal goal is to be more positive.
It’s been a trying year, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic has cost us all dearly, both personally and professionally, some more than others. We’ve had political and racial unrest in The United States, which inevitably spills over the border to here in Canada, and devastating forest fires in Australia and the US southwest. I’ve largely stopped watching news on TV because it’s all so negative and depressing, and snoozed a few Facebook friends who feel the need to remind us all of what is wrong in the world today.
There’s certainly no shortage of negativity, if one wants to go there. I figure what is missing is positivity, and I’m going to do my best to add what is needed, not what is in oversupply. It’s not a denial of our problems—there’s no escaping them—but a conscientious attempt to view the glass as 1/3 full, instead of 2/3 empty. It is so easy to fall into cynicism and despair and become part of the problem, yet another source of darkness afflicting those around us. I know my wife is tired of my snide remarks while watching TV, which is really just a coping strategy, but not helpful nonetheless.
And with that shift in mindset as the goal, here are 10 things that were good about 2020, in no particular order. Most of these are not directly related to adventure motorcycling, and some are quite personal, so this will be a bit of a departure for the blog before we get back to discussing oil and tire choices and such.
1. The election is over!
I’m not going to say that the Good Guys won, because that would not be a positive thing to say to the 70M Americans who voted Republican. And I don’t think the political problems in America are going to be solved by an election, or in an election cycle. No, the good news here is simply that there is some peace, for now, relatively speaking. There have not been any major protests by the losing side, not at least of the violent kind, and whatever remains to be settled will thankfully be done in the courts and not the streets. Let’s hope the inauguration goes smoothly and President-Elect Biden makes good on his stated wishes to try to unite the country.
2. We survived online teaching
Many of my colleagues and I were looking toward the autumn semester with considerable trepidation. When Covid hit in March, we already had half a semester done and had established good relationships with our students. But starting from scratch in an online environment was another whole order. How do you remember names when your students don’t turn on their cameras? How do you engage students when there is a screen separating you? How do you do a pop quiz when that quiz can be shared online during the writing? How do you even raise your hand in a Zoom meeting? I’ve been teaching for 20+ years and am constantly revising my pedagogy, but this was re-inventing. I think some teachers, myself included, felt like it was the first day of kindergarten for us all over again. Well, the good news is, we survived. In fact, I think I nailed one of my standard courses better online than I ever have in person.
3. My dad survived major surgery at 91
I got the news during a club ride in the form of a text from my sister: my dad had cancer and would undergo emergency surgery that night. This was in August. It’s been a tough several months for him and my sisters, who have been at his side almost daily, nursing him back to health through companionship and gentle encouragement. The good news is that it seems he’s turned the corner and will be with us a little longer. His tenacity and the dedication of his healthcare workers are an inspiration to all.
4. Covid has brought my wife and me closer together
For some, Covid has wrecked havoc on their relationships, even in some cases, resulting in separation. For others, my wife and I included, it has brought people closer together. Lockdown and confinement stresses a relationship, and we’ve had our snippy moments, for sure, but generally we are extremely appreciative of our compatibility and the mutual support we offer. It’s easy to lose sight of these fundamentals of relationship. Covid and its resulting effects have reminded me of the ice storm of 1998 here, when Quebecers were forced to slow down and spend some time together away from electronic devices, reminding them of the benefits of staring into a fire. Similarly, Covid reminds us, whether through absence or omnipresence, that the real value and meaning in life is in our relationships.
5. Renovations instead of vacations
So my cross-country tour was put on hold another year, but I used that extra time and money to do some much-needed renovations on my house. I weatherproofed the garden fence and painted the exterior of our house. We finally lifted some old disgusting carpet up from the stairs and had a runner made to replace it. I painted the kitchen cabinets, only once I’d done that the countertop looked really shabby, so we had that replaced and I installed a new kitchen sink and faucet, giving the kitchen a face-lift if not a complete redo. Slowly, slowly, our little cabin on the bay is coming together nicely.
6. An epic road trip to Thunder Bay
Instead of The Big Tour, my wife and I vacationed along the north shore of Lake Superior. This was in July and the country was partially open, so we had the choice of drive-through Tim’s or drive-through Tim’s while on the road. But we camped the whole way and had an electric cooler, so we didn’t suffer much for the closures. Our destination was just west of Thunder Bay with some relatives at “camp,” as they call it there, where we ate and slept like a king and queen and I waterskied for the first time. I sold an article to Ontario Tourism about it, concluding that it was the best vacation I’d had in years.
7. Our Saturn survives another year
There wasn’t a lot of driving this year, permitting our old car to survive another year. It’s a 2002 and has now close to 250,000 kilometers on it. The back end has some noise from worn spindles, and while our mechanic says it’s safe, we figured we’d be in to a new car this year with the accompanying payments. The only big driving we did, aside from to the grocery store and back, was the trip to Thunder Bay, and once we were out of Montreal’s terrible roads, the back end was quiet. Somewhere between Wawa and Pukaskwa National Park, we hit some construction on Highway 17.
“How much further is this construction?” I asked the young flagman.
“Not much further,” he answered, and then, “How difficult is it to get parts for a Saturn?”
Covid has helped us avoid car payments another year.
8. The environment gets a respite
Speaking of which, Covid has had a number of environmental benefits, including a drastic reduction in CO2 and NO2. According to a recent article published in Heliyon, GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions were down as much as 50-70% over specific times during the lockdown, with an overall reduction of 17% annually and a resulting reduction in pulmonary diseases such as asthma. Water pollution, noise pollution, ecological devastation, all reduced. Dolphins have returned to the canals of Venice and the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh), and the sea has changed colour due to a break in human activity.
9. Still healthy at 57
When many people our age are developing mobility issues, I’m all the more appreciative that my wife and I are still healthy. I don’t know if there’s another soccer season left in me, but I’m still able to run 5-8K a few times a week. When my dad fell ill in August, I spent some time in a ward surrounded by people with various body parts and organs cut out of them. Watching them and my dad struggle to get around afterwards, I decided to do a deep cell cleanse through a diet of intermittent fasting, restricted eating upon returning to Montreal, and my wife and I have been on that since, taking a hiatus only for the holidays. It really isn’t that hard—not as hard as it may seem. At any rate, I believe good health is never something to take for granted, especially as you get older, so I’m adding it to my list of things to be thankful for in 2020, or any other year for that matter.
10. The vaccine arrives!
Perhaps the best thing about 2020 is that a vaccine was successfully developed for Covid-19. In fact, a few vaccines have been developed and approved in record time, with remarkable probability of success. So there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can begin to start planning how we are going to spend our renewed freedom. I’m perusing the National Geographic Guides to the National Parks of Canada and The United States, and its Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways. I’ve got a big map of North America hanging in the upstairs hallway with sticky dots marking the places I will visit. I’m watching YouTube videos of BDR and TAT rides, trying to determine if I will attempt any sections of dirt solo. It seems I’d be stupid to not attempt some off-roading in Utah and Colorado, although I’ll be fully loaded. All going well, I’ll be spending the better part of next summer on the road with the bike. And when I won’t be touring, I’ll be riding with my club mates and playing in the dirt with the boys. I’ll be posting some blogs on my trip planning and prep in the coming months.
The power of positive thinking is more than a catchphrase for mystical delusion. Life is a story, and we construct our own reading based on what we choose to emphasize and deemphasize. If there’s one thing English Studies has taught me, it’s that the same text can be read any number of different ways, depending on your perspective. For 2021 and perhaps beyond, for as long as its needed, I’ll be looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses.
What was good about 2020 for you? I know it may be tough, but consider it an academic exercise, like when you were required to debate in school that dress codes should be mandatory. And like any mental muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. So state in the comment section below the best thing that happened to you in 2020. Positive thinking is contagious, and we could all use a little of that virus now.
Happy new year to you and yours. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2021.