It has been quite a year, hasn’t it? To corrupt Dickens: it was the worst of times, the meh-est of times, and it was the most curious of times.
2020 definitely dealt us some unusual and extraordinary experiences, some like the pricking of a tattoo needle (lots of little jabs) and others like heavy hammer.
I certainly picked up some new skills that I think are worthwhile. I learned how to make bone broth, how to install laminate wood flooring, how to use the secondhand breadmaker we were gifted last year, how to teach classes virtually, how to make a more effective online store for my art. I even tackled how to design a website in WordPress and create newsletters using the service I signed up for last year. We also made our backyard a more enjoyable space with a raised bed garden and a pond.
But there are at least 6 lessons that I feel I learned the most from, particularly in regards to my path and practice as a Witch.
Practice Makes Power
As the pandemic interrupted events and gatherings of all sorts, many magical practitioners felt out of sorts without their weekly or monthly coven/group meeting, festivals, classes, and other regular things to help ground and drive their paths. For many, it seemed like a crisis of faith. Early on in April, I recommended some solitary practices to help others, but it wasn’t until August that I found a way to amp up my own practice with the Witchual Workout. I really needed to physically move my body more, which definitely helped my headspace (and others in the process), but it also had some surprising effects too. My connection to my practice deepened even more, and I started to notice even more patterns revealing themselves. The workouts themselves developed their own weekly themes and correlations, which related to what was happening in the larger world as well. It heightened my sense of connection – not only to my body, but the world around me. All this for an activity that generally takes just 10-20 minutes of my day, 5 days a week. It’s not the individual acts that matter so much, but rather the consistency of doing the small things on a regular basis that brings the greatest effect.
Grief Is An Ocean
In June, we lost Sam and it was absolutely devastating to us. All this year I have seen so many folks grapple with the deaths of loved ones – family, friends, animal companions. Some of those deaths were anticipated: long term battles with cancer, advancing age, and other known health battles. But many were also sudden and unexpected, which made them seem even more cruel with everything else that 2020 dealt. People talk about the 5 stages of grief like you can just check-mark your way through them and you’re good to go. But that’s bullshit. Grief is an ocean, with tides that ebb and flow, complete with tsunami-like waves that hit you out of nowhere, months down the road. Just when you thought you were safe and on high ground. You can’t turn your back on grief. All you can do is keeping wading through it, drying out and getting soaked – all the while trying to keep your balance as best you can. Even if you have somehow managed to make it through this year without losing a close loved one or friend, you’re grieving what you expected your life to be like this year. Gatherings, trips, work, birthdays, weddings, etc. Your sense of loss is valid. The best we can do is ride the tides and remind ourselves of what anchors us. Kittens help.
Use the Pretty Soaps & Good China
I have a tendency to want to hold on to nice things and “save” them. I don’t know where that trait comes from, though I suspect it’s genetic – coming from a long line of little Jewish and Italian grandmothers who love a good wrapped fancy soap on display and still bemoan the loss of 1 plate of fine china that a cousin broke 30 years ago. But fancy soaps and fine china are best enjoyed when used sooner rather than later, just like life. As I grappled with the very unexpected death of an amazing and vivacious friend in November, I was reminded that death can come for us at any time. The best thing we can do is live life to the fullest within our abilities. Get dressed up for no reason, make Tuesday a special occasion, don’t save that wine until it turns to vinegar, and don’t make excuses for shit people/crappy relationships. Life is too fucking short for that nonsense.
It Was Never About Time
A common misconception about quarantine/lockdown/social distancing is that it gave us more time to do those things we’ve been putting off. On paper, sure the concept makes sense. But the actuality was that we’re mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted by everything this year has served up. (Someone would argue the last several years didn’t help, which is true.) It is very hard to be motivated to do anything when you’re worn the fuck out and also out of fucks. No time is wasted, no time is gained, no time is lost when you’re focusing on surviving. No reason to shame or blame yourself for not being as “effective as expected.” My catch phrase for 2020 became “What is time?” as the days, months, hours all seemed to shift and move around with the logic and mood of a class of kindergarteners. We make the time when we’re ready and able.
Virtual Space is Real Space
I don’t think this was really a surprise to someone who is still friends with people they met via IRC and LiveJournal 20+ years ago, but it was a good reminder for me. While people may deem online interactions as somehow “less” – I think they’re still very powerful and effective in so many ways. You can work magic and do ritual via online. You can absolutely form new relationships and build existing ones. It’s another kind of liminal space to consider and explore. One thing the pandemic really brought to light is how many people are left out because in-person events are not accessible or affordable to them. From a technical perspective, I sorted out how to not get totally exhausted after teaching or doing a zoom meeting online, and improved my handling of the tech. I also learned quickly what I didn’t like about some online events. Which meant I could get down to thinking about how to improve the experience – and carry that wisdom through. So going forward, I will keep doing regular virtual workshops (including offering sliding scale and scholarships) and try to include a virtual aspect to physical events when possible.
Appreciate People & Places
My most common daydream fantasy this year was travel and simple social experiences. Prior to this year, my schedule is typically filled with festivals, flights, and tours/road trips – often back to back without much room to breathe. But the thing I was daydreaming about wasn’t the big events and performances – it was small gatherings in hotel rooms with wine and whiskey, getting my shoes and socks soaked by morning dew on our way to standing stones, spontaneous dinners with friends at our favorite restaurants, browsing comfortably at a bookstore, walking in the French Quarter on a fall evening, sitting on a backyard porch in California, or hanging out at a familiar cafe in Seattle. My plans to explore New England (our new home as of last year) was put on hold. Many places that we have loved and frequented over the year have not survived the pandemic. There are faces I’m never going to see again outside of my dreams. As soon as it’s safe to travel and gather again, I look forward to new experiences. And I hope that many folks will not be taking special moments, favorite places, and simple gatherings for granted. Remember the arts, support them, and help bring in a new wave of experiences. Remember each other. Magic resides in those people and places – and the space in between.
There’s more than I could delve into, but these are the 6 that I wanted to share with you. What lessons did 2020 bring you that have influenced your path? What will you bring into 2021 and what will you leave behind?