Women. The walking wounded of 2020 are limping, battered and bruised, towards the new year with mixed emotions. Shellshocked, we’ve learned to no longer tempt fate and question if things could get any worse. Simultaneously, our rote understanding of the turning of each calendar year fills us with hope. So we trudge forward, cringing in anticipation of the next blow, trying to remember what it felt like to make plans beyond the end of day.
It is at this time of year that we also instinctively start to reflect and with reflection we are forced to get up close to our best and worst selves. This year, of all years, we’ve seen both extremes more often then we wish. I mean really, who wouldn’t give their left eye for some up close and personal time with our normal, boring, predictable selves. Why was every day this year a test to see which version of us would rise or fall to the occasion?
Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean from one hour to the next, I applaud myself for making it this far and other times, I cringe in embarrassment. Was that really me in 2020? My forward facing, public self still had the take no prisoners, I’ve got this bravado, but the me I don’t want you to see failed to measure up to the standards I set for myself. In 2020, I fell short, a lot.
The truth is, I barely held on this year, and not very gracefully to boot. I share this of course, knowing that someone, somewhere is reading this like Nellie Olsen, with a smug smile and a “she deserves it” attitude, and all I can say to whoever that might be is, who raised you?
The reality of the hardest year in living history is that it was really, well hard. No point turning to the thesaurus on that one. While specific trials were different, the pandemic left no one untouched. There was a universal suffering amongst women on everything from being pushed out of their jobs to coming to grips with their grey roots, but if 2020 accomplished anything, it strengthened the sisterhood. If what they say about misery loving company is true, then misery built an army this year.
2020 had a laser focus on taking women down and what happened as we ran around with targets on our backs, was instead of adopting a every woman for herself mentality, a silent pact was made to leave no woman behind.
This year, I had the privilege of interviewing women almost daily from across the country, and the common thread I noticed immediately was the innate empathy we had for each other without saying a word. There was an understanding that the face we were each putting forward was likely falling apart behind the scenes. There was a gentleness that prevailed, but more than that, a sincere willingness to lift each other up.
Without divulging personal details, because I’m still far too raw to share from a place of understanding and teaching, it was at some of my lowest moments this year that a woman reached out a virtual hand (social distancing and all) and helped me up. No “buck up and brush yourself off” pep talks, no pity parties, and certainly no judgement. And when the strength they passed on to me kept me going, I paid it forward to another woman. Some days you’re the cheerleader, others you’re the player.
The flip side of this, is that 2020 took a long, simmering resentment about inequities between the sexes and pushed it to the boiling point. If this pandemic showed us anything, it was that most of us were living under an illusion of equality. Like anything in life, it’s only when something is tested that the cracks appear. The pandemic tested and on almost every front as a society, we failed women. The army that misery built is pissed off now, and oddly that fills me with hope for the future.
So for now, in the final days of the mother of all years, I hope that you are finding the time to reflect, learn and grow. If you find yourself wrestling with some demons, remember that we can’t judge yesterday’s actions based on today’s insight. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Move forward into 2021 knowing you did the best you could.