What I’m Reading: I’m really into the LA Times e-newspaper they send to your inbox every morning promptly at 4:33 AM CST. It handles like a real newspaper… not like a news site. It is well worth the subscription fee.
What I’m Listening to: The focus music section of Headspace, which was curated by John Legend. The older I get, the less I can work around any sort of lyrics. Sometimes I just put on the “chill french hip-hop” playlist on Spotify to get the feeling of words while avoiding distraction.
Because I am a walking stereotype of a nearing-middle-age working mother, I am really into mindfulness and meditation apps. I also enjoy Rosé, sheet masks, and Drake. It’s all very on-brand.
During the last few months, the app that has really kept me centered is Shine. It’s the only meditation app founded and run by women of color. On one of the recent “Daily Shines” (their mini-podcast episodes for your morning routine), the exercise was to choose an emotion you’re feeling–good or bad–and write a letter to it. The follow-up exercise was to write a letter to yourself, talking to your own heart like you would your best friend. For this Morning Buzz, I’ve decided to take it one step further and write a letter to my January 2020 self. Any regular reader knows that I love writing letters–my first essay ever for ELGL was a letter to local Government. My first essay in 2020 was a letter to my daughter. It’s only fitting that my final piece of 2020 is a letter, too. Is it an easy-way-out trope for essays? Absolutely. But, if there’s one thing I have come to realize throughout 2020, it’s that I could really care less about most things.
Date: September 25th, 2020
To: Sarah in January 2020
From: Sarah in September 2020
It’s me! Or, rather, it’s YOU! I’m coming at ya from the end of Q3, 2020. I just wanted to pop in and see how you’re doing and tell you that I love you. Actually… I really like you, too. That may sound weird, but this year has been a whole lot of things, and I think it’s imperative that I tell you how much I enjoy your company. Are you doing that thing right now where you scrunch up your nose and raise your eyebrow because you don’t believe what you’re hearing? Believe it, girlfriend. You and I are gonna spend A LOT of time together this year.
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I’m gonna assume, since I know you, that you want the bad news first. You’ve always been that way. In fact, this year, you will spring for a 23&Me test solely to find out what diseases you might die from one day.
Ok, where to start? Well, that Puerto Rican restaurant you liked closed. Turns out, the owners weren’t even Puerto Rican, and they also supported some very right-wing causes. I regret to inform you that the powers that be discontinued your favorite candle smell at Target. Your car has an oil leak that will be very expensive to fix, and you will discover it the same day that you get a new set of tires. So I would start saving for that now.
Also… and I don’t know quite how to say this… but the entire world will be thrust into a global pandemic that will kill over 200,000 Americans and many more worldwide. We don’t know the exact numbers, because…let’s just say… we didn’t handle it very well. In fact, we majorly f***ed it up from the jump. Tom Hanks, Idris Elba, and The Rock all got it and made full recoveries. But many people you know lost loved ones. So far, your house has been spared… although two of the kids have had to get tested, and a nasal swab like that is not something you forget quickly.
On top of the pandemic, the fatally flawed Government response, and the fact that your kids spent the Spring (and now Fall) doing remote school (GIRL, UPGRADE YOUR WIFI NOW), we also witnessed murders of Black folks at the hands of police. Again. And again. We saw a straight-up lynching of a Black man going for a run. Cities erupted in protests, and your dear teenage son was detained at one of them. You wrote about it… you do that a lot now. Not sure if that link will work across space and time, but give it a shot. You made a whole 12 cents off the engagement of that article, which basically makes you a paid author now.
Since so much of your work was in Government technology pre-pandemic, you’re gonna have some sleepless nights thinking about keeping your team morale up, making sure the lights stay on, and pivoting towards different opportunities. You will fall asleep at your laptop more than once. (You work from home now, which you didn’t think you would be good at, but turns out you’re thriving, baby!) You will get a couple of worry lines on your forehead staring at your Salesforce dashboards while also wanting desperately to help your clients who are struggling to contain the spread of the virus.
There will be a lot of consoling your kids this year. Get used to teary conversations about really big issues. There will be heartbreak and loss, resentment and doubt and anger. You will have a witch’s cauldron of emotions with nowhere to go, so it will bubble up under your roof and sometimes explode in dangerous ways. You will throw a ridiculous tantrum on your birthday, so you may want to proactively apologize to everyone now. This year we will lose Kobe, Chadwick Boseman, and RBG. In fact, RBG’s death will come right as you are parked in a Family Dollar screaming at your son about his dumb life choices.
Are you ready for the good news now?
You’ve survived it.
There are things I’m going to tell you about this year you might find harder to believe than the pandemic itself. This is only because you haven’t seen what I’ve seen. But please try and keep an open mind. I tell you these things to give you hope.
You are not who you were when this pandemic started. You are better, calmer, more centered. You realized that your extroversion was a crutch and that you enjoyed having a ton of people around you all the time so that you didn’t have to be alone with the person you disliked most — yourself. Long evenings alone on the back porch, listening to audiobooks (yes! you do that now!), writing down all of your thoughts… turns out, this makes you happy. You make yourself laugh. You look in the mirror and see your strengths and not every single flaw. You have been tested in so many ways–you’ve handled your business, your family, your home.
You have never prayed as hard in your life as you have these last 6 months. You’ve never been so angry at God or had such a hard time digging out of the chasm of anxiety. Guess what, though… because of this, your faith is stronger than it’s ever been. You’ve experienced supernatural healing of your fear and anger. There is a more sustainable peace in your heart. It is more than you have ever experienced… and all this while your church doors were shuttered. (Oh yah, side benefit, for weeks on end you’ll watch church online in your PJ’s while you cycle your way through many variations of homemade eggs benedict.)
One day, you will get a revelation while on a run. OH WAIT! I FORGOT TO TELL YOU! You’re a runner now! Lolz, isn’t that bananas? You wrote about that, too. Remember how you could only run, like, half a mile without stopping? Yesterday you did a 5-mile easy run and didn’t stop once. Yes, I said you ran 5 miles, and that’s considered easy. Saturday mornings, you get up at 6 AM to run double-digit miles with a group of strangers. You did a 10k a couple of weeks ago (and wrote about it, duh) and crushed your PR by almost 3 mins. You’re doing a Half Marathon in November, and you will do the Los Angeles Marathon in March, the day after you turn 40.
Here’s the revelation: why the hell are you so scared of everything all the time? Think of how much fun life would be if you didn’t live in fear of being hurt. Think of how much bigger you would love if your heart wasn’t so icy. Think of how many new solutions you could develop if you weren’t afraid they would fail. Through her mask (we wear masks now, FYI) a dear friend told you that the thing about Marathon running is there is always going to be some discomfort. You might even call it pain. You will realize that life is like that. Pain is inevitable, but impermanence is the only permanent thing. It will suck, it will hurt. But not forever. You know that now. Have grace for yourself as you figure it out.
Some other random good things–you gained muscle mass. You finally finished a paint by number, but it took you–legit–three months. Your better half (yep! you’re still together!) created some of the best work he’s ever done. You started a podcast for your company, and you ran unopposed for a tiny little elected office… the first step on your big ol’ dreams. You learned how to make a Japanese Rice Omelet. You saw people step up for each other in big and small ways, and you spend a lot of time texting with voters nationally for the presidential election, which is restoring your faith in humanity. The VP Candidate was born in the same hospital as your daughter.
And the best part is no one asks you why you got dual degrees in Public Policy and Epidemiology anymore. The elevation of health equity on the national stage is clutch. You were made for this, sister!
Are you sitting down? I’ll wait.
Remember your adorable Vision Board from your 2020 planner? The one where you wanted to throw lots of dinner parties and go on tropical adventures? Here it is.
I notice there aren’t any dogs on there. I don’t imagine there would be, seeing as you have said multiple times over the course of your life that you aren’t a “dog person”. Well, turns out you are. Big time. You will fall head over heels in love with a purebred German Shepherd puppy from a farm in Kansas who you would go to the ends of the earth for. You will get her a monthly subscription box and German dog food and bones from real cows. You will make broth to pour on top of the German food. You will sleep next to her crate for two nights as she settles in. On some days, you talk to her more than anyone else.
I’m being long-winded, but there’s so much to catch up on. I’ll end with a shopping list for you. I won’t bother telling you to get toilet paper or Clorox wipes, you’ll be fine. Costco will keep Costco-ing. I wish someone would have said to pick up:
- Yeast. Bread Pans. Stockpile both.
- Puzzles. The bigger the better.
- Check out all the library books you can. You will likely get to keep them all year. Be ruthless.
- When they pass out those little portable communions at church, stash about 27 in your purse.
- A non-trashy above-ground inflatable pool.
- A hammock.
Finally, your last time on an airplane will be the first week of March. Savor that trip. It’s the final one of the year. I know that’s hard to believe, given your A-List Southwest status (don’t worry, after some hemming and hawing, they roll everyone over to 2021), but take it all in and treasure those handshakes and hugs. Consider driving down from the Bay to Bakersfield and spend some time with your friends and family. Don’t stress about what’s going on at home; you don’t have a dog to miss yet.
I know this is a lot to take in. It’s been a lot to take on. But know that I am so proud of you. You’re a fantastic partner, mother, friend, and colleague. Your voice has value, don’t let your fear keep you from using it.