In a year like no other, I sit here staring at my computer wondering why even bother figuring what to cover in a holiday letter. Following one train of thought…and then backspacing. “And you call yourself a writer?” says the wicked little War of Art voice in my head.
Should I be witty and evoke laughter? We could all use THAT! Should I be sentimental and dwell upon the people I miss dearly and the hugs I long to give freely? Should I be thankful to be a fortunate one who still has a job I enjoy, a roof over my head, and abundant food on my table? Should I be grouchy because of the goals unrealized with life on pause and the people I have lost? In truth, I am feeling all of these elements muddled, like a rollercoaster. Perhaps you are, as well.
I am reaching profoundly into my bag of thankfulness to create a list of the outstanding things of 2020. Short list, right? I have been in Costa Rica for over 14 months continuously for the first time. Okay wait, I did go to Baltimore, USA in January to record a series for International Living. And Panama City, Panama in February for a work conference. So, my passport reflects a couple of 2020 stamps. But nothing like the typical colorful immigration mosaics of previous years.
I feel suspended in a remote bubble here – going from normal high season fiestas in first quarter to the sudden stillness of lockdown to the world awakening again at sloth speed. Costa Rica closed their borders starting in mid-March for 6 months with zero arrivals by land, sea, or air. Save for a few repatriation flights out and no way to return to Costa Rica – it felt strange to realize I could be “stuck” in the US for an infinite time. So, we chose to remain here. After all, it has been home for the last 7+ years. We were forced to cancel some major travel dreams in North Africa, Eastern Europe, and an extended stay in Malta to see if that locale would be an ideal “home base” to land our footprints in the EU; all while doing writing for the magazine from abroad. We had our usual plans to return to Austin in the fall and spend time wrapped up in football and friends. And attend a big HS reunion in Chicago and visit Lucy, my sweet mama. None of this happened. The pesky virus had other plans for everyone.
Costa Rica has taken the risk to completely open the country to tourism including attractions, hotels, shops, bars, restaurants. Music and laughter waft up to our terrace in the evenings. Although I know it isn’t; life “sounds” normal.
I listen to the ocean in the distance and feel the warm December Costa Rican breezes on my skin. And then I feel guilt wash over me. I see what is happening in the US and Europe and so many other places and the stark reminder hits me – the pandemic is real. Healthcare workers are exhausted, people are losing loved ones and jobs, more and more we see the gaping hole between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Not just what I see on the news, but here too. It takes my breath away how everything can feel so rational around me one moment, and then so completely NOT, the next. It’s this perfect cyclone of pandemic and politics and economic woes and espionage and hacking and lies and misinformation swirling and clashing at the same time. Black and white become grey.
But I then remember we humans are resilient. There are miracles all around us. We will survive and thrive again. After all, the Roaring Twenties are just around the corner. And so, I reach into my bag of thankfulness…
I am thankful in 2020…
To live in beautiful place and not desperately need anything.
For the social media platforms helping eliminate the physical distance from those I love.
For having a husband who still makes me laugh. Although I am not gonna lie – we have clocked in plenty of moments of togetherness annoyance.
For science and the promise of an effective vaccine in 2021.
To my POC friends who have helped my “woke” education.
For the abundance of food and clean water (and toilet paper – ha).
For the incredible warmth and sunshine embracing me daily.
For the soothing rhythm of the ocean on beach walks – resetting the foggy mind.
For life on pause teaching me lessons in patience, history, and kindness.
I hope this holiday season finds you healthy and safe. May the reason for the season surround you with light and hope for a better 2021.
On another note, I did create a number of fun (and slightly painful) videos as part of my expanded correspondent role at International Living. You can find them easily on YouTube. Here is a sample video covering Costa Rican food. For some reason, the link starts in the middle of the video. Rewind it to see the most interesting part of unique CR veggies/fruit at the market. ©International Living
And if you would like to see a tour of my home town pre-pandemic, this gives you an idea of “pura vida” life here. ©International Living