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Maybe It’s the Fire in My Little Girl’s Eyes

I was going to write about resolutions; it’s the time for it, after all. New Year’s resolutions; we make them, or say we do, when I don’t think that’s exactly what we mean. There’s a difference between goals, resolutions, and intentions. From

Resolutionthe act of determining upon an action, course of action, method, procedure, etc.

Goal: the result or achievement toward which effort is directed 

Intention: an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result; purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct

It feels imperative to understand this difference, especially this year. When we talk about setting resolutions, I think we most often mean intentions and/or goals. I don’t know how much planning the course of action factors in to peoples’ resolutions; I have never set a course of action when naming a resolution, and I’m a planner. Looking back, I realize that I have set goals and intentions. For example, for 2020 I said I want to lose 15 pounds, I want to read 25 books, try 50 new recipes, get back into yoga. I wrote it all into my bullet journal, pretty sketches and colorful checklists.

What were my results? For all I intended, for all the goals I set, I would say I accomplished about 25%. I did not lose 15 pounds. I finished 2 books. I tried about 30 new recipes, and in November, started doing yoga again. Not what I would generally call a success, but hey, 2020, amirite? 

I had no plans to go along with these intentions, no route to get me to the goal line. All of my planning went into other things: making childcare happen for Lucy, and somehow being OK with leaving her all day. Making sure Hawthorne felt supported in their music and creative expression. Splitting up the chore list with both of us back to work, and a tiny baby to work around. 

All those plans went to hell on January 14th

The pandemic was barely acknowledged then; it was still some strange outbreak in Wuhan. I had just returned to the office after maternity leave, and was looking forward to getting into the work after spending the first day just going through emails and things I had missed. I wasn’t quite at the office when Hawthorne called, saying they had gotten hurt at work. It was their back, and they weren’t sure they could drive. I remember being both pissed and worried as I stopped into the office to let them know and then headed back up the mountain to get them. I called a friend to blow off the steam; this was a major wrench in all the plans I had so carefully constructed. I hadn’t planned for wrenches. 

2020 continued to unravel, as we all know. We took a trip to Buffalo in early March and made it back to Vermont just before the first restrictions on travel were handed down. We ended up in isolation, as Hawthorne had picked up some bug; they were tested for Covid in the parking lot by a nurse in full isolation precautions, and we were sent home. We tried to get Hawthorne set up to have the upstairs to themselves, and Lucy and I would remain downstairs, so as not to cause any transmission. I divided out silverware and plates for them to use, designated linens and loaded toiletries and snacks into a canvas bag that hung from a rope on the stairs; they could pull it up from the aperture in the upstairs hall without any contact. We vowed to Facetime a lot, and agreed that this was the best thing to keep the family safe.

We made it about 3 hours. 

We just couldn’t make it work in any feasible way, not with a 5 month old baby in a non-partitioned house. They kept their silverware and plates and cups separate, washed their own dishes, and used their designated bathroom and linens; but I couldn’t handle the baby, the dog, the house, and take care of them more. They were still injured, still in a great deal of pain; we were holding out for hope, waiting for the surgical consult. 

The emergency room called us at 10:00 PM two days after the test, Hawthorne had tested negative for the novel coronavirus. We took that as our warning to take the virus seriously. The grassroots crafter’s movement of mask making hadn’t taken off yet, and our plans changed; we would just hunker down and go out as little as possible. 

Hawthorne spent lockdown in immense pain. The consult got pushed off; no elective surgeries were being performed, and all related appointments were being cancelled. They eventually had a virtual consult and were scheduled for surgery at the end of June. The day came slowly; the surgery was uncomplicated, and we went home. The pain continued without abating; I encouraged them to keep. Hoping it would change, maybe it was just swelling, but I think we both knew better. The pain and loss of feeling in their leg would remain nearly unchanged until their death. 

I don’t mean to gloss over any of their experience, it’s just not my focus. The summer was one long, difficult day after another, punctuated with appointments and bad news and a couple of bright spots. We made another trip to Buffalo, knowing we would have to quarantine upon return until we tested negative. It was worth it to attend the small, beautiful wedding for one of Hawthorne’s cousins. We danced; they were in so much pain, but we danced. Someone got a picture of us; Hawthorne had put their hat on my head, and we were pressed as close as we could be. We never missed an opportunity to dance. We just didn’t know it would be the last time. 

In so many ways, we are all ready to put 2020 in the rearview. Think of the jokes history professors will make about what we learned this year, in hindsight. I know I have a few tucked away; I might be her mama, but Lucy’s still going to get all the dad jokes. 

2021 dawns darkly for so many. I see the memes, the products advertised. “I survived 2020!” My reaction is vehement and immediate; hundreds of thousands of people didn’t. Nearly 350,000 families have lost loved ones to the pandemic. 24,000 babies were born still, never having taken their first breath. Black lives continue to be taken by police at disproportionate rates. More than 350 trans* and gender nonconformingpeople have been murdered this year alone. The pandemic situation is too dynamic for reliable data on suicides yet, though we know suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

Hawthorne didn’t survive 2020.  This New Year’s marks the first they will never see. 

It’s so strange to think about. Here is this person, this complicated, beautiful soul with whom I laughed and fought and grieved and danced with – just gone, in a fingersnap. Most days, it just feels like they’re missing; they’re on assignment, a trip, deployed, something that keeps them away. The wedding in Buffalo was the last celebration they’d be a part of. They missed Samhain, and Dia de los Muertos. They missed Lucy’s birthday, her first steps. They missed Thanksgiving and Christmas and the solstice. 

But they’re not just missing; they’re not going to walk in the door for some emotional reunion moment that gets broadcast on Tiktok. They aren’t anywhere in this world to see the sun rise on 2021; they are nowhere to be found.

And that means that we aren’t tucked in our woodstove-warmed house in Vermont, wondering if we can make it to midnight, or if we should set an alarm to kiss and fall back asleep. They’re not going to creep out of bed to visit the crib, and I don’t have to beg them not to wake the baby at midnight to celebrate with us. I don’t have to worry about hearing gun shots or fireworks set off up the road, scaring the dog as neighbors bid adieu to this shitty year, and hear Hawthorne grumble about it and threaten to message the constable – in the morning. 

2021 dawns with the weak light of January, cold and unforgiving. Hope has never felt more tempered with reality. The wan sun shines through branches frozen in wintry relief; the wind bites, her teeth leaving marks of red on my cheeks, the only part of my face exposed between my hat, sunglasses, and mask. 

I have set intentions and goals again; I want to lose 15 pounds, I want to read 12 books; try 30 recipes, stick with my yoga practice. Rather than resolutions, this year, I have resolve.

I am one of the lucky ones; I survived 2020. So did my daughter, my friends. Though it feels like it, all is not lost. The sun rises and sets with more time in between, and I have already made the choice to live each of the days I have, as hard as it is. Some of these days, survival is enough. The difference is now I go into each day with that resolve, and with the intention of finding the good, the laughter, the progress; to at least acknowledge that these things exist alongside the grief and the hardship. There is no way to focus solely on the positive; such a narrow view serves no one. Whatever plans I make, I do so with the understanding that they can be ripped to shreds in a moment. I am learning the hard way to not become attached to my plans. My dreams have been shattered more times than it feels like I can carry; I continue to rebuild them, as strong as I can, but with that same awful caveat in the blueprints. 

I’m starting the year with strong coffee, great music, and an open Word document. I have my intentions and goals set, and this time, I’ve left room for wrenches. I do have hope; it ebbs and flows without pattern or consistency, crashing against unforgiving reality. I have a new job to start, a new apartment to move into, and a 14-month-old daughter who is the brightest light in this dark world. I have no idea what 2021 will bring, but I have the resolve to see it through. 

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