california rainbow

Rain: a new year’s resolution

December 31, 2020

   It rained today in Southern California. It rarely rains here, but when it does, it usually manages to throw a monkey wrench in outdoor plans, especially for Carol’s family. Just in the short time we’ve been together, rain has disrupted a wedding and a birthday celebration. But covid has done worse, so rain this year can be seen for what it is in all the other arid regions of the world: a blessing.

   Actually, seeing rain as the blessing it is might be a good way to look at the coming year of 2021. It feels like we’re putting a lot of hope and expectation into the new year, as if pandemics, natural disasters, war and terrorism begin and end when we replace last year’s calendar with next year’s. There’s nothing in 2020 that suggests all that was bad about it will “disappear like magic” in 2021. As good a case can be made that next year may be worse, not better than the one we say goodbye to tomorrow. So what can we do?

How do we deal with crises that don’t respect the fact of a coming new year?

   When it rains in Southern California, two things happen: the threat of forest and brush fires decrease, and that of mudslides increase. As you relax for the one, you increase anxiety for the other. In 2021 a vaccine for covid will become more widely distributed, and a less unstable, less dangerous and more rational administration will take office. Yet neither guarantees a complete eradication of what went on before. How do we deal with crises that don’t respect the fact of a coming new year?

   When it does rain on our parades here in Socal, we adopt plan B and move on. We minimize regret by acknowledging the benefits of rain to an area as dry as ours, while at the same time maintaining a wary eye on our rain-softened mountain slopes. It is a balance of expectation for the best, but a preparation for the worst.

   We faced a deadly, out of control pandemic and a serious spiral toward chaos and autocracy in 2020. There’s no guarantees that 2021 will end either one. The benefit? We live more cautiously aware, considerate of others and with increased determination and confidence to see it through doing what we have to do to continue to live our lives. The best approach to avoid autocracy is to constantly insure the vote to all who are eligible, and to make it increasingly easy to vote as well.

   There are some potentially enduring benefits from 2020. We learned something about adapting to the way we teach our children and work at our jobs. Nothing revolutionary or terribly efficient, but new thinking on how to improve are possible now that we’ve been forced into these paradigms of living, working and teaching.

   We didn’t do as well in adapting to celebrating the holidays during a pandemic, but being human has always meant learning some things the hard way. Perhaps the best way to look back on 2020 was that it was a wake up call to change where we as a civilization are heading.

   “Into each life some rain must fall” is a pretty good maxim to live by. Makes a pretty good New Year’s resolution, too.

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