To kick off this year’s Writing Challenge, I’ll address one of the most obvious, persistent, and pervasive issues we face: we’re not together. Not as coworkers; nor as friends; and not even as families beyond those who are living in our particular “COVID bubble” (which, sadly, is now a thing we say).
I chose the topic not only because it’s an unavoidable reality, but also to highlight the theme of the Writing Challenge this year: “Accentuate the Positive.”
You see, it would be easy to focus on what’s wrong. It would be equally easy to focus on how to mitigate, “hack,” or get around the problem. But neither of those approaches is the aim in this challenge. The trick this month is for us to find the silver lining—the nugget of goodness hidden behind the obvious difficulties—and to amplify it. By accentuating the positive in each writing prompt, I hope to chart a path through the problems we face and emerge stronger and better for it.
With all of that laid out, here is my contribution to the 2020 December Writing Challenge:
It’s ironic how getting what we thought we wanted taught us how much we needed things we thought we were better off without.
Bored by idle chitchat, we wished everyone would focus on topics of global importance.
Uncomfortable with social gatherings, we craved solitude.
Overwhelmed by family obligations, we prayed for a convenient, guilt-free excuse. Distracted by constant interruptions, we bargained and even begged for work-from-home options... and so on.
It barely requires explanation the way in which those desires have been fulfilled, and the horrible, almost ironic, price we paid (and continue to pay) for it.
In the irony and horror, it’s easy to miss what was gained: unanticipated perspectives and unforeseen appreciations:
Asking “How are you?” and truly wanting to know;
...and actively listening for (and to) the response.
Making space in our day for “idle chit chat”—unassuming conversation about unimportant things;
...and cherishing the chance to put aside the burdensome weight of the world and lose ourselves in a moment of mundanity.
Reconnecting with nature and the physical world, far from crowds and spectacles;
...and rediscovering the simple miracles which continue to occur all around us.
Becoming reacquainted with quiet and solitude—either in our homes or in our heads;
...and relearning every thought need not be spoken aloud, nor every second filled with sound.
Praying without the hustle and bustle and pomp of the sanctuary and the service;
...and looking for (and even forward to) moments to connect to the Divinity both around us and inside us.
Maybe you haven’t found all of these, but I’m ready to bet you’ve experienced at least some. Now, nobody—least of all me—is implying those small sparks of light are worth the darkness currently in the world. But if you’ve experienced them, then failing to acknowledge them would make it all much sadder. Wasteful. Even tragic.
I’m inviting you to put down your mouse, close your screen, sit back for a moment, and see if (and how) those things have changed you. And then share with us in the comments below.