In the year of so much tumult and so many sorrows, 2020 is a year most of us are happy to see in the rearview mirror. But despite the grave events of the year, some amazing truths still shine through. We are a people who persevere. We always have been. We always will be.
Personally, I lost three close friends this year. These were people who framed me. They were better human beings than almost anyone else I know. They will surely be missed.
Gail Shepherd was my writing pace car. I admired her so much. She embraced craft She was fearless. She was a renegade. A righteous saboteur. I loved that about her. Gail ran a writing group with me, but, honestly, she was the driving force behind all of the creative endeavors. She was constantly asking the best way to approach this writing thing and this author life. My heart breaks that we only have one of her books published. So many more are deserving.
Robin Coulton Schott was my favorite friend from University of Florida. College was a blast, but would not have been without Robin. She was the funniest person I knew. Impeccable taste in all things material and of matters of the heart. She married her college sweetheart. They had a gorgeous and strong daughter. Robin worked her entire life to help people get better. As a speech language pathologist, and mostly as a friend, she made a huge impact on this world. She was a light that shined brightly and she was the epitome of how to live a life with meaning and love.
I met John Smallwood in middle school. He told me many times that I was a seminal friend-that I made him feel accepted and loved even when he felt he didn’t fit in. He didn’t fit in. He stood out. And if he thinks I changed his life, he definitely changed mine. He taught me about meaningful friendship. The kind that can outlast everything from health issues to long distance to stubborn and useless pride. He was constant, vigilant, forgiving. He believed in people even when they didn’t deserve it. He fought for people as long as they were willing to fight for themselves and others. He didn’t sugar coat things. He faced them. And he expected you to face them, also. He taught me to give people a chance when I’d given up on them. He taught me how to join in when all I wanted to do was stay on the sidelines. He made me see where I fit in. He told me that as good as we all are individually, we are better together.
With these people missing in the world, it’s time to pick up the slack and continue their legacy.
There is still work- this is a wake-up call to me to get my buns in gear. There are more stories to write. More to sell. More readers to meet. There are more truths to uncover and more heroes to love. But it takes dedication and significant butt in chair time. It takes afternoon walks for plotting and searching for the voice of the piece. It takes fortitude to face the blank page. But like Gail did, I commit to doing this work. I’m not asking for a medal or applause or even props for this. It’s what she would do if she were here. It’s time to step up and treat this writing life like it’s a gift every day. (Because it is)
There is still kindness-this week my two dogs ran away. I had a migraine and didn’t notice that one of the people working on my house left the gate open. They were gone an hour. Imagine how terrifying it was to wake up from migraine med haze and realize they were gone! Three people helped contain my dogs. One man kept them on his porch and put a call out on FB. Two women told me about the FB post and where to find them. Two other people who I never met not had a chance to thank helped get them to safety-one offering his lunch (a chicken sandwich) as a bribe. All of this for two dogs they didn’t know. For people they didn’t know. This touched me so profoundly and I vow to do more this year. To be kinder. To help more. To be there for as many people as I can, both strangers and loved ones. The time is now. Kindness matters. We got this.
There is still love-there is so much love out there, people. Love of country. Love of religion. Love of neighbors. Love of family and friends. It’s all around us like the spirits of those who have passed on still surrounds us. We need to tap into that love and let it guide us as we move through this world. People like Harvey, my sister’s fiance, is a person who loves deeply. He donated platelets as often as was allowed for many many years. He rode in the Pan Mass Challenge for over twenty years with, among others, my parents’ names were written on his legs as he pedaled in their memory and to help others who are still fighting. Right now he is in the hospital battling COVID. Which means instead of giving right now, he needs to get some things. He needs good wishes, prayers, and healing vibes. Can you give those? Not just to him, but to others like him. Heroes who stand up for others who are weaker or more vulnerable. Love is love. Be part of that. Be love. Start now.