By Ruth K. Rosenblum
I recently read an article which introduced ‘radical gratitude’ as a concept.
Regina Brett says “I’m going to keep filling the glass with radical gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just a cheap platitude served at Thanksgiving. Gratitude doesn’t brush off the deep losses we experience, the cherished loved ones we’ve lost, the meaningful jobs and solid paychecks. Gratitude is a powerful, militant stance you take toward life. It’s a decision to love all of life, in spite of how hard it gets or how sad you feel or how angry it all makes you.”
If ever there was a year for this idea, 2020 just might be it.
So – how was my year? On January 6, we bought a house in Chicago, in preparation for moving away from our 30-year home and life in Northern California. Why? To be closer to family, in retrospect a very wise decision, given travel and other COVID restrictions. Also, in January, my nephew died (unrelated to COVID). He was just 30. In February, I sought approval from my California employer to work remotely from Chicago. After some deliberation the request was approved. One month later, everyone in the department was working remotely.
April, May, June, July packing and moving from our long-time house in California, driving cross-country in the early pandemic days through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, areas which were not affected at that time. A late-May friend’s child’s wedding was postponed. The good-byes to California friends and colleagues were virtual for the most part, and any semblance of ‘meeting new people in our new home state’ was quashed quickly. In some ways, this was a relief, allowing us to cocoon and just ‘be’. Throughout the summer months, we took advantage of safe outdoor dining, of course now in Chicago that has sadly come to an end. I remain employed with my California employer, happy to adjust time zones for various meetings and commitments.
Moving and resettling as ‘empty-nesters’ has been much better than anticipated, all things considered. We live in a close-in suburb with a small downtown area that is walkable to the coffeeshop, library, Trader Joe’s, and the like. We were able to go to the Art Institute earlier this year and are now members of the Lincoln Park Zoo and Chicago Botanical Garden, some of the few outside things to enjoy most of the year. I’m considering a run for the local library board as a way to further acclimate to the community.
So, what of radical gratitude? I am grateful that we were able to see my elderly parents in Cleveland over the Labor Day holiday, socially distanced and masked of course. The weather cooperated – we were their first visitors in 6 months. My daughter and a new boyfriend safely made the drive from Washington DC to see the family. I am grateful we saw them since pre-pandemic was the last time we had seen her. My son and his fiancé’s wedding was scheduled for October 24, postponed until 2021. I am grateful that they are happy with the decision to delay. I am grateful that my family has had Zoom birthday and other celebrations, participants from Israel, the UK and all over the U.S., and that I remotely attended a relative’s Bar Mitzvah. I am grateful for the beautiful forest preserves in the Chicago area that I am exploring as I learn to run in higher humidity conditions, and I am very grateful for new running buddies that feel like old friends.
And then there is my recognized privilege – we had a Machu Picchu and Galapagos Island trip planned for March-April, cancelled of course, but better than the friend on a Princess Cruise that sailed with no permission to port for 3 weeks.
2020 has been a year of transition and upheaval, opportunity and tragedy. There is so much to look forward to in 2021, The vaccine, normalcy, travel, a new president, and personally – my child’s wedding and my parents 70th wedding anniversary. And so much else for which I am so grateful.
Ruth K. Rosenblum is an associate professor of nursing at San José State University, a practicing Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.