Octo Observations: Let’s Start Fresh!

When we all woke up on January 1, 2021, a feeling of positivity and hope filled our hearts….or at least it did mine. To say “goodbye” to traumatic 2020, with its devastating outbreak of Covid, its fractious election, and its seemingly unending isolation from loved ones was a good feeling. Thankfully, the life-saving corona virus vaccines were developed in record time and began to be distributed. We felt as if we could celebrate the new year.

Now, barely two weeks later, we have found ourselves in another mess. We all know what happened on January 6, my eldest grandson’s 34th birthday. Those of us who watched the Capitol breached by rioters were shocked, dismayed, and distraught. This simply could NOT be our America! Where were the Capitol police? Who in the world would even contemplate desecrating offices of duly elected senators and members of congress? Who in their right mind would sit in the revered seat of the President of the Senate or plop their feet on the desk of the Speaker of the House? A group of “Americans” gone berserk. Each perpetrator needs to be found and punished.

Now the memorable, moving  Inauguration of our 46th President is history. With marvelous music and poetry, promises of unity and hope, visions of thousands of American flags flying on the famous Mall stretching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol Building….well, our weary souls pray that a year from now Americans will be coming together in kindness and respect. Is that possible?

Not likely to happen fast. An overload of residual angst does not disappear in a flash. It will take each of us pulling together, letting go of our personal disappointments or resentments to move forward. One step at a time. And I for one, intend to try.

As I watched videos of five thousand National Guardsmen, crammed into a concrete parking garage wedged together, sleeping on the unforgiving cold floor, I was horrified to see members of our military, who willingly risk their lives to serve our country, treated with such abject disrespect. Two bathrooms only, no visible signs of sleeping bags……more than my maternal heart could comprehend. It was important that TV cameras captured those scenes….and infinitely touching that these young troops provided a seamlessly safe Inauguration….they are our heroes. To treat them otherwise is inexcusable. I, for one, am infinitely grateful for their service.

Time to look at our own lives….let’s “Start Fresh.” (This phrase was spoken by President Biden in his Inaugural Address, but it was the title of this article before I even began to write it!) Let’s  see what we can do as individuals to reach out with compassion and humanity to achieve the unity that we yearn for….let’s look at our lives with a critical eye. Let’s love more. Let’s care more, and let’s do whatever we can to make our country stronger and kinder. Let’s measure our words, putting aside partisan criticism…..not about to happen easily. People are too exacerbated, and tempers run too high. If our duly elected leaders show us the way, that will help…Each one of us MUST help.

Right here in the retirement cottage that my hubby and I share with our puppy Pippa, I wake up each morning with a renewed promise to myself that I will be a more understanding caretaker. My dear husband’s Alzheimer’s has taken a huge hit during the holidays. I am convinced that isolation from all of our family contributed to the decline. Even with Facetime, it provided only temporary relief….his confusion is far worse. Some days the disease makes him exceedingly anxious and agitated. For those of you who live with a loved one suffering from this horrific disease, you will understand. And for those of you who don’t, I hope you never do.

To me, Alzheimer’s is one of Nature’s cruelest diseases. As a caretaker you know, as I do, that with each passing day, we watch helplessly……yet we continue to try with all our might to make life as meaningful as possible for our loved ones. 

Some days and nights are exhausting. Extra help is advisable, yet, sadly, for some, not always affordable. Instead nearby families are drafted to help. Yesterday, I happily heard from a young man, a childhood friend of my older daughter who was in our lives decades ago. We had lost touch, but through Facebook, reconnected. In a  poignant message he told me that when his mom was suffering from Alzheimer’s AND cancer, and he was her primary caretaker, “it almost put me into the ground.” I understand what he meant.

As 2021 dawned, I realized how much I needed to “Start Fresh.” I need to stop trying to make it better for John. ..i.e. back to normal….back to where my beautiful man was inside his head four or five years ago or even six years ago. Rather I must just accept him where HE is….and that mission for a woman who has always wanted to “fix” anything that is broken is a tall order. Slowly, I am learning….I am trying, and I am reaching out for expert help and advice. After all, I may be old, but I am not stupid or afraid to learn what I simply do not know.

How gratifying it is to be blessed by four wonderful Far-Flung children and their glorious families……some people are instinctively understanding, as each one in his/her own way tries to lend a supportive, listening ear……I see how John perks up when I tell him family fun stories, or show him pictures of our little great 2 ½ year great granddaughter or almost six year-old great grandson….he loves videos of them….so uplifting….And his eyes light up with delight.

Maybe because we moved our children so many times during John’s corporate years, each one of our Originals has a compassionate nature. As youngsters, they frequently felt loss and pain of leaving friends and schools and starting FRESH in a new city or town. They had no choice. I love how as different as each one is in many ways, they reach out daily to each other via text messages: sharing thoughts, opinions, jokes and stories…..By including me in these texts, they provide much fodder to share with John. Distractions help both of us……especially when the ability  for John to read and comprehend good books is gone……or when the opportunity to spend time with good friends is on hold until Covid is gone.

So the truth is that 2021 is a year filled with a new chance to grow. It is a year that will offer respite for many from the detested Covid-19 vaccine, and it is a year when people all over the globe will be gratefully inoculated, allowing a measured sense of normalcy. May we emerge from this haze of isolation with an appreciation for all that is good and wonderful in our lives and in our world. 

We face many obstacles in our country and in our own lives. Perchance this last year has left us less spoiled, less shallow, less self-involved, and more aware of reaching out to make someone else’s life a bit better. High time to make increased compassion  for others our goal.

I love the wisdom of an old Chinese Proverb:
A journey of one thousand steps begins with a single step.”

A few others to inspire you in this uncertain but fledgling new year:
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” Henry David Thoreau

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Hellen Keller

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities.!  Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

And lastly, one of my MOST favorites:
If you are going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill

Wishing each of you a belated HAPPY, HEALTHY, SAFE NEW YEAR…..with love and hopes for renewed unity in the tried and true values that have made  American Beautiful……

God Bless you and God Bless America!

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

Top photo: Bigstock

About Joy Nevin (68 Articles)
Joy Nevin was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, attended Connecticut College for Women for two years until she married John Nevin in 1957. Four children later, with twelve corporate moves in 20 years, the family learned flexibility. In 1990, with a nearly empty nest, Joy and John moved to Richmond, Virginia where they put down roots. Now in her eighties, Joy is the author of “Get Moving: A Joyful Search to Meet and Embrace Life Transitions” (2002) and “Joy of Retirement: Live, Love and Learn” (2015). Since 2016 she has written numerous articles for Woman Around Town on downsizing, moving to a retirement facility and her current series, Octo Observations. She is also a proud Grammy of nine, great grandmother of two…..AND forever grateful to Charlene Giannetti for supporting her passion for writing!