2020 is now history and not many will miss the year that gave us the worst global pandemic in a century. Of course, that’s not the whole story. It helps to take stock and count blessings. You may be surprised, like me, to find just how many there have been even in a “dumpster fire” year.
Here is my list of 20 little mercies that saved my 2020 (in no particular order).
1. My dog Carl’s near-miraculous recovery from a spinal injury.
We were so close to having to put him down and I’m so glad he survived 2020 with us.
2. Hot tub.
We jumped at the opportunity to buy a used hot-tub the year before the pandemic hit, not realizing it would become a sanctuary of calm and community in one of the only places we were allowed to be for much of the year.
Instead of logging more hours on Netflix I invested in a Yousician membership during Cyberweek sales. This music-training app has made me a better guitar player already and makes learning fun thanks to it’s game mechanics. Think Guitar Hero, but on a real guitar. I can’t wait to dig into piano this year. Try it yourself at yousician.com
After cancelling trips to New Mexico and Montreal, our family was able to spend time in Calgary – a great city in our province that isn’t the one we live in but is still close enough for a quick escape. First for a family vacation, then for a 20th Anniversary getaway, Calgary offered us plenty of great walks, skate parks, food, brewery tours and general loafing and meandering.
5. Yard concerts.
With venues shuttered, private yards became the place for arts and music this summer and fall as pandemic numbers dipped. Guests at these intimate shows were so hungry for music and community. These became some of my favourite gigs ever.
Art is such an important way for me to process what is happening. I’m grateful that I could pour my grief, confusion, doubt and hope into new songs that resonated beyond my own head this year; Littler Mercies and Places We Can’t Live and more you’re yet to hear.
7. My 16″ Macbook Pro.
My old computer struggled as I pushed it through livestream concerts in the pandemic spring. Replacing it was a heavy investment, but my work life has gotten much easier as a result. In a year with so much time spent at a screen, I’m grateful that this machine has been up for every challenge thus far.
When our kids were let out of school a week before spring break I wondered how on earth I’d survive – or at least get any work done – with the kids at home for a whole extra week! That’s adorable. By the time this is all over, that week will have been a year or more, and I’m still standing. We can survive more than we imagine.
9. Morning scripture.
It’s been a weird year for faith. I’ve been in church ONCE in the last several months (we used to attend weekly). I don’t attend online unless I’m doing the music. Yet, somehow, I’m finding my way back to a morning ritual of reading the Bible. It’s not a long time and I have a hard time holding focus, but it brings me peace. Many mornings I’ve found some resolve – mostly to be a better father and husband – from these reflections.
10. My cheesy fake fireplace.
After sitting in storage for a year, our fake mid-century fireplace made its way onto our living room wall, complete with a fake brick surround and a nearby plugin to power the heater, fan and red rotisserie lightbulb. I love sitting next to this thing on cold winter mornings, coffee in hand, under a blanket.
11. Sidedoor Access.
This Canadian company encouraged artists to move their music experiences onto Zoom this year, emphasizing community in live-streamed concerts. I listened to co-founder Dan Mangan’s rave reviews as a performer, and dove in. What a gift to be able to share music together even when apart.
12. New fans.
Even in a pandemic year (and sometimes because of it) I’ve played people in more places than ever. New fans and haunts in Red Deer, Calgary and Edson. Virtual shows for listeners in Victoria, the US and Berlin.
13. Online collaboration.
I was able to record with some fantastic musicians this year using online tools like Sessionwire. These doors will stay open long after the pandemic ends.
14. New music.
I discovered so much good music this year, much of it brand new. New releases from Bahamas, Pheobe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens, Dawes. I blasted Joe Nolan’s Drifters while building my garden boxes.
15. Home renos.
More time at home meant some overdue home improvements to fill that time. A new coat of paint upstairs. Garden boxes. A backyard fence.
This meal-planning service became especially helpful this year, as we had to eat at home more than ever. I think of Platejoy as a “Hello Fresh” where you have to buy the groceries. So what’s the point? Well, I get a new, surprising menu of (mostly) delicious and healthy means every week along with a grocery list that reduces food waste. That list makes ordering groceries online quick and easy, and saves me having to go into the store. You should totally give it a try with my referral link so we can both snag an Amazon gift card 😉
I cannot overstate how much working out has benefited my mental health this year. As someone who loves variety, I love that DailyBurn offers a new 30-minute workout every day. Every. Day. When I was really down early in the lockdown, the crazy dance program Le Blast put a smile on my face every morning. Do I have a referral link so you can try this out? Of course. So glad you asked.
18. My wife.
We celebrated 20 years of marriage along with our 40th birthdays this year. I’ve become more grateful than ever to have a partner I can turn to and say “can you believe this? Is this really happening?” She says “I know, right?” and we hold hands and keep walking.
19. Good friends.
We’ve endured the worst Zoom connections and strange outdoor outings to be together. All of my closest friendships feel stronger now than they did a year ago.
20. My kids.
Oh boy, can kids be exhausting. Thankless. Terrifying. And yet … we have this beautiful, funny and creative daughter with so much spark and love to give who is learning to drive and going to high school. We have this funny, entertaining, talented son who is working hard at a regular and about to graduate and become an adult. Sometimes these kids will still spend some time with us. I wouldn’t be surprised to turn around a couple of years from now and remember only the good parts of being stuck in the house together for hours on end – how that was more of a gift than I could see at the time.
I didn’t even mention how my favourite app for organizing my entire life, Notion, became free this year. I never told you about how the movie Soul helped me understand that my life doesn’t need a purpose. I forgot about the cabin in the woods and the way our new-to-us Honda Element can our bikes inside!