It’s hard to believe that we have reached the final day of 2021. It seems as if we were celebrating the end of 2020 just a few minutes ago as we looked forward to a better year. Unfortunately, this year hasn’t turned out quite the way we expected. It felt as if every time we took a step forward, something happened (hello, variants) to drive us a few steps back.
Still, I believe we can feel hopeful again as we look ahead to 2022. Maybe in the new year we will find our way back to some kind of “normal” life. In the meantime, we each continue to deal in our own way with the challenges of this pandemic: living, working, and attempting to still thrive under conditions we never dreamed we’d experience.
As I personally prepare to mentally turn the page, I can report that at least my writing life ended the year on a positive note. Some new publications rolled in towards the end of this year: in December, three 100-word stories I crafted were published at the online journal/website Friday Flash Fiction. If you’re interested in these very quick reads, you can find them at the following links:
Then, on December 20, an anthology was published that includes an essay I wrote earlier in the year. Madonna Fans Do It Better: A FANthology About the Queen of Pop was co-edited by Actor, Writer, and Producer Heather Turman and Comedian LeeAnn Tooker. Both editors also contributed essays to the book. The Foreword was written by Heather Matarazzo, whom you might recognize from a number of her film and TV credits. Her breakthrough role was as Dawn Wiener in the film Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995). She also played Lilly in The Princess Diaries (2001) and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), and she has appeared on such TV shows as Roseanne, ER, and Law & Order. How exciting it is to be included in an anthology helmed by such talented women.
So, 2021 ended with a few achievements in my writing life, though like many of us, I’ve been struggling with challenges in other areas. In addition to climbing the walls a bit in our home as winter sets in, I’ve been dealing with some sad news. About a month ago we learned that Little White, the feral cat who is the star of my first children’s book, has nodules in one lung that are almost certainly indicative of cancer. After consulting with the veterinary oncologist who treated one of our other cats, Duncan, for lymphoma in 2020, we learned that there is no treatment that would likely help Little White. Plus, since she is wild and only comfortable with us, she would have to be sedated for any further tests or treatment (the first experience bringing her into the hospital admittedly ended with a little blood streaming down my face).
So far our sweet girl has not shown any signs of illness; the diagnosis came when she was x-rayed for unrelated symptoms. I find myself living in a certain amount of denial as the days pass without noticeable changes. She is still eating, drinking, playing and enjoying her life. But we are preparing ourselves — if such preparation is possible — for the likelihood that one day, possibly sooner rather than later, this little survivor who has been through so much will start exhibiting signs that her health is deteriorating. When that happens, we will have to make a difficult decision that no one who lives with beloved pets ever wants to make.
Little White’s illness has inspired me to pay closer attention to every moment we share. I purposefully enjoy every pet, every purr, every happy moment she experiences. She had a rough beginning as an outdoor cat who had no one to love or care for her. For the past nine years she has enjoyed a safe, loving home and the best possible life we could give her. We’re not sure how old she is…probably somewhere between 11 and 13. But we’re happy we could provide her with a wonderful life.
I suppose there’s a lesson in Little White’s illness and in the challenges my friends and family have also faced this year. None of us know what tomorrow will bring or how long we have to enjoy our lives or the company of those we love. Yet we live on day to day, and even during hard times there are meaningful moments we can notice, beautiful things we can enjoy, and positive things we can offer to others and the world.
On the toughest days, in the saddest or most painful moments, it isn’t easy for me to feel positive or hopeful. All I can do then is allow the sadness, something I admit I don’t always do well. I tend to power through, but it’s important to recognize and admit the tough stuff, too. Otherwise it catches up with you. I try to remember that tomorrow will come, and hopefully it will be a better day.
So, despite the challenges faced in 2021, I am choosing to end the year on a positive note, grateful for my small achievements while also celebrating the accomplishments of my writing friends and colleagues, from their newly published books and Pushcart nominations to the moments they simply beat writer’s block and wrote something new.
And if they didn’t write a word, that’s OK, too — if not more important. I have many more friends, colleagues, and readers who aren’t writers, and their accomplishments are exciting and important, too. Whether they made a customer happy at work, helped someone get their first mortgage on a house, created a new painting, wrote a new song, launched a photo exhibit, found a new job after being laid off during the pandemic, survived a bout of COVID-19, provided an essential service, helped a patient in a hospital, started a new business, aided a friend or neighbor, spent time with an elderly parent, taught a class, counseled someone in crisis, or rescued a cat (or a dog or an elephant or a mouse) — it all matters. Pulling together as a community to keep each other company, help each other out, preserve this troubled planet, and make this world work is perhaps the most important thing any of us can do.
So my friends, here’s to 2022. Let’s look forward, again.
It can’t hurt to try.