Recently, a couple of friends of mine told me they missed my social media posts. I had been posting so consistently and quit so abruptly they jokingly told me they thought I might have been censored.
Quite the opposite!
Intuitively, I knew 2020 was going to be a great year of change. So much so, I made resolutions I planned to keep to feed my soul, grow my heart, and prepare. I planned to work on paintings to become a better painter and write more subjectively to be a better writer.
My husband Scott and I planned to sell our family home of 16 years in March. My five-year non-compete in the paint business was up in April, which meant I could start working on a new paint line, then, and our oldest daughter got pregnant in February and was due with my first grandchild in late October.
Along came COVID, with a mandatory stay-at-home order. The doors closed on our plan to sell the house, but a window of time opened up for me to paint and write. I experienced significant creative breakthroughs during this time, resulting in personal blogs and a blueprint for new paint colors.
Then six weeks into this quarantine, two back-to-back watershed moments ( Amy Cooper's video and George Floyd's murder) cracked a dam holding back a colossal American racial divide that became Black Lives Matter Vs. all lives matter.
Unprecedented waves of change followed one right after another.
Millions of protestors poured into the streets. Hundreds of Karens, Proud Boys, and looters came out of the woodwork. Our democracy, history, and identity began to suffer a full-blown identity crisis. The world of Science was undermined, followed by the worst West Coast forest fires and Hurricane Season on record. All while anticipating the most emotional Presidential Election of this lifetime, threatened by voter suppression and mail fraud accusations.
When swimming in the Ocean, it's essential to tune in with wave movements by A) Adjusting our breathing to keep up our momentum no matter what and B) Knowing when to swim over or dive under if a wave is too big. This is essential because the Tide, subject only to the Sun, the Moon, and Earth's rotation, is the real force in charge.
I began to dive under the waves, one at a time.
I dove deep into Martin Luther King's legacy and his speeches and learned about Jim Crow Laws. I was mentored daily by Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian who explains American politics using history in a way I can understand. I read The Alchemist for the 100th time and played Hamilton on repeat. As a result, my writing became more genuine, and my voice more evident. I took to sharing what I was learning and experiencing on social media. Once I started posting, there was no stopping me. I couldn't stop myself if I wanted to.
That is until late august August.
Two days later, a local real estate agent called me and said he had a buyer for our unlisted house. I said no. Three weeks later, we closed our house deal amid a thick blanket of smoke during the West Coast fires. The apartment we planned to move to in 2018 (but our house didn't sell) popped up on the screen as "available" the morning we called.
On October 1, Scott and I had three weeks to pack up 16 years worth of stuff and move.
A week after we moved into our new apartment, our grandson Hugh Lightfoot Dunlop was born on a cosmic Once-In-A-Blue-Full-Moon Halloween, and the November 2020 Election issue of The Atlantic came out, featuring my story and company. I celebrated a Blue-Wave Election taking care of my kids and holding my grandson for 10 days.
All of the above happened in a matter of 8 weeks.
When change happens overnight, your reality goes into hyperdrive, sending you into hyper-focus. It's exhausting to go about your day, highly aware of little things you can no longer afford to be oblivious about. For example, light switches you turn on in the dark without running into a wall and breaking my nose. The 10 different places you look for your keys before you head out the front door. How to drive your car without seeing past the windshield because you know the road by heart.
It's easy to become overwhelmed and lose things.
The last time I experienced this much change in such a short time was in 1998. In a matter of 6 months, I filed for divorce, moved to Lake Oswego to marry Scott, and started a new blended family. Two weeks before our first Christmas together as a family, the 1/2 carat Diamond on the Flinstone-like solitaire ring I chose and bought from a Diners Club catalog with points, as my wedding ring, fell off in the shower. Scott and I searched frantically for it to no avail. It was too small to insure. We didn't have the extra money to replace it.
I was devastated.
A couple of days after Christmas, as I vacuumed the living room, I watched my 11-year-old stepson, sitting next to the tree, take out a chewed up piece of green tissue paper out of his mouth and wad it up tight with his little fingers. Then he flicked it onto the carpet before he took off without saying goodbye.
Pinball thoughts shot through my head, ringing all the alarms. "Where are his manners?" "Is this a boy thing?" "Did he do this on purpose?" "Should go after him right now and ask him to pick it up?" "I'll tell his dad to talk to him about not spitting things on the floor." "Someone needs to tell him."
Then I heard a voice that sounded a lot like mine but in a different tone, floating up from deep within, rising to the top quietly that said, "Don't do or say anything. He's been through so much."
So I didn't.
Instead, when I reached the little wadded up piece of tissue paper on the carpet floor, small enough to vacuum away, I inexplicably slowed down and stopped cleaning. I reached out to pick it up with my fingers as if it had some kind of clue that would reveal the reason why this boy had flicked it away in the first place.
Lying upside down, next to it, was my lost Diamond.
It must have fallen while decorating the Christmas tree, and I didn't realize it until I got in the shower.
Wedding rings may be symbols of love and devotion to another, but on that day mine became a sign of faith in a more perfect union for a better future, a legacy I would need to grow into. 2020 brought me to my knees with great fear and a tremendous sense of gratitude for lessons learned and the growth I had to do in the name of this legacy.
For Thanksgiving this year, our family isolated for 7 days, took COVID tests, and pre-cooked meals. We met in Seattle for the afternoon. We set up two tents outside, stayed six feet apart, and wore masks while staring at the future in my grandson's eyes. Hugh will know we went to great lengths to shoulder the weight of this COVID war by holding the line to honor and support the soldiers, the health care workers, doctors, and scientists working around the clock to save lives in unprecedented times— mindful of those who have loved and lost the battle.
I will end the year with Christmas on ZOOM and New Year's Eve on a new deck, where we will continue to keep having cocktails and repetitive stories. One thing's for sure. I will tell Hugh, his sibling, and his cousins to come that 2020 is the year I learned that when life changes overnight and you lose things, the person you are meant to be and want to be will help you find them again.
"For whatsoever from one place doth fall, Is with the tide unto another brought: For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought." ― Sense and Sensibility.
Wishing you a more perfect union and a better future in 2021
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Gretchen Schauffler’s entrepreneurial journey started when she created, developed ,and marketed her first brand, Devine Color, from idea to cult status. Her new brand Design Is Personal Online DIY Style & Easy Products are available at Wayfair, Lowes, Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, and Target.