What a year.

Little did I know when I sent out the last edition of Talkin’ Trash a year ago that many of the things we normally take for granted would be pulled back, that every little throat tickle, sniffle and stifled cough would echo like a roll of thunder, and that the refrain from one of my high rotation songs at the time would become a sort of personal anthem throughout 2020*.  Yet here we are…a new calendar, a new hope (to help get us through the next few months), and a chance, as always, to reflect on the past year.

And in 2020 the east stormed and the west burned…catastrophic events compounded by a little spikey ball too small to see (so we saw it everywhere) that laid bare much of what is good and not-so-good in our world.

So we railed and we rallied.  On the good days we supported each other…but on the not-so-good days we were divided, and pointed fingers.  And hopefully, on at least a few days, we looked in the mirror.

On the good days we rethought the meaning “essential”, our definition of “hero” going through a long overdue revision, as we watched family, friends and complete strangers head into the unknown to help others.  And every day I was thankful (and if I’m being perfectly honest, a little bit frightened and heartbroken) for the privilege that meant, on many days, the best thing I could do to help…was just to stay at home.

On some of the best days, with time on our hands and our instincts pushing us to move and to mingle, we made new friends, stopping in the street to chat (at a distance) with those we’d normally pass with only an acknowledging nod.  On some of the darkest days, we lost old ones.

On any given day we became armchair epidemiologists (and behaviour scientists, and macro-economists, and politicianists, and…), debating 230 characters at a time.  On the good days…science!!!!!

We paid probably a little too much attention to our friends, neighbours and family to the south.  On the good days it was the kids whipping off rhymes from Hamilton (I am not throwin’ away my shot!).  On the not-so-good days, we worried…because that’s what one does with friends, neighbours and family.

Me…I was lucky…I could run.  And run I did…more than I’ve ever run before.  On the good days, it was a waltz through city streets and parks, my natural cadence being three-four time.  On the not-so-good days, when everything was uphill in both directions and the opening lines to Left and Leaving circling round and round in my head, I was still lucky…I could run.

When viewed on an individual-by-individual basis, 2020 was a normal year, an oh-so human year, with good, bad and everyone having their own stories to tell.  But when we take a step back and look at how 2020 impacted all of us, we start to get a sense of how connected we are to each other and the world we live in…and how it’s going to take some time to truly understand all that we’ve collectively lost.  So this year when ending, as usual, the New Year’s Talkin Trash with wishes for a “Happy New Year”, I want to make sure to say that within those wishes for happiness are also not only wishes to turn-off the lights, make less garbage, recycle and join the UHN Green Team, but also to take care of ourselves, to take care of each other, to take the time to listen and to learn and to change.

After all, it’s not the turning of the calendar that’s going to make things better…it’s all of us.

Happy New Year, UHN…Happy New Year.

And I don’t mean to miss the good old days,

The good old days were mostly bad.

But I recall how dark the night got then,

How absences could make me glad.

John K. Samson

* Note: in the interest of good ol’ fashioned covering of the behind, while Talkin’ Trash does support getting back together with friends, when safe to do so, it in no way supports, approves or condones over-indulgence or intentionally reducing one’s ability to make good decisions.  And this year’s anthem?  It’s Wilco’s Shot In the Arm…of course…and for your second dose, check out this version.