Finding a motto for 2020 in a strange place

About a week ago, I was tossing out old papers on my desk when I stumbled across my 2020 planner, which has to be the most useless invention in the world at this point.

Each year, I buy a paper planner and promise to use it, and it never turns out well. I usually abandon it a few weeks into the year, but I was particularly proud of this year’s planner and had been doing a good job with it. I paid too much for it, and the retailer even embossed my initials on the front cover.

The thing came with stickers and everything, and I was a planning fool for a while. And, then, you know … COVID-19 hit.

Anyway, I flipped back to the front of the planner and read my New Year’s resolutions, which filled me with a strong sense of frustration. The new year – and the new decade – had started with such promise, and now it was already May, two months into the time period I’ll refer to from now on as “The Age of Coronavirus.”

It feels like five years ago, but yes, the virus made its first impact in Mississippi on March 11. If you’ll remember, the first case was found in none other than Forrest County, and yours truly has done nothing but cover the virus since then. My planner, with its dumb stickers and optimistic phrases on each page, was getting good use as a paperweight, and those resolutions, scribbled with such passion in December, had long since been forgotten.

I was throwing the planner away when a sheaf of papers fell from it and hit the floor.

“It’s mocking me by shedding all over the house now,” I thought as I tossed the planner in the garbage can and picked up the scattered papers.

They were meeting notes from a webinar I’d attended earlier in the year. I barely remembered the event, and I quickly reviewed the notes to see if there was anything worth keeping.

In the margins of one of the pages, I’d written – and underlined – this phrase: “Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one else knows what they’re doing, either.”

I don’t recall if this is something one of the speakers said or if it was just an observation I’d made, but my goodness, what a fitting statement for 2020, I thought. I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the note out to keep. I may frame it as my motto for the rest of the year.

Indeed, we’re living in unprecedented times, and we should all strive to be easier on ourselves and on others. I was talking with a co-worker earlier this week about how everyone in our society seems to be on edge and full of anxiety. COVID-19 has disrupted our daily routines and our safety nets, and it has us living in fear of the unknown. If we’re not careful, that fear can manifest itself into anger and even depression.

So, be kinder to yourself and to others. Don’t worry about those New Year’s resolutions, and don’t let an idle 2020 planner bother you. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and soon, we’ll be back to complaining about how busy things are and how packed our schedules can be. Personally, I look forward to those days.

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