I never saw myself as a word-of-the-year person. I never considered the idea. . .
. . .Until three years ago, after moving to a new state. There was nothing mystical or ethereal, I just sensed that courage would be my word for 2019. It was a good one. Besides moving 1000 miles away, my husband and I left one ministry and founded a new one. It took courage to get through the 501(c)3 application, communicate the change effectively with donors, and work through the emotional and relational challenges of changing missions. I called upon courage more than once in the year.
Courage worked well, so I sought a word for 2020. I vacillated between grit and fortitude, ultimately settling on grit. I liked the pithiness of the word, and the sense it gave me of hard work ahead. When I embraced grit, I thought it meant I was to do whatever it took to get the manuscript of my book, The Third Wheel, completed. I canceled most of my normal activities, so writing received all my time and attention outside of work, ministry, and marriage.
Little did I know I was a bit ahead of the curve in canceling activities. Most everyone else joined me in clearing calendars, either by choice or by force, when the pandemic hit. On the surface, this seemed like a dream come true for a writer. Canceled activities reduced my guilt about staying home to write. Suddenly, time was all I had. But time, on its own, does not produce grit.
The uniqueness of the pandemic reminded me of winter storms. Before moving, I lived in an area prone to Nor’easters, massive storms along the east coast that usually include torrential rains or heavy snow. When one was in the forecast, I listened repeatedly to all the prognosticators. I stocked up on supplies and planned to stay put for several days. Then when the first flurries fluttered, I stopped. It was as if I’d never seen snow before. My husband and I parked ourselves in front of our bay window and watched with awe the gazillion little snowflakes piling up on our sidewalks, ramps, and driveways. We turned on lights at night and left the blinds open to see the glittering droplets. We knew what would happen. We’d seen it before, but we just couldn’t turn away from watching. The snow drew us in to its mesmerizing drifts and banks.
The pandemic caused the same effect for me. I checked in with friends, watched the news, and sat stunned. Unlike a Nor’easter, witnessing a world-wide impact was something I’d never seen before.
The result: I found it difficult to write. One would think it’s the perfect time for grit. And it was. But I couldn’t muster any.
When it became apparent that this two-week period of self-isolation would not remedy the pandemic, we hunkered down. And grit became necessary, not to write, but to survive sanely. I can do this for one more day. And one more. And then another.
As I was getting the hang of this isolated way to live, COVID-19 snuck into our home. Though we were many months into the pandemic, it was the farthest diagnosis from our minds when my husband made a trip to an urgent care center.
He rolled his wheelchair back to the van and told me he was to isolate for ten days and I needed to quarantine for fourteen days. How do we do that? How do I still provide him the care he needs with his disability while staying clear of the virus? That first week was rocky. I wasn’t fearful but discombobulated. I slept in the living room and used only the guest bathroom. I moved half of my closet out of our room. He had our bedroom and master bath. Boxes of gloves, masks, and face shields sat on a table outside the bedroom door. When I took food or drink to him, or assisted him, I suited up.
Several days in, I was ready to quit. I hated not being able to be near my husband to comfort him. But what would quitting mean? Give in to the virus? Not an option. Send him to a hospital? Absolutely not! Say I wasn’t going to help him anymore? Of course not. What it really meant was it was time to dig deep into grit! Not that it all depended on me. It did not. I knew our every breath depended on God alone. And if He gave me more breaths and heartbeats, I’d respond with gritty fortitude to do it one more time . . .
My matching diagnosis a week later only deepened the grit of my faith. Jerry still needed care, and I needed rest. At least now we could rest and recover in the same room.
Just before Jerry’s diagnosis, we celebrated his birthday. We celebrated my birthday during recovery. I continually said, as long as we could be in the same room for our 25th wedding anniversary on November 11, I would be fine. I should have been a little more specific about my desire.
We were in the same room on that day, but rather than celebrating, I was again nursing Jerry. Not for COVID-19 this time, but for two ankles he injured the day before when he missed a ramp off a sidewalk. Not realizing the extent of the injury, he stayed home for a week before agreeing to go to the Emergency Room. The medical team, after x-raying and finding he fractured both ankles, advocated for inpatient admission. Hospitals can be a dangerous place for people with disabilities, but amid a pandemic the challenges multiplied, giving me the ultimate test of grit.
Looking back on the year 2020, I see why God impressed upon me grit. I, probably like you, needed grit to make it through last year. Thank you, God, for preparing my heart and mind.
I wonder what lies ahead in 2021 since He has given me the word focus. May it include my writing? I prayerfully believe it will. For what else will I need focus? I don’t know, but by keeping my focus first on God and following His plan, it’s a good place to start.