January 5, 2022

The Year That Was: Lessons Learned (and Relearned)

The year 2021 is in the books, done and gone. It wasn't nearly as awful as its big brother a year earlier. That was the king of crappy times. But, it will not go into the books as a great 365 days.

Even so, there were some lessons to be learned, or relearned. It is not possible to spend day after day for 12 months, and not have gained something, even if it is a double dose of "thank God that's over."

I don't generate resolutions for two simple reasons: I never keep new ones for more than a few weeks, and I am doing what is important to me already; I don't wait for January 1st to change behavior or interests.

In place of easily broken promises, I do like to see what I can take away from being alive for another year. What did the just-completed one guide me toward, remind me of, or caution me to avoid? No matter how the year unfolded, what lessons did it teach me? In no particular order:

1) Be Adaptable

Two tickets for a play that was canceled. They can be used this year. The painting class: teacher gets Covid. I find a world of information on YouTube. Trip to England? Too risky. Go to Kauai instead.

Shopping in stores becomes an exercise in futility as supply problems leave too many shelves bare and the wrong sizes in stock. Online shopping fills the void while delaying or doing without is not life-altering. In fact, it is good to decide that a new whatever is really not needed.

The past few years have emphasized the importance of being able to change, and turn lemons into lemonade. With the rules for behavior and social interaction changing day to day, flexibility is required.

2) Remember the long game.

Covid. Inflation. Supply chain issues. Strange and dangerous weather (think forest fires in Colorado in December), At times, these (and other) problems feel as if they will last forever. There are 21 letters left in the Greek alphabet to use for pandemic variants. Climate change is going to get worse, even if some of us aren't convinced why it is happening. Distressing as it seems, election season is underway again, with the rhetoric and vitriol at the boiling point already.

Even so, history is a long slog, not a short story. We tend to think this is the "worst of times" because we are living it. Yet, if even a little time is spent looking at what is behind us, the world, even America, has been at much worse places many times, again and again. That truth doesn't make today's frustrations go away, but it tends to put them in perspective.

3) I can entertain myself quite nicely

As noted above, our tickets to a play (actually two different ones) became unusable. Vacation plans were shelved. Going to a baseball game was not deemed worth the risk. The fun of sitting in a dark movie theater, loaded down with popcorn and a drink, didn't happen. Dinner at a sit-down restaurant was skipped for most of last year.

Name a friend or family member who hasn't discovered the wonders of streaming movies and shows into their living room. The library opened earlier than many places, for pickup of book holds in a cordoned-off area of the lobby.

Michaels, Best Buy, Target...almost every company, offered touch-free pickup in their parking lot or delivery to your front porch. Food, either groceries or prepared meals replaced dining away from home. Combined with a streaming movie, that became a date night.

If I could get painting supplies my wandering path down my artistic trail could continue. Photographs taken over the past few years could be reviewed, with a dozen or so being enlarged and mounted in a frame in the hallway, brightening up the house and bringing back a flood of memories.

Break a guitar string? Getting a replacement took a day or two. Books? When the library wasn't open and my budget couldn't stomach another $25, audio and e-books filled the gap. Our library has a service called Pressreader that allows me to choose from hundreds of magazines and newspapers all over the world, delivered right to the smartphone or laptop. 

Entertainment and learning have become less of a spectator sport. We have an infinite amount of places to turn and things to explore to keep our minds active and our time productive.

4) Relationships are vital to a satisfying life

The first glimmers of renewed human contact started in early 2021. After a few false beginnings, enough time after vaccines and boosters, and with some common-sense adjustments, we were able to talk to someone other than ourselves, or an electronic version on Zoom. 

What became quite apparent was how much we missed human interaction. If you are married, no matter how perfect your union is, the same person, with the same annoying habits, having the same discussions (arguments?), and doing the same thing for months on end, becomes old. If you have school-aged children who were caught in the hell of virtual classroom learning, triple that irritation.

Being single means you are stuck with yourself, day after day, hour after hour. Admittedly, I am a bit of a loner. I prefer my own company most of the time. But, even a hermit needs to go to town for supplies occasionally. Lockdowns, or having friends who don't feel safe in others' company, leave the singles among us, anxiously seeking the sight, touch, and sound of another.

If nothing else, 2021 reinforced my appreciation for a solid, (almost) 46-year relationship. Are there times we'd rather be on a solo, slow boat to China? Yep. But, that is a fleeting thought. Did I miss seeing folks I know and like at church, or a library meeting? Absolutely. Relationships are an essential part of being human. 

Last year's lessons are learned, the new year holds tremendous potential. Let's promise each other that when I write a post like this in early 2023 there will be much less to worry about.  We will look back fondly on this year as a high water mark!

Fingers crossed (and boosters taken)


  1. I’m feeling still in limbo with Omicron creating new worries.Ken had Covid two weeks ago, a mild case,thankfully. The social groups I enjoy, my card playing ladies, and my art group, are not meeting now. We are not making travel plans. I am working very hard at keeping my chin up for 2022.

    Have watched more TV this past 2 years than in my whole life!! (Have you watched Yellowstone??) and I am getting better at watercolor. THANK GOD for the library!! In person AND the online cloud library!!!

    A family wedding in August— back east, in New Hope, Pa… am trying to keep my hopes up that we can attend and all will be well…

    1. Yes to more TV watching, unfortunately! No, to Yellowstone. We'd have to buy each episode at this point. I do read good things about it, though.

      I am taking Betty to Disney World for her birthday next month, plus she really wants to be part of the 50th anniversary. We will be very careful, So far, that is the only trip that involves flying or interacting with others.

    2. I was hurt and heart broken when a very big problem occurred in my marriage seven months ago, between me and my wife . so terrible that she took the case to court to file a divorce. She said that she cannot continue to stay with me again, and she said "I don't love you anymore" So she took her things out of the house and made me and my children passed through several emotional pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back, after much begging, but all to no avail. and she confirmed it that she has made her decision, and she never wanted to see me again. So one evening, as i was coming back from work ,i meant an old friend of mine who asked of my wife .So i explained every thing to him, so he told me that the only way i can get my wife back, is to visit a prophet to know what is really behind this issue, because it has really worked for other people too. So i never believed in spell, but i had no other choice than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the Email address of the prophet. prophetehiagwina @gmail .com. So the next morning, i sent a mail to the address he gave to me, and the prophet respond the following day and assured me that i will get my wife back the next day. Hopefully I believed since my friend recommended me to him, ,so we discussed and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn't call me for the past 7 months, gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back. So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day ,with lots of love and joy, and she apologized on her mistake ,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day ,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before ,by the help of a prophet . So, i will advice you out there if you have any problem contact PROPHET EHIAGWINA, i give you 100% guarantee that he will help you.. Email him at: prophetehiagwina@ gmail. com or call/whatsapp +2348139182295

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  2. 2020 and 2021 were monumental years for me, even though I shattered my left ankle a year ago. I don't deserve such good luck. My Irish forebears are in Heaven giggling and saying, "Just wait, boyo, you'll get yours."

    1. From a financial standpoint, both years were quite kind to us. Emotionally and mentally, though, major bummers.

  3. Thank you for the wisdom, sanity and non-controversial nature of the opinions in your blog. Too many of us get stressed and agitated over the media reports that are mostly negative and hyped to extreme. Your words bring me comfort and the world has many more GOOD things in it than bad. Reading you is like an oasis in a desert of despair. Things are nowhere NEAR as bad as folks perceive.

    1. Thank you, Bruce. A satisfying retirement should not involve much vitriol or violent thoughts. By avoiding most of social media I keep my blood pressure low.

      I have very considerate and well-spoken readers who make my job easier. Except for an occasional attempt to insert a spam-type comment, I very rarely have to censor anyone.

  4. VERY grateful for my 41 year marriage. I retired in July 2019 and hubster still works. He was work at home for 15 months. We've determined that we will survive his retirement just fine :-)

    Here's to a better 2022!

    1. When I wasn't traveling, I worked from home for most of my career. Betty and I had a 25 year head start on figuring out how to occupy the same space!

      Best to you and hubby in the new year.

  5. Hi Bob! I'll bet most all of us (your readers) agree with your lessons learned during the last year. I sure do. I think the one that really sticks out for me (besides being grateful for my 44 year marriage of course) is the need to be adaptable. And if anything, I think that from here going forward this will be a crucial one for us all. Learning to go with the flow and adjust and change will determine sanity or frustration. I'm much better than I used to be but still have a ways to go. Hopefully 2022 will be the year. Happy New Year! ~Kathy

  6. Firstly, I was very glad to learn your recent medical challenge was successfully met and resolved. Good health is at the top of all of our lists.

    Being open to change is part of life, but the last few years have emphasized its importance. Like you and Thom, Betty and I have had to stretch our flexibility muscles to stay sane and happy. So far we are handling it well.

  7. Being adaptable has certainly been necessary along with patience -- I guess they go together. Patience is a lifelong goal for me. I am better than I was, but still have a way to go. And it appears we will be struggling with the ups and downs you mentioned for a while yet. I hope we get past the worst of it this year, but who knows?

    As for entertaining myself, I could do that endlessly, I think. Social isolation has been a challenge for me, but luckily (like others) I have a marriage that seems to have been well adapted to this past year. There are at least two other couples I know who have had the opposite experience. Too much togetherness pointed out the cracks in the foundation and they are splitting. Sad.

    We are looking at travel differently than we did pre-Covid, as many are. I've flown to the UK three times during the pandemic and the flights have been safe and uneventful. But the stories on the news really give me pause. I feel fortunate to have avoided the worst of the crazies.

    1. What worries me about flying are the stories of the out-of-control people who attack flight attendants or other passengers, or try to open a door!

      Limiting alcohol sales on board and banning these bozos from ever flying again would seem appropriate. That step can be taken after they get out of jail.

  8. I was curious about why you thought it unsafe to fly to England but safer to fly to Hawaii.

    1. Hawaii had very strict rules at the time that required submission of vaccine information and testing before being allowed onto Kauai.

      Also, we knew we would be interacting with a very limited number of people.

      If something suddenly changed, we did not want to risk being stuck in another country for a period of time.

  9. Adapt seems to be a theme for sure. I'm starting this year with a "let's see what happens and we'll deal with it" kind of attitude. Last year started with the promise of vaccines and post vaccine return to some form of normal. This year we see that life continues to surprise us with things we didn't see coming. Some of us get angry and feel cheated -- not very helpful for having a satisfying retirement or life. Others get their sea legs and pull out their navigation tools. Loved all your lessons.