Essential Work

Sitting on the back porch of 2020, watching for the sun to rise on the next year, I am grateful for our common task that binds us – this essential work of loving in the time we have to love. Let’s get busy with that, shall we?

And in the meantime, I share some excerpts from my 2020 work journal:


I want to walk softly into 2021 with great respect for the unknown. No big sticks or drums announcing my intentions. Just gently let the new year enter our front yard – keeping 6 feet between us while we suss each other out. Call me wary of promises or predictions. Once bit, twice shy – as the expression goes.

I feel hopeful for the year ahead, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on 2021 (or on myself) to meet up to my expectations. I’m just glad that my plans that I do have include the work I’ve been doing all along. It’s been one of the most reliable, consistent, and rewarding things throughout this wacky year, and for that I am so very grateful.


I’ve been thinking a lot this week about 2020 and how I keep seeing memes and such about how awful it is, like this one:

And in a way, these memes are spot on. Can’t deny that it’s been one heck of a ride (and not the fun kind, but more the one that makes you throw up on a hot day and you have to walk around the amusement park the rest of the day smelling like puke… sorry).

But… I almost feel guilty saying this, but from my perspective, there have been some incredibly positive things that have happened this year that would not have happened without all the crap stuff. It’s because of, not inspite of the hard things that the great things (for me anyway) have happened. Some of those, for example:

  1. Having the chance to work with every one of my work colleagues (due to temporary adjustments in client engagements).
  2. An artistic collaboration over the Spring time with one of my favorite photographers.
  3. Almost triple the walking per day over last year – lots of fresh air and beach time.
  4. More family time.
  5. Countless hours (and many many gallons of gas) saved on commuting.

These are not just “silver linings.” They are big chunks of awesome and they happened because of some really chunky awfulness. That is life in a nutshell, isn’t it? I mean, it’s what we make of it, but it’s also the filter through which we choose to see it.

And that’s a daily choice. Some days are easier to see those big chunks of awesome goodness. On the days when it’s hard, those are the days I tell myself that some day I’m going to be able to write an amazing poem because of what I am going through at that moment.


I said in my last entry that I was going to write some poetry over the weekend. That didn’t happen – though I did make an attempt and wrote a bunch of crap. That happens. Not discouraged about it. This writing thing goes in cycles/seasons. I’m in a dry season, which is fitting, as we’re in a drought here in New England.

However, I did read a lot of poetry. That’s always the next best thing (or the best first thing before writing). These lines jumped out at me from a poem in Rattle:

“…Honest, I’ve heard a stadium exhale

as a ball landed in a glove, and I’ve spent

the car ride home trying to find

a way to describe that sound.

I’ve felt sorrow in the heart

of beauty and beauty inside sorrow…”

And then this bit:

“…I need you

to think of poetry as a beautiful lie that hits

a bullseye. I’ve gazed into a bull’s eye,

seen the fierce, wounded beauty there.”

(If you want, you can read the whole thing here:

I think there’s so much in the work we do that is like this “beautiful lie that hits a bullseye.” It’s both fierce and wounded, exhilarating and exasperating.

June 5, 2020

Accept it all as answer to prayer. Don’t read between the lines, looking for something you did wrong or could have done differently. Trust, lean into new opportunity. Have grace with the grumpy – take their lack of grace with a grain of salt (or two). Have confidence in the gifts God has given (both in terms of your own abilities but also the gifts of meaningful work, colleagues, smart boss, etc.) that make it possible to pivot into something different. Take walks on the beach!


Sometimes I think I just don’t “get it” [about self-care]… missing the secret handshake or something. It has helped a lot to read about other peoples’ journeys through this and how real and open they have been about it. Sometimes self-care is saying, “This totally sucks.” Other times, it’s going for a walk or noticing something beautiful. I think it comes down to acceptance.

One self-care lesson this week for me has been to take the opportunities presented as they come. Yesterday, that meant sitting on our porch steps for a few minutes with my son and soaking in the sunshine. It’s been so cold this week and mostly cloudy, so those few moments to soak in some vitamin D was important (because I’m certainly not soaking it in today!).

Every day gives you a gift to find. It’s sort of like an Advent calendar at Christmastime. You never know what’s going to be behind the little window when you open it up. But you look, and there it is: so unexpected and lovely. If you remember to open up the window in the Advent calendar that day. Because the next day, it’s going to be something different.


Photo by Lucian Dachman on Unsplash

2 Replies to “Essential Work”

  1. I agree, Kelly! 2020 is a package deal; if you throw out the bad, you must discard whatever good also came about because of or in spite of the pandemic, global climate change, human rights violations, and politics.

    That yin/yang dot of bright in the dark swirl of events reminds us to look for the positive in the negative, if possible. Many people suffered catastrophically this year, and I’m not minimizing that, but there are, nevertheless, those relatively bright moments in anyone’s life, however small or large… Let’s identify them and draw consolation and inspiration from them! 🙂🙏🏻

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