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DM168 Reflection

Our expectations of 2021 have been tempered – but hope blooms if we tend to it

Our expectations of 2021 have been tempered – but hope blooms if we tend to it
File Photo: A general view of a woman lighting a candle on July 09, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Jacques Stander)

My great grandfather never knew his birthday, but his family marked the time of his birth in reference to the cattle disease of the 1890s which affected the lives of so many people. Just like the year of the cattle disease, the year 2020 will be a reference point for many changes in our lives.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

This 2020 New Year’s Eve was an extreme departure from what has been the norm my whole life – ringing in the new year in a loving and buoyant community. For most of us, this time around New Year’s Eve was muted. Despite the curfew that made it hard to celebrate with others, it did feel fitting, in keeping with the 2020 trend: this has been a year of lockdowns, social distancing and quarantines.

The president’s message to stay at home and to light a candle for those who we have left behind in 2020 was the right way to end the year. We cannot pretend that this moment is anything other than abnormal. I heeded the president’s message. I lit my candles and started meditating and praying around 11pm.

I was grounded in my meditation and lost track of real time. So when the clock hit midnight I was jolted out of the stillness by neighbours howling “Happy New Year!”, their voices cutting through the uncharacteristically silent night. Their voices were strained and sparse but determined to be heard. The cheers didn’t sound cheerful but rather desperate – an outlet for pent-up anxiety. There were fireworks in the distance. The explosion of colour against the dark night sky attempted to light up the gravely dim holiday season.

We entered 2021 less brashly and confidently than we did 2020. This year will not sucker-punch us. The jaded among us refuse to get our hopes up. Our expectations have been tempered. Yes, we have been humbled – but we are still here.

Despite the bruising year, I am inspired by so many of my fellow South Africans and citizens the world over who found a way to move forward no matter how unsteady the ground. The austere celebrations, the fireworks and the prayers signaled a tentative hope over pessimism.

No matter how sombre, New Year’s Eve can never go unfelt. We can never stop a new year from coming. We have to lean into it, no matter how reluctant we are to embrace a year that cannot promise us anything. The new year always blooms like a new flower. It is a beautiful thing to cross the threshold. But the beauty is never meant to be permanent. The withering ensures that we value the beauty when it returns. Because of 2020 I hope we grab this opportunity at another go at life.

My great grandad went his whole life not knowing how old he was. He had a different concept of time. I don’t think New Year’s Eve meant much to him. What he knew is that the point of life is to move forward. That was his compass in life: not a date but a direction. The passage of time is a relentless current that stops for no one, so instead of fighting the current we should allow time to carry us forward. Things that we paused for the holiday season now must be unpaused. Many of us are returning to our homes, cities and work with trepidation. May hope bloom in all our lives. Even when the stems are bare, tend to your hope. Cultivate it and it will reward you. Happy New Year. DM168

Lwanda Xaso is an attorney and a writer.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.

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