The Shortest Day In The Longest Year

This week’s Courier Herald column:

This has been the longest year ever.  It doesn’t just seem that way. It was a leap year, so 2020 gave us an extra day back in February to make it official by tying the record of 366 days.

It seems longer.  A pandemic, social unrest, economic turmoil, and a never ending election have combined to give each of us plenty of negative things on which we could focus. 

Economically, some of us have had a more difficult year than others.  Those of us that have been able to work from home have made adjustments, but many of us haven’t missed a paycheck and somewhat paradoxically have seen the value of our retirement accounts increase over the past year.

Others have had to work in customer contact positions while trying to protect themselves under constantly changing directives as to what was considered “safe”.  The public they were facing seemed evenly split on whether their PPE was absolutely necessary or a political stunt, and have not been shy about sharing those opinions with workers just trying to earn a paycheck and return home safe and healthy.

Some suddenly had no work to report to, and no income coming in.  Others still faced the ultimate hardship of losing a loved one to this disease, or to the effects of depression in isolation.

Then there’s the election.  It’s separated friends from friends, and even put some families on estranged terms with each other.  

It is amazing there were not more injuries from people who spent the last two or four years claiming the last elections were tainted to having an unwavering faith in the electoral process, and vice-versa.  Apparently there’s no time to worry about hypocrisy when all that really matters is getting the outcome you want.

The ads, the endless texts and robocalls, and the hordes of youth getting Christmas cash to knock on doors remind us that the longest election year ever is not yet over. Georgia has been “blessed” with a bonus round of the year that seems like it will never end.

It’s truly been the longest year.  This week we also experienced the shortest day, and the longest dark night of the year.  A year that has seemed all too dark has reached its peak.

The days, while still more dark than light, are getting longer.  The year is finally, mercifully ending.  A new year is around the corner. 

Between then and now, Christmas.  It’s a celebration of a new beginning; of a baby born to strip away our past so that we can begin life anew.

It’s fitting that this year, the longest of years, had the return of the “Christmas Star” after 8 centuries.  It was an extra amount of light splashed into our darkest day.

The pandemic has forced us to re-think many of our holidays, and Christmas traditions have become part of the exceptions granted for 2020.  Many of the trappings of the season such as pre-Christmas gatherings and parties, or kids sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall have been foregone.

In taking away much of the accompanying hustle and bustle, we’re left with the basics of the holiday.  There was darkness in the world.  A baby was born to be the light. 

The longer days ahead will bring us light and hope.  We have a vaccine and new medicines that will end the pandemic and return us to normal.  2021 will mercifully not be an election year for most of us. 

As we return to “normal”, life will speed up again.  Some of us may even long for parts of this longest year that seemed would never end, but soon will.  Human nature has a weird way of turning our past – the good and bad – into the good old days.

For now, we have Christmas week and the dawn of a new year.  It’s time to turn the page to longer days and focus on the potential that lies ahead.  May yours be filled with light.

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