Although it was not what I (or any of us) imagined, or could have imagined, I am choosing something better: to be grateful for my gifts and to find discernment in the unexpected joys and sorrows of 2020. Through it all, the oxymoron known as “social distancing,” imported into the global culture just a year ago, imposed a deeper understanding of what closeness is – and isn’t – and all the ways we crave it. This distancing has made the yearning for human connection even more necessary, a human-to-human experiment between life and living, and death and dying. There is nothing “normal” about social distancing in most cultures, but having to distance disrupted virtually every aspect of life: of loving and comforting; of the way we conduct business; of the way we access education; and with or without masks, the way we communicate. Make no mistake, disruption has its place in innovation, by sheer speed or need. Disruption can renew with a commanding, refreshing perspective.
It’s ironic that the further apart we may seem, the closer we actually are. Within the disability community, where I claim one of my identities, many of us were able to survive the pandemic with a strange familiarity. It offered a window to the able-bodied world just how many of us live. While most of America struggled with the instantaneous lockdown, we knew what to expect from the inequality that disability brings: accessible transportation, workplace environment, personal assistants, appearance biases, and more. Whatever this new year brings, for some there will be continued isolation. For others, the distances will shorten, but still exist. The driving force will be how we define our connections to one another. How we see each other with “2021 Vision.”