Dear Totem Community!

I hope each of you are safe and well in these first few weeks of January 2021. (It’s also okay if you are feeling a little anxious, overwhelmed, and even depressed. It happens to all of us! Remember to reach out to friends, family, and even co-workers if you need help!)

This blog of ours has served as a way to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and ideas to like-minded folks. We have no assumptions that our thoughts, feelings, or ideas are more important than anybody else’s. We simply like to blog because we’re geeks. When we learn something, we share it. I suppose it’s the result of the  “geek code” we live by.

Many of the events of 2020 triggered our “geek reflex” forcing us to get introspective about the retrospective!

Top 20 from 2020:

#20: Inequity exposed.

During the unprecedented school closures and mass quarantines, millions of kids (and their families) were forced to face an ugly truth: Digital learning is not equitable learning. This issue is clear as day and we need to work together as schools, communities, private businesses, and our local governments to end the “digital divide” once and for all. The most basic solution would look like affordable broadband/5G for all. Let’s work to make it happen in 2021!

#19: Families can thrive or crash on the little things.

Back in our college days, each of us experienced the “Roommate Syndrome.” This syndrome occurred when the tiniest things became the most annoying things from the people we lived with. (You know, the way they brushed their teeth, the sounds they made when eating, etc.) The mass quarantine has turned most families into roommates triggering the “Roommate Syndrome” for all! Now, the tiniest things erupt into the hugest catastrophes! The only way out of the “Roommate Syndrome” is to express gratitude for the little things we get by spending time with our families.

Count smiles, celebrate laughter, and enjoy a simple meal together!

#18: Black lives totally matter.

2020 was a year where the basic rights of the black community were violated repeatedly in our country. Check-out this sobering analysis about the way law enforcement responds to right-wing versus left-wing protests like the BLM movement. Authorities are literally twice as likely to attempt to break up and disperse a protest like BLM than a right-wing protest. Acknowledging the BLM movement isn’t discrediting the value of any other life, it is simply acknowledging the gap in equality and equity in comparison to race in our country–and being willing to help close that gap.

#17: Not all law enforcement are bad people.

Believe it or not, we can believe there is racism in this country perpetrated by unjust laws and abuse of power AND respect law enforcement officers. However, when a law enforcement officer perpetuates unjust laws and abuse their authority, we can also be outraged. We don’t have to operate in a “bulk ideology.” We don’t have to consume bulk-sized views. We can get surgical. We can make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Not all law enforcement are bad people. Some have been down right evil. Some have been down right heroic. We need a system that weeds out the evil and supports the heroic.

#16: Healthcare workers know their stuff. Mask-up!

My grandma was nurse. My mom went to nursing school before deciding to become an educator. They studied the best practices of their fields and only did so to provide for their families and help those in need. They were taught the basics on preventing the spread of infectious diseases. If you don’t think they know what they heck they’re doing, you need to take a deep breath and realize that those working in healthcare study and know best. We need to respect their knowledge. In the simplest request ever, they’ve asked us to ramp-up our hygiene and wear a mask. Simple. Honest. Effective.

#15: Teachers Teach (even when they can’t).

Let’s all take a couple of minutes to remember what teachers did in 2020: 1) On a dime, without warning (there was literally zero precedent for the mass school closures of 2020), teachers worked long hours to figure-out how to continue instruction during a global pandemic. 2) Many teachers did so whilst managing kids of their own, 3) When they couldn’t “teach” they “reached” for their students simply attempting to maintain a connection. Every parent with school-aged children was made acutely aware that school is so much more than “going to school.” Learning is a real, dynamic process and without an educator at the helm, all of us are lost.

#14: We need stamina for inconvenience.

Life is inconvenient. Despite all our efforts to make it more convenient, it’s as if life is trying to teach us a lesson: Life cannot be seamless, perfect, or absent of discomfort. Of course, most of us understand this on a basic level, but what the global pandemic has shown us is that we haven’t really prepared ourselves for inconvenience. Whether its wearing a mask, changing our social habits, or even defending a core value, we’re going to have to do hard things. Every generation has an opportunity to leave a positive legacy for kids.

What if one of our legacies in facing this global pandemic was, “We can do hard things–inconvenient things in this life?”

#13: Where the leaders at?

There are plenty of good leaders out there, you just have to know how to find them. They don’t perform speeches, they speak when the moment calls for it. They don’t seek glory, glory typically finds them. They admit their shortcomings and take responsibility. Most importantly, they act with dignity and trust. Thus, we follow their lead because they are dignified and trustworthy. Unfortunately, there are many platforms where “pseudo leaders” can push agendas and “fake lead.” In desperate times, we need more people to step-up with dignity and build trust through relationships and accountability.

#12: Distance makes the heart grow fonder (or colder)?

In 2020, we entered a social and familial super-dilemma: “To socially distance or not to socially distance, that is the question.”

When we decide to socially distance ourselves from friends and family, we are reminded of the classic Otis Redding lyric, “You don’t miss your water until the well has run dry.”  The absences of our friends and families can make our affection for them so much stronger. Yet, in contrast, the more time apart, we can also become isolated and resentful. The only way to survive this strange time is to focus on safety and then make decisions through that core value.

#11: God bless the grocery store.

I just wanna take some time to give a well-deserved shout-out to all the grocery workers and grocery store managers working through this pandemic. I can’t imagine the confrontations and stress they must have endured when facing toilet paper and pasta shortages. Yet, somehow, their system prevailed and so many families were able to bring food back to the table.

#10: God bless TV.

In times of stress and anxiety, often times, distraction is the best medicine. I’d like to take a moment to thank all the writers, producers, actors, (sometimes real-life people just getting filmed), for producing visual content that could be poignant (see: The Queen’s Gambit) or great garbage (see: The Tiger King) or just fun (see: Any Pixar Movie).

#9: God bless the delivery drivers.

2020 was a year where we learned what the word “infrastructure” really meant. There were men and women working hard all pandemic-long getting important supplies to hospitals, clinics, grocery stores–you name it. These important supplies don’t just simply “appear.” Someone had to wake-up, drive long hours, and meet stressful deadlines. I’m grateful for cargo drivers, pilots, and these essential workers within our infrastructure.

#8: God bless the folks behind the vaccine.

Believe it or not, in less than a calendar year from the mass school closures and quarantines, we have a safe vaccine arriving to battle COVID-19. I have no clue the amount funding, work, science, and oversight all of this must have taken to accomplish, but I am grateful. This vaccine is the ultimate symbol and act of trusting one another: We are trusting a system that produced a vaccine to help each of us improve our health. It’s a beautiful thing.

#7: God bless our friends.

Whether we navigated our relationships through Zoom, phone calls, or “drive-by-visits,” each of us (hopefully) have learned just how valuable friendships are. Our families obviously provide us with meaningful relationships, but the pandemic has proven just how critical the difference is between family and friends: Sometimes, we need connections outside our bloodlines. It’s healthy, it’s what makes us “social.” Simply put, friends present the peaceful divide from “relationships with responsibilities” to just “relationships.”

#6: God bless democracy.

Whether politics stress you out, invigorate you, or whatever, I’m grateful we have the opportunity to vote for elected officials. While our democracy continues to be threatened by vilifying opposing parties, we can still act. We can still speak-up. The more of us that do so (respectfully, with dignity, and honesty), the more healthy our democracy will become.

#5: God bless the outdoors. 

Sometimes, we need to get out to get close. Since the pandemic, I’m not picky about what defines “the outdoors.” Anything outside works for me. Seriously. Walking outside for a deep breath and just experiencing the weather (whatever that may be) is so valuable. We live in a beautiful world. Regardless if you’re in the suburbs, the city, or our the country, take a step outside and soak it in.

Deep breaths paired with an acute focus of the sights and sounds of our surroundings is a gift.

#4: Optimism still wins.

Optimism has never just been about “looking on the bright side of things,” optimism has been about belief. We live in strange times where our beliefs are challenged, disputed, and even disrespected. Yet, through it all, the only belief of value is optimism. However, believing things can work out is only half of it. The other half is acting on that belief. Noam Chomsky said,

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Unless you believe the future can be better, you are unlikely to set up and take responsibility for making it so.”

#3: Help kids.

While 2020 has been incredibly difficult for us adults, take a minute to imagine just how difficult it has been for our kids. I am confident that our kids are resilient and surprisingly strong little humans, but we’d be naive to think 2020 hasn’t left a significant imprint on their formative years. Now more than ever, take time to check-in and plug-in to our kids’ lives. They have been dealing with a lot of stuff and haven’t had many opportunities to get it out on the table. When kids don’t have opportunities to share their concerns or thoughts, they can internalize them. When kids internalize their concerns and thoughts, they can end-up “in their heads” and add to the already ever-present stress and anxiety of our modern world.

#2: Acceptance is the new Self-Care

Imagine two strings. One of these strings represents our expectations. The other represents our reality. The only road to individual wellbeing is how each of us can braid these two strings together in our lives. There’s nothing wrong with having expectations about what we wish would happen in our lives. Yet, if we don’t braid those expectations with our reality, we’re really just setting ourselves up to dissatisfaction, tension, and blah.

We need to accept ourselves, our circumstances, and our realities if we want to be well.

#1: Just keep swimming

Despite the experiences each of us have had in 2020, if you are reading this, you are here. I’m pretty sure you arrived to this point by simply putting one foot in front of the other. The practical, deliberate act of pressing forward during uncertain times cannot be underestimated. Take a moment to think of how you accomplished this. What self-talk strategies did you enlist to help you move forward? What encouragement have you received to help you move forward? What energy or value has powered your motor to press on? I would recommend taking note of these things not only so you can remember, but so you can share. So many of us may not have the strength at times to press on. Yet, so many of us have found a way. Share what you have found. Help others where you can and please,

Just keep swimming!