I would like to suggest that we always write the year “2020” with an asterisk. Every email, every social media post, any reference to this calendar year deserves a big fat asterisk. Go ahead, try it. It feels good to put that asterisk at the end, and offer no explanation: 2020*
It feels good because that asterisk represents everything we know to be reality around us today, but we cannot put it into words.
Every day, we try to explain to one another how things are kinda normal, yet so weird. We are approaching our 6th month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and routine tasks are still unfamiliar or even unnerving.
Just yesterday I dropped my car off for a new fuel pump, and the mechanic would not accept the car keys from hand. He asked that I drop the keys into a zip lock bag, where I assume they’ll be fished out by a gloved hand and then sanitized before his ordinary dirty work begins.
Sometimes it’s beyond weird and completely inverts our instincts. There used to be safety in numbers, now large groups feel dangerous. Or let’s talk about for the last century, if you wore a mask into the bank, they would call the police and you’d be arrested. Today, if you enter a bank not wearing a face mask, they just might call the police.
We all have stories, don’t we? Stories about trips to the grocery store, the barbershop, a restaurant drive-through, and attending church services on Facebook.
When we share a story once, it’s because it’s interesting and it feels good to recount the events with a loved one. When we share that same story twice, three times, it’s because we haven’t healed. We haven’t yet processed what happened, and we hope that by telling it again, somehow it won’t sting as much. Or maybe it will make more sense today than it did yesterday.
At this very moment, a cathartic retelling of stories is happening at every level of our society. Amongst friends. Amongst co-workers. Amongst fellow state governors. Amongst world leaders. Even at the highest level, once official business is discussed, we reach out to one another for support, for sympathy, for encouragement. None of us can do this alone.
So maybe when we type 2020* from this day forward, it gives us a little grace. It’s a recognition that today we cannot make sense of any of this. Maybe we never will. But we were all in this together, and we all know what * means.