2020 – What can I say about 2020? Nothing that has not already been said. We have all suffered in one way or another, be it financially, medically, emotionally and mentally.

Many of us have lost loved ones. Many of us ourselves have been seriously ill, broken and set in a place where we are afraid, uncertain and bitter. If you have not, then consider yourself further blessed than normal.

I am no exception. I’ve lost a few friends; have relatives and loved ones battling a mammoth disease in fear and isolation.

Beyond the health crises plaguing our earth, we have had political, racial and social drama. Feeling misunderstood, dejected and alienated, some wounds are irreparably deep and continue to fester.

Some of us ignore these things and pretend they don’t exist. We’ve said things, felt things and exhibited behavior that have hurt, damaged and devastated others. Our level of selfishness has never been met before.

And so, we’ve been angry and confused, and some of us blame each other for everything. We refer to each other as “the other side,” or “the enemy.”

No longer are we united as a nation, as a people, as a species ... It’s almost like a self-imposed Ice Age. My grandmother always taught me (as your elders probably taught you), if you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything.

And thus, I could not bring myself to write anything for most of this year. Being a minority in a world where most choose to be “empathetic,” rather than work to fix what’s wrong, can be terrifying.

Being lonely in a pandemic is bad enough ... but to feel that way in a world and society that has gone haywire, is debilitating at best.

But, here’s the thing ... People are looking forward to 2021 believing that it’s a magic number that will automatically change everything back ... Not so.

What I have learned about 2020, is that with all of its pain, faults and madness, there is so much more it has given us. It has taught us more about ourselves. It has taught us to love more, beginning with ourselves.

It has taught us to take care of each other and be mindful of those around us. We have blessings and lessons in the valley, and it’s up to us to grab hold of them and cherish our simple gifts.

In my case, I have (finally) found love and a life partner. In the midst of this rollercoaster year, we have held onto each other and made it through some lean and scary times. He’s a musician, and has brought out my love of singing ... and I am teaching him about art.

A month before meeting him, I got my little Leo – a precious senior (Heeler/Beagle mix) dog that I rescued from our shelter. He has become a beacon in both of our lives, and I now have my own little family unit. Yes, at 67 and 70, love can and does exist and grow.

My art has not suffered through this pandemic. The therapy it brings me is more prevalent now than ever before. I am cooking more ... I mean really cooking!

The walks I take have brought me closer to God and nature, and help my health. Perhaps this may seem a bit shallow, but my plant collection has begun to thrive ... because of me and my care? I don’t think so.

They have shown me that they will survive despite it all ... they don’t know it’s 2020. Leo doesn’t know it’s 2020. All they know is that they are safe, protected and loved. They want for nothing.

This year, my sweetie and I will have a very simple Christmas. No fancy meal. No presents. Just some quiet time reflecting on holidays past that we didn’t get to celebrate together, and the hope of those to come.

Speaking of hope. On Jan. 6, we will celebrate Epiphany; the 12th day of Christmas – when the Magi finally arrived at the Manger of the Nativity. They followed that Star ... for nights at a time.

They didn’t know what they would find, but they had hope, and they had faith. And the shepherds that followed as well went with the same intentions; not having a gift to bring; but seeking peace and love and joy. Royalty and the common man together.

So, don’t look to 2021 to “fix” 2020. Please, look at it as a chance to do what’s right; what’s best for all of us. A time to reflect and be joyous that we are on the top side of the soil, and not six feet below it.

A time to give thanks and celebrate those we have lost. Luxuriate in the love and the memories they left behind, and hope we all will do our very best to be the very best we can be.

Take care of yourselves. Take care and be kind to one another. It’s not all about us; it’s about us as humanity. Mask Up. Chin Up. Blessings Up.

New Castle resident Stacey Torres is a professional artist, dancer, writer, author and contributor to this newspaper.