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Happy Birthday to me. I am 42 today.

The last half of 2019 was delightful. Frankfurt, my new love. Leuven and Brugge and Antwerpen. The Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, looking for Kiliaen Van Rensselaer and Adriaen Block. The Rijn, bright and crystalline and full of wine grapes. Taking a long, looping drive through Hesse and Bavaria topping out around 210kph on the A81 to Wurzburg. The Roman limes at Saalburg. The Taunus Therme, which despite my body issues was a surprising delight. And everywhere was Apfelwein or Geuze or Kriek, and Grüne Soße and friends.

Then Berlin on my own, which was a lot walking and crying at things. Crying at so many monuments. Crying at the wall. Crying over a drink at the Neues Ufer. Zig-zagging the Tiergarten for hours. Reveling in walking by myself in a city that did not, could not know me.

I tried to come back and be a person again, but it was very difficult and I don't think I ever quite got it right. I had forgotten the steps, if I had in fact ever known them. I went home for Thanksgiving, and while it was wonderful and important to be with family, it made me feel even more disconnected from myself.

Then the calendar flipped to 2020, and after one more trip home suddenly all of this happened.

I've been in a quarantine bubble since March 13th, and I'm not coming out any time soon. I decamped my office, and built an overly elaborate multipurpose work station for myself. I've cancelled all of my meetups outright, paused until we can all be together in one room again to talk about thoughts and feelings. I've crocheted an embarrassment of blankets, somehow working through nearly all of my yarn in three months. And yet, all of that has brought me no closer to the end of this era. Staring up at the ceiling in the middle of the night, wondering what will become of me and mine.

I'm safe. My loved ones are safe, unscathed, and buttressed against the future. Waiting for something to change for the better.

That's all I want for this year. Not a return to normalcy, but something better for me and for all of us. That somehow, miraculously, we find ourselves at the other end of this journey, and we are somehow the better for it. I can't even construct this ember of a dream coherently in my head. I guess that is what hope looks like at its smallest.

May it build the larger fire.