The other day I spilled 18 eggs inside my refrigerator. It is important to clarify that these were not 18 cooked eggs. I wish I could tell you this happened as the result of some sort of impressively ambitious recipe — there I was, carefully transferring my delicate yet comically oversized soufflé, when suddenly — but the truth is it was a moment of pure karma, the universe doling out an unpleasant bitchslap which I have to admit was well-deserved.

I’ll begin my process of attempting to deflect blame by pointing out that when your family eats a staggering amount of eggs on the daily and yet you have not yet progressed to backyard farming, it’s a better deal to buy those stacked flats of eggs that are surely filled with hormones and sorrow as opposed to whatever health benefits the expensive brown free-range organic packs claim to offer. The problem with that strategy is that you then have to figure out where 36 goddamned eggs can go in the fridge, no easy feat if you’ve recently stocked up on groceries and there’s no extra room to be found.

Let us also turn our attention to the egg tray in my refrigerator. It is, you know, a tray — an area that is clearly meant for eggs but offers no storage feature aside from a lid that drops down. It works great if what you have is a standard 12-pack of eggs. Put the carton in, shut the lid, bam. ♫ You’ve got eggs! ♬

However, if what you have is 36 eggs and no tray-sized container, you might be tempted to come up with a creative solution for the tray problem. You might oh-so-carefully stack 18 eggs in a tupperware-type holder, then put that container — brimming with eggs, too big for the area, somewhat precariously balanced — into the egg tray. When other people in your family react with various levels of concern to this setup, you may repeatedly issue a statement based on something that vaguely sounds like it could be true: “The weight of the eggs will keep it in there!”

It was later the same day that I went to the fridge for a drink, had the thing happen where the door gets slightly stuck, carelessly gave it a bit of a yank, and —

Narrator: The weight of the eggs did not, in fact, keep it in there.

Have you ever had to clean up a spilled egg? Multiply that mess of mucus-y clear goo, gloppy yolk, and sticky bits of shell eighteen times over and put it everywhere in the fridge. Down in the drawers, somehow sprayed over milk containers and jam jars and bags of celery, puddled under the fridge itself.

Really I cannot overstate how time-consuming and gross this was to clean up, especially once a sea of floor-egg mixed with several tumbleweeds of dog hair, but I will say that I was quite stoic about the entire thing. As soon as the container tipped I was like oh noooooo but also well that wasn’t exactly surprising, was it. (Eggs, in Thanos voice: WE ARE INEVITABLE.)

In conclusion, play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I pretty much never want to see an egg ever again in my entire life, but I did go ahead and order a tray holder.

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Recently someone asked me to come up with a word — just one — for what 2020 was like for me. Talk about a challenge: a single word? I thought for a minute and said “Frozen,” but that wasn’t right. I found myself making a vague pushing-inward gesture with my hands as though I was collapsing a box. “Reduced. Muffled. Uh … diminished.”

I couldn’t really come up with the right term for It was overwhelming and I disappeared myself to escape. I was there but I wasn’t.

You have, I am sure, heard the saying about the pandemic that we are all in the same storm, but in different boats. Some are in giant luxury yachts and some are in rafts that are starting to fall apart and so on. I love the clarity of that phrase — how perfectly it illustrates the way a crisis can fall unevenly and unequally upon a society — but it doesn’t describe how 2020 felt to me. For me, the worst part of the year was not having a shared reality of the storm itself.

“Right, like the worst part was the arguing,” you may be thinking right now. “I’m pretty sure it was the—” and whatever you come up with next, whatever it is, like if it’s “over 350,000 deaths,” or “utter lack of leadership during a dangerous health crisis,” or “batshit crazy unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud which would eventually culminate in an actual storming of the U.S. Capitol,” whatever fact about 2020 seems indisputable to you, there is this entire alternate version, right?

The numbers of deaths are wrong. The crisis is being exaggerated in order to enforce draconian rules. The election was stolen.

It’s one thing to disagree on how to react to a thing, it’s another to disagree on the reality of the thing itself. Like suddenly finding that you aren’t feet or even miles apart, there are entire continents between you. No shared north star to fix on in order to try and close the distance.

Lockdowns and isolation, the many things I took for granted that suddenly became and remained unavailable, kids stuck at home, upended daily routines, political turmoil and social unrest, all the small and not-so-small losses — all brought on by a storm whose very nature could not be agreed upon. My household is a boat but we don’t see the same waves.

Distanced. That might be the right word after all, there’s the obvious reason but also that’s how I got through 2020, at a distance. I distanced myself with food, with doomscrolling, with medication. I put insulation all around me until it was hard to recognize what was worth paying attention to. It was hard to feel anything, any more. I was there but I wasn’t.

Nothing changes unless nothing changes, and so I — finally, partway through December — started making some changes. Quit the worst kind of self-medicating, tried to give myself grace for being so helpless in the face of a cookie. I see a counselor now as well as a doctor specializing in addiction. I write in a gratitude journal and I have one of those goal-tracking grid things where you get all excited about filling in the little water box each day with your specially-purchased colored pencil until you realize just how hard it is to stay fully hydrated on the reg without straight-up peeing your pants.

Anyway. I ended 2020 better than how I lived 2020, which … isn’t saying a whole lot, but after many months of quicksand-level inertia at least I’ve got that goin’ for me.

I wish we could all be confident that this year will be nothing at all like the last but of course that’s not how it works. We’re still in a pandemic, we’re still in the midst of political upheaval, we’re still painfully polarized as a nation. I know better than to believe that everything will instantly be better or easier now that the calendar rolled over, but I am re-committed to staying present. Un-insulated, un-muffled, life on life’s terms.

And if I had to pick a word, a single word, for what I am hoping for in 2021, it is this: Connection.

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