Giving Thanks for What’s Worth Remembering About a Terrible Year

25 Nov
Boys at the beach

Last week, during the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill did a bit that he set up as a letter to his 100-year-old self, looking back on what was certainly a memorable year. 

It started in predictable fashion, with the comedian poking fun at what he might be like at that age. There was a line about smoking pot and one about being old enough to watch Fox News. But then the segment took a surprising turn.

Rather than continuing the thread with a series of jokes about politics, or ones at the expense of the president* and his family, Bill took the opportunity to celebrate how, in the midst of a global pandemic, and with most people stuck at home, his team rallied together to keep the show going, collaborating in new ways and coming up with creative solutions to unusual problems — like having no live audience. Bill also paid tribute to his fans, who stuck with the show all year long, and said how thankful he was for their/our support.

“I hope you remember how grateful you were to the entire intrepid, unbreakable staff at Real Time for pulling miracles out of their ass every week,” Bill said to his future self. “And to the folks at home, for letting us do what we do…. Even when the audience wasn’t really there, you knew they were there. And you were there for them.”

Bill Maher is not one I often associate with such emotions — his sense of humor and personality tend to run more in the cynical, sarcastic direction. So suffice it to say, the segment really caught me off guard. In a good way.

This was an authentic, even heartfelt reminder that, while we lament how awful 2020 has been, we all have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, to paraphrase the legend that is Nicole Westbrook, even in a terrible year, we should not be hateful; we’ve gotta be grateful

I do try every day to appreciate the things that make me smile. But since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’m going to follow Bill Maher’s lead, and once again, share with you a few of the people, places, and things I’m giving thanks for, because they have helped make this year memorable, at the very least. By no means is this a complete list, and it’s not in any particular order, but it reflects where my mind is right now. 

In 2020, I am thankful for …

  • Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ election victory — and that it was more decisive than it initially appeared on Election Night
  • Late-summer walks with my neighbor, Andreina
  • My health — not perfect, but coronavirus-free, so far
  • The fact that I’ve been through a layoff once before, so I knew the signs when it was happening again, and could prepare myself
  • The cold opens of What We Do in the Shadows
  • FaceTime and Zoom, for keeping me in touch with friends and family when we can’t be together in person
  • The scientists at Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and other places, who are working overtime and, yes, at “warp speed” to develop a vaccine for COVID-19
  • The Lone Bellow’s “Sunday Night Rally” shows, private Zoom concerts, other live streams, and Patreon exclusives
  • Beautiful, colorful sunsets
  • Ari Melber’s straight-faced dropping of rap, hip hop, and other song lyrics into his monologues and conversations
  • That my (former) job, and career just in general, allow me to work from home flexibly
  • Duncan Hines
  • Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, whose regular emails have kept me informed with great detail about the current state of the pandemic in my town
  • Seapointe Village, for providing a much needed change of scenery this summer
  • Lily, the AT&T spokesperson
  • Strong and lasting relationships, which have provided support, job opportunities, encouragement, socializing, and more — sometimes unexpectedly — when I needed them this year
  • The butter cake at Del Frisco’s
  • The return of Bruce Springsteen with new music this fall
  • That my gum tissue graft surgery this summer was as painless as it was
  • The doctors, nurses, public health experts, and others on the front lines, who have worked so hard to save lives, and whose pleas about wearing masks, social distancing, and being smart are, unfortunately, still ignored by so many
  • Weekend afternoons spent listening to Ken playing his keyboard in Newton Centre
  • Brittlestar
  • That my mom and dad and I were all able to be in New York last week to attend Abby’s bat mitzvah in person, and be a part of the service
  • Webster Woods / Hammond Pond Reservation
  • Local businesses like Johnny’s Luncheonette and Comella’s, which have been able to stay open during tough times
  • The never-ending rabbit hole that is YouTube
  • Perspective
  • Kaitlin Collins and Ali Vitali
  • Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, Connecticut
  • Those times when wearing a face mask doesn’t fog up my glasses
  • The “Felicity Friday” episodes of the Podcast Like It’s 1999 podcast
  • My rediscovered ability to sleep until 10 AM (or later!) on the weekends
  • That I live in a state like Massachusetts, in the greater Boston area, and in a town where most people take the pandemic seriously
  • That remotely produced TV broadcasts don’t all look like Zoom meetings anymore
  • Nights when my upstairs neighbor and her boyfriend go to bed at a decent hour
  • Good customer service

And finally, most of all, I’m thankful for the hope I’m feeling right now. At this time next year, if all goes according to plan, and Dr. Fauci is right, we should be back to some degree of normal. I’m optimistic that this means we’ll be able to celebrate Thanksgiving (and other occasions) together with our family and friends, and we’ll be able to move forward with our lives again. Won’t that be awesome.

So, cheers to that, and thank you to all the other people, places, and things on my list.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you giving thanks for this year?

3 Responses to “Giving Thanks for What’s Worth Remembering About a Terrible Year”


  1. The 2020 Happiness Project | Martin's Musings - November 30, 2020

    […] 29Elizabeth called me today to discuss something she saw in my Thanksgiving blog post, so that was cool. It was nice to know my friends actually read it and wanted to follow […]

  2. When the Dust Settled, These Are the Songs That Got Me Through 2020 | Martin's Musings - December 21, 2020

    […] good question to ask, given how much happened and how much there is to remember. Thankfully, in my case, I’ll have this playlist to help with that […]

  3. In Spite of Everything, I’m Ending 2020 Feeling Very Lucky | Martin's Musings - December 30, 2020

    […] that happened, and things that were worth smiling about. These things should be remembered, too. We should be grateful for all the doctors and healthcare workers, the public health officials, the teachers, the […]

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