Year in Review: Big World, Small Town

Charles Thomas

The end of each year offers an opportunity to reflect back on what’s happened in the past 12 months; to look back on what we’re proud of and maybe a few things that make us cringe a bit in retrospect.

As I reflect on the columns I’ve written for Watershed Voice in 2021, there are a few that — at the risk of sounding immodest — are real bangers. Of course, there are also a few that missed the mark and make me feel look a bit cheugy. My column on the Death of the Guitar Solo is one of those. There’s no way I would put that one in a portfolio of my best work. 

But when you go about creating anything, you go in knowing that not everything you create will be a masterpiece. There’s a reason that psychologist Rollo May once wrote a book called “The Courage to Create.” It takes real courage to create anything. But failure must ultimately be embraced because failure provides the foundation for all success.

So below you will find a rank ordered list of what I think are my best columns of 2021. These columns were made possible by all the ones through the years that missed the mark.    

Happy New Year!      

5. Being sad during the Holidays — December 15, 2021

“While for many Christmas calls to mind Norman Rockwell scenes of happy families huddled around a packed dinner table, the reality for many others is quite different. Some people are estranged from their families or are going through divorces, trauma, or grieving deaths during the holiday season. Others are just overcome with the stress of trying to give their children a “perfect” Christmas or are grieving not having a child to celebrate the season with.

“The honest truth is that many of us feel sad around Christmas time. If that’s where you are this year, please know that you are not alone.”

4. Creating a Lasting Legacy 

“One day all of us will be forgotten and our names will be lost to the vagaries of time. But that does not mean we cannot create a lasting legacy. We create our legacy each and every day with every action we take and with every word that we speak. We create a powerful legacy when we act like water, nourishing those around us without the expectation that anyone will remember our names. We help people best when we give up the idea of helping, and we create the biggest impact when we forget about trying to create an impact.”

3. Becoming Beauty — November 8, 2021 

“When we write a beautiful song or craft a poem that helps people understand how they are feeling, a part of us goes into that creation. But it’s not just through creating works of art that people can feel this union with beauty. You can feel it when you meticulously paint an accent wall in your home, or when you arrange flowers in a way that accentuates their nature beauty. I often feel it after I’ve mowed my lawn, and take a moment to stand back and look at the order that now exists where previously existed only chaos.”

2.  Our Unquiet Minds: The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19       

“I was sitting in my home office, a mere two months into Michigan’s initial COVID lockdown, eating crunchy oatmeal squares as I lazily perused my work emails from the comfort of my desk. As hard as the initial lockdown was, I always knew I was one of the lucky ones. My day job allowed me to work from home and my wife was able to work from home as well. Our daughter, while disappointed about missing marching band season, was thriving in the new world of online education. COVID was certainly terrible, but I was in the privileged position of being minimally affected.

“That’s when I felt my bite suddenly start to wobble like a train starting to go off its tracks.”

1. The Biggest Barrier to Self-Improvement — January 13, 2021

“Here’s the problem: we don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions to lose five pounds, we resolve to lose 50. We don’t resolve to donate 10 dollars a month to charity, we resolve to donate 10 percent of our gross income. We don’t resolve to cut our alcohol consumption in half for a month, we decide that we’ll never drink alcohol again. Ever.

“While it’s great to aim high, such lofty goals have a major downside. When our resolution is to lose 50 pounds, it’s hard to get very excited when we’ve lost five pounds. That’s just a drop in the bucket, a mere 10 percent of the goal! But when we start smaller and make our initial goal to lose five pounds, we can celebrate an actual victory as we plan how to take the next step.”

Charles D. Thomas is a writer, psychotherapist, and Main Street Media Group board member who made Three Rivers his home for over a decade. Feedback is welcome at [email protected].

Any views or opinions expressed in “Big World, Small Town” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.