what’s in my backpack for 2021

I am a woman in her 60’s who doesn’t have to log on to work-from-home or home-school young children. I’m able to choose my daily schedule including writing projects, work and play activities, freedom to hike local trails or beaches where I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. A sanctuary of woods is behind my house.

I am not a designated care giver for loved ones suffering with ill health, confinement and confusion. My husband and I and our children and their children haven’t had Covid and are not sick. Many people living in other parts of Canada and the world are restricted and enduring circumstances more difficult and heavier-handed than my experience.

I’m so very privileged. Yet I struggle with my yin and yang of blessings and the frustration and weariness of Covid-19.

A 2020 Christmas without family hugs and no game plan for when will we see you next was a sad, first-time-ever experience. I find trying to stay aware of my world while navigating the crush of voices with opinions, fears and judgements a tiresome dance. Isolation created by face masks that fog up my eyeglasses and conversations makes me more impatient than I like to admit.

Letter Saying Good-bye 2020, Hello 2021!

My personality, an Enneagram (http://www.canadianenneagram.ca/rheti/ type 7), leans towards fun, spontaneity, physical activity, adventuresome excursions with friends in locations now out of reach. It’s work to keep my body, soul and spirit intact through the frustrations of missing what was. It’s a tension that makes my mental health gauge feel off kilter.

Clenching my jaw is not healthy. I need to establish a different thought pattern to rescript life to what it is now.

As a long distance hiker, I love the excitement of planning where I will go and what I will need in my pack for multiple days on the trail. Experience helps. Yet I’m still learning that I wouldn’t have needed that many granola bars and wondering why didn’t I bring an extra long-sleeved shirt? Then there’s the weather, the mix of hiking companions, physical limitations and the unwanted injuries. Even with diligent planning it’s a bit of a cr*p shoot.

Metaphorically speaking, my pack for trekking through 2020 originally held gear that would typically go the distance in function and comfort. But navigating Covid’s wind and rain and tedious rocky elevations exposed inadequacies. Like real-life hiking, there were a few scrapes.

Painful Tree-Hugging

Some essentials for my 2021 pack.

Companionship beyond the walk in the woods.

Virtual gatherings are expanding my friendship base and my collection of badges to decorate my backpack. Cross-Canada family visits and birthday parties; international personal growth huddles; a Montreal supper club; kindred women-creatives from across the continent; a writer in Paris, France participating in the same writing coaching/course . Caution. Overcommitting to Zoom and online events is a bigger problem for me than packing too many granola bars in my backpack! This ‘more is better’ tendency is a common curse for my personality type and can be my undoing for losing focus for my day. It’s possible to have too many friends or meetings.

Appreciating, respecting TIME. Time is not a forever commodity. I’m asking: what are my desires, the wild wishes, the gifts only I have to offer which I’ve been barely nursing along year after year? One of those is my writing, which I’ve dabbled in since the 1990’s: fitness articles, a small publication of family stories, a newsletter, this blog that travels along in spurts. October 2019 I declared I would write my story of the biggest change in my life that began in 2007: moving with my husband, both in our fifties, from our forever-home in Alberta to begin a new life in Nova Scotia.

I’ve been showing up at my keyboard consistently the last ten months. This habit and goal is lodged in my backpack for 2021 and longer, as this is a lengthy trek. But I’m gettin’ it done.

Another thing has been on my wish list for twenty years! I’ve wanted a tattoo but never could come up with a meaningful design. Inspiration landed in 2020 after not being able to attend two planned family reunions.Triggered by gratitude for my deceased parents, who immigrated to Canada with their parents, I surfed Pinterest for symbolic images of my ancestral heritage. And with help from an artistic grandson, Laurent Tougas (@mypictograph on Instagram) the graphic revealed itself. A Scottish thistle for my Mom; Styrka, Swedish word for Strength for my Dad.

The deed was done in December. There’s a good chance another image is in my backpack!

I couldn’t be trekking 2021 without my Faith. Anyone here remember the Jesus People – Hippie Movement of the late 60’s and 70’s? It was a happening thing in my teen’s, and for me then, it was too far out! As a senior citizen now, I readily identify my faith and purpose in the ranks of being a Jesus People! Feeling divinely beloved is my experience that’s evolved over decades, and especially now in this season, encourages and grounds me “… not to worry …..to fix thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…” (Broad translation: Philippians 4:6-8, NLT Bible.)

Keeping track. To remember the distances, where to resupply food and find water, the highs and lows – along with a cache of too many photos – I log snippets of life’s adventures and excursions. On and off trail. Bits and pieces of 2020’s notes went up in smoke Dec. 31/20. Other sections remained, reminders of joys and vistas, injuries and pain. Of healing and resilience of my body and heart.

I expect 2021 to be meaningful, mundane, maddening and more. The record-keeping devices in my pack will help me write the script en route.

Surprise Christmas Gift – 2021 Gratitude Journal

I Will Be Me and You Be You. I’ve lost some freedoms. So have you. I miss adventure activities, my family, mingling. What we’re missing and how we manage it is not a competitive sport. My schedule of online connections might swamp someone else. In the context of all the variables we are living in – family, location, health – we must do how it fits for us.

This a wrap-up my friends. I’d love to hear if you’ve stuffed a backpack for your 2021 journey.


Karen Toews

6 Comments on “what’s in my backpack for 2021

      • I love the way you have woven the hiking/backpack image into a life’s philosophy and resolution for the coming year. May the year bring you great satisfaction!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Beautifully written and thought provoking. I love your very real physical healing, along with finding strength in our hearts! I’m filling my backpack with gratitude and grateful to call you a friend! Thank you.


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