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  • Writer's pictureAnn Louden


Updated: Apr 29, 2021

It's official. I have broken up with my most silent year. Even with the zoom meetings and the phone check-ins and the emails and the texts of 2020, I was never so quiet as last year.

All the stillness of 2020 was humbling. I was often alone in my head. At times I was scared. At times I was anxious. Often I was sad -- for our world, for this country, for families who grieved, and for the circumstances which have caused pain and misery for so many.

Not one of us has an unaltered life from what we thought it would be at the start of last year. My biggest sense of loss (and I quickly admit to being lucky in so many ways) was wanting to interact in person, to meet in groups, and to live life in the big city way that New York offers. But the pandemic caused New York to be silent and still too.

Gone were the people, the places, and the situations that make New York unique. No crowds, no theater, no dining, no music in the subway (heck, no one riding the subway!), no sports, no concerts, and no tourists. In place of New York "normal" came New York "abnormal."

Some days I walked the streets, feeling as if I had the keys to a city with no people. And Manhattan is not just a city, it's a global tourist attraction. And so I pinched myself gazing at the imposing entrance of the Metropolitan Art Museum with no visitors. Or wandering Park Avenue with no vehicular traffic. Or walking through the desolate new Moynihan Train Hall. Or being entertained by a flock of birds competing for grain poured by a neighbor on an empty sidewalk.

During the blizzard which dumped almost two feet of snow last Monday, I was scheduled for a medical procedure in the heart of Midtown a half block from Radio City Music Hall. Braving howling wind blowing gusts of frigid air, and snow pelting heavy flakes sideways, I was one of only two patients who didn't cancel. Waiting for the anesthesiologist and doctor to make it there, the multi-floor clinic was empty except for a cleaning lady and a receptionist who was planning a quick getaway. I felt like I was on the set of a futuristic Sci-Fi movie, featuring only me moving about in a hushed world with no other humans!

That scene is now imprinted on my mind. The quiet. The hush. The moment we realize we are never in control. But also, the moment when we keep trusting that it will turn out okay.

Behind the mask, I'm still trying to perfect "smizing", the art of smiling only with your eyes. (True confession -- I failed the Wall Street Journal's photographic test of guessing the emotion of mask wearers!). But even if I can't read everyone else's masked expression during this time, I can work to make mine pleasant.

I am certain you have had times where you didn't feel like smiling, where this was all just too much. But I am also certain you learned that if you pushed forward you would survive that moment. You've had to pivot and do life differently. You've somehow adjusted, even through the fear, the uncertainty, and the disruption of the plans you had made.

You -- and I -- have found joy in unexpected pleasures. Mine is looking out my 20th floor balcony window. I can see activity everywhere and I am constantly entertained.

My view includes planes taking off and landing in the distance, the traffic of the FDR, a sliver of waves lapping in the East River, lights on all night long at Sotheby's, and the unique architecture of Memorial Sloan Kettering's newest building a block from me. There's a church looking left and the 59th Street bridge looking right, a smokestack looking ahead, the 24-hour deli down below, and an apartment building's snowy playground across the way.

What has kept you sane? I'd love to know.

Let's find and share a reason or two or three to look forward to this year. I am grateful to have several:

- My daughter Carey is getting married on New Year's Eve in 2021. The destination wedding will be in Colorado. I am so excited for her and for her fiance Thomas and the new home they have made in Los Angeles. And I am already plotting how to shine as a "cold weather" mother of the bride.

- The book that I have been working on this last year on social courage and how to be an expert connector is coming along well. The thoughtful interviews with wise leaders around the country continue to delight and inspire me.

- My new video business card now lives on YouTube. Watch it here and please feel free to share it! My message is about philanthropy, the important mission of nonprofits, and the power of connection.

- Adding meaning to the message, the video was shot during the height of Manhattan's Covid shutdown. Here are some behind the scenes photos of the craziness of putting it together during the pandemic. Fifteen hours of effort over two days resulted in a three-minute video!

I am hoping you are inspired to shed your silence and to continue moving through, moving forward, and moving on. How we do that will mean something different to each of us. Let's continue to dream and to make no small plans.

Here's to you in 2021 -- your personal health, your family and friends, and your livelihood. Plan NOT to remain silent. Plan to make noise. Plan to connect!

Sending you good New Year's vibes,


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