• Céline Peterson

Around this time each year, I usually put together some photos of my favourite moments from the year and write about them as I look back. Not this year. This year there is very little I want to look back on because when I do, I see disappointment, frustration, anger, helplessness, loss of work, sadness, sickness, injustice, and so much more. Yes, I can see the moments that don’t fall under those categories and there are some moments this year that have put a smile on my face and given me a reprive from the madness where I could take a deep breath, or even where I can feel proud of an accomplishment. But that is all momentary because of what this year has really felt like, at least for me. For me, it’s been hard to find the happy.

The disappointment that I experienced this year was not just from those I don’t know. For so many of us, our disappointment, confusion, and heartbreak was closer than we ever imagined it would be. We’re disappointed in our friends, our family members. Things won’t be the same. How can they be? When you discover that someone you respect has been part of the problem in attempting (and failing) to contain the global spread of this virus, which basically means that someone you respect has shown that they have no respect for other human beings living on this planet…that’s jarring. It’s a lot to swallow. For me, I’ve had a particularly hard time with resigning to the fact that people I used to hold close - whether friends or family - are refusing to acknowledge their own prejudice, racism, privilege, or otherwise. That has been hard. It was actually easier for me to call undecided voters ahead of the election than it has been for me to even attempt conversations with people I’ve known for years. The difference? The undecided voters (for the most part) were willing to have a conversation with me and treated me like a human being. I was not always shown this courtesy by friends or family members.

We have all had dark moments both this year and throughout our lives. But this year tested me in ways I was not prepared to be tested. For me personally, I’ve had moments where I crossed a line I never wanted to cross. That whole “When they go low, we go high” thing was a tough one to follow for me. I’ve had a hard time not wishing for individuals that I consider to be evil to just no longer exist. I’ve had a hard time showing empathy to people who need it because all I can see is the damage they’re doing. Compassion? Another hard one for me this year. I’ve just been mad. I’ve also had moments of distraction, but really I spent a lot of time being mad and completely depleted of the energy to look for empathy and compassion when it was so much easier to just scream and cry about how truly awful human beings can be.

So, it’s a new year. Is it a happy one? Not from where I’m sitting. I can’t find the happy just yet because I can’t just leave this year behind me. If I did, I’d be ignoring the fact that half of the voters in the United States voted against my right to exist in my own skin without being subject to prejudice. Half the voters in the United States voted against science. They voted against logic and they voted against equality for all human beings. Fine. He lost. Multiple times. But that doesn’t mean that this just goes away. This means that we all have more work to do now than we did before. This is just getting started. Am I leaving behind the devastation of the pandemic? Nope. Hospitals are full. People are continuing to die. Businesses are still closing. My industry is completely shut down. People are being evicted. We can’t leave any of that behind because it's all still happening. Happy new year? Not so much. But a new year. A chance to do better. A chance to speak up. A chance to stand up.

As I have always said, I am a lucky woman. I am surrounded by wonderful human beings whom I love with all my heart. They are what have gotten me through this year. There are so many who do not have support and need it much more than I do, so I hope that we can all take some time to make sure that we reach outside our circles and offer love and support to others. We might not know what they’re going through and we don’t have to. We just know they need it, so show it. Show patience, kindness, compassion, empathy, friendship and love. Do better than I did this last year. Find the happy.



Suggested read:

2020 In Review: A Year of Triumph and Tragedy for Black Lives Matter (WBGH)

  • Céline Peterson

The following post was written on Nov 12, 2018.

Earlier this year there was a part of me that thought I would be in Chicago right now preparing to celebrate (Aunt) Audrey Morris' 90th birthday with her. Even though I won't be able to give her a hug, I will be hearing her infectious laugh in my head, recounting memories from my youngest days, listening to music, and raising a glass in honour of one of the most remarkable women I've ever had the privilege to know. Audrey was there for me through every milestone in my life. She helped me with my schoolwork while we were in Barbados, gained quite a collection of photos of me during my short-lived time in ballet classes, clocked many hours hanging backstage with me at Ravinia (as did Mervon, Penny, and Shelly), and stayed on the phone with me when (Uncle) Niels Pedersen passed away and I didn't know what to do or how to comfort my dad, and then again when dad was gone and I didn't know how to comfort myself. There are few things I remember of the few weeks that followed his passing, but one was walking through a sea of people unsure of where I was supposed to be and not a single real familiar face in my immediate vicinity, and then out of nowhere I saw Audrey, who took my hand and without saying a word took me to a safe space where we just sat and talked (about not a single thing of relevance) and then at some point ice cream became involved. Audrey was a force. Her ability to deliver a lyric and make you feel as though you were standing right in the middle of whatever story she was telling is and always will be something that every vocalist should study. The reality is, no one will ever do it the way Audrey did. Add to that her immense talent as a pianist and you will have some of the most awe-inspiring musical experiences of your life. Her repertoire was in no way predictable, which made it in every way beautiful. She introduced me to songs I'd not previously heard, while reintroducing me to the few I did know through her interpretations, which often left me feeling like I had transported into a world where nothing else mattered but the music. While Audrey is not nearly as known as she should be, those of us who do know of her artistry can consider ourselves lucky. She was one of the most honest individuals that I have ever heard perform, and that honesty that you can hear through both her voice and her fingers on the keys, is the same honesty that you get from Audrey as an individual. With her honesty came a unique ability to see elements of life that others couldn't. She was a listener and would take in everything that was being said to her and attempt to get to know whomever she was speaking to even if that was the first and only time they were communicating. Her impressions were lasting and even if you only had a few moments with her, you were sure to remember them. Audrey Morris had a sense of humour that could brighten up any room but was also wicked in the best possible way. She was my favourite scheming partner and never failed to make me laugh so hard that I would be gasping for air at least once during every visit. Even our last visits were full of laughter. She was appreciative of every moment that you spent with her. The idea that we choose where to be in our lives and people were choosing to be with her was something that brought her such warmth, and she made sure you knew it. The elegance, grace, humour, kindness, strength, brilliance, savvy, creativity, and generosity of Audrey Morris will never be forgotten. I will forever be immensely grateful to carry the countless memories we shared with me for the rest of my life. Happy 90th birthday, beautiful Audrey. I will love you always. Audrey Morris: November 12th, 1928-April 1st, 2018 Spring will be a little slow to start A little slow reviving music it made in my heart Yes time heals all things, so I needn't cling to this fear It's merely that spring will be a little late this year

  • Céline Peterson

I'm exhaling after Saturday's news. I'm exhaling after the weekend. I'm exhaling after this year, the last four years, the lead-up to this election and the last. I'm exhaling. This means so much to me. This is not about Joe Biden. For me, it's about Kamala Harris and the history she has made. That is personal for me. It's personal for all the reasons you can think of and then some that you won't.

I've spent the last day watching everything I missed over the weekend. The speeches, the statements, the celebrations, the crying, the laughter, the screaming, the running, the dancing, the jumping, the hugging, the high fives, the fist and elbow bumps. The relief. I've spoken to some friends who are, like me, still cautiously optimistic and having moments where we question how long our joy can last because we know this is just the first in many crucial steps. But, this is a milestone. We must recognize that. I feel recognized. I see elements of myself in Kamala Harris and as special as that is for me, I know that there are so many children who will see themselves in her. That is magical to me.

These past four years have shown many of us things we couldn't even imagine in our worst nightmares. What still now and forever will give me chills is that our worst nightmares were some people's dreams. That is why we still have reason to be cautious. That is why there is still an unimaginably long way to go. While we celebrate, there are people in mourning (that is only those people who actually see the reality of this election and are not refusing to acknowledge reality). There are people in mourning because their hate-filled agenda did not go through. Their wannabe dictator won't get more time. Their support of a racist, fascist, homophobic monster, was not strong enough to overtake the other half of voters in the country. But that right there is the problem. Close to half of the voters in the United States did indeed show their unwavering support for said monster. Half the voters showed that they don't believe in science. Half the voters showed that they support racism. Half the voters showed that so many of us have reason to be scared to walk certain streets for fear of our safety. Half the voters were actively willing to contribute to what would be the ultimate demise of the United States. So, while we have this win and we need to celebrate, we have an exhausting and long road ahead of us. There is so much work to be done. Work that will be challenged at every turn because there are still plenty of people in power who are just as dangerous as DJT.

We all know this election was also always about a desperate attempt to save the democracy within the United States. This election stood in the way of that country forever being changed in a way it may not come back from. In my eyes, this is still something that is at risk. You're watching it happen. You're watching the current President attempt to pull every asinine plot he can out of his behind in hopes that he activates his people. Well, it will. We have reason to be cautious. We have reason to be on the edge of our seats. The families that have been absolutely ripped apart over the last four years, will not all of a sudden be healed. The gap just became even bigger. Parents have disowned children. Siblings will never speak again. Friendships are permanently ended. People will die without saying goodbye and with hate in their hearts. Realities of the ways in which those we love are broken are more real than they ever have been, and because people don't want to hear, don't want to listen, don't want to see, there is nothing we can do. So, we'll suffer. We'll mourn. We'll be angry because we can't ignore this any longer. But my hope is that anyone who is suffering, who is angry, who is hurt, will be able to find their circle. Find the light, find the support. It's there. You probably don't have to look very far.

I am, once again, in this moment, proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. Enjoy this. Let yourself. Exhale. More than once if you can. This is historic. No one can take this away from us no matter how hard they try.

"When every hand joins every hand and together moulds our destiny, that's when we'll be free."