Ever the optimist, I sent out this Christmas card in 2019:
Yeah, I got it wrong. So wrong.
My positive outlook for 2020 was due to everything I was looking forward to, including:
- celebrating my husband’s milestone birthday
- traveling with my daughters to Berlin to visit my dear friend and her family
- moving to a new home
- watching my daughters’ graduations, one from high school and one from elementary school
- sending my older daughter off to college
While these significant personal life events have brought me much joy, I cannot ignore the most extraordinary challenge the year has brought: the global health crisis of COVID-19. Currently, there are nearly 70 million cases worldwide.
The statistics that we’ve all heard about people directly affected by COVID-19 are visibly grim: over a million people have lost their lives. People have lost their jobs and revenue from their businesses. Frontline medical professionals and other essential workers continue to work extended hours. But they are more than numbers, they’re people!
The economic uncertainty, inconsistent lockdown restrictions, and confusing face mask protocols aren’t helping either. They’re causing invisible harm in the form of depression and anxiety.
All I want for Christmas is a cure for COVID-19. But until then, I wish for compassion.
As this unprecedented year comes to a close, I hope that we can be compassionate toward ourselves and each other. I hope we can own our feelings, without apology.
To paraphrase line 56 from a Robert Frost poem, I believe “the only way out is through.” If we acknowledge our feelings, name them, feel them, and not suppress them, we can heal much faster.
For instance, when I think about everything going on, I get overwhelmed with a feeling that I can’t adequately describe. Is it grief? Sadness? Hopelessness?
I tell myself that it’s probably all of those feelings and that it’s OK to feel them. It helps to talk about how you’re feeling with others, too.
If you’re happy, that’s good. If you’re tired, stressed out, confused, or sad, that’s OK, too. Just be sure to reach out to someone. Chances are they need to hear from you, too.
Our society places so much importance on the jumping-up-and-down kind of happiness. We should strive for contentment instead.
For me, contentment means:
- having my daughter home while she attends her first year of college virtually (or maybe this is more a feeling of relief?)
- feeling fortunate that I’m part of an incredible team at work and that I’m able to work from home
- having access to technology that provides a virtual lifeline and some semblance of person-to-person connection with family and friends, both nearby and across the miles
The point is, we don’t have to put on a smile or be happy all the time. If we remind ourselves of what we have and not focus on what we lack or what this year has taken away from us, we will feel our hearts filled with gratitude. Who knows? From thankfulness, maybe a genuine smile will naturally emerge after all!
As nice as it sounds, I won’t say “we’re all in this together” because we’re not; we’re feeling the effects in varying degrees.
However, I hope that, regardless of circumstance, we all come out stronger than before — and not only stronger in the sense that we have escaped or recovered from COVID-19.
During this time in lockdown, maybe you’ve strengthened some coping skills. Perhaps you’ve developed an increased tolerance for discomfort, become more patient, or discovered hidden talents, like baking or TikTok dance moves. Whatever you did, you made it through this rough year. Let’s keep going.
Our struggles can be visible or invisible. That’s why we need to be a little more kind, understanding, and compassionate toward ourselves and each other. Please reach out to someone if you need support.
I’d like to wish you a safe, healthy, and calm holiday season. Enjoy Christmas (if you believe). Thank you for reading.
Best wishes for 2021.