As we approach the Thanksgiving holidays, most of us tend to turn our focus toward gratitude. 2020 and its unwelcome gift of Covid 19 have made that a Herculean task, providing more reasons to feel sadness, fear, and isolation rather than the joyous gratitude of the holidays in normal times.
These days I often feel like a violin string pulled too taut, stretched to my limit emotionally, and I know many people around me feel the same way. The worry and fear have gone on for so many months that we almost becomes numb to the onslaught. It is a test of endurance…and very much a test of our gratitude, as well.
When I start to feel panic and anxiety rising up about the situation in our world, I am doing my best to think of all I have to be grateful for in my life. When I start to feel sorry for myself, I try to remember that my worst day would be a welcome one for the many people who are struggling with things far worse than what I am facing. Gratitude is a healing balm that opens our eyes to what really matters in our lives.
It’s tough to arrive at that place of gratitude when the thought of the virus spreading like wildfire paralyzes you, when politics saps your soul, when nothing in our daily lives is the same and just ordinary things like going to the grocery store feel a Navy Seal exercise. It’s easy to allow our fear and pain to make us act out, taking our unresolved feelings out on others. I love a quote that I discovered while searching for a meditation:
If you never heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.
This really spoke to me, reminding me to think before I speak, to wait before I react- especially during these volatile times. You never know who is watching you, or who might be hurt by your insensitive words. Everyone of us is scarred from something over these past months, everyone of us has lost something; a loved one, a job, a dream, a way of life. Even when I am at my wits end, even when I feel like crying in frustration, I need to stop and think; I have employment in a career that I love when so many are out of work, I have my precious Dan, our animals, a safe and loving home. I have healthy food to eat and good friends and family to connect with and talk through things. I have access to excellent healthcare and good insurance. Compared to so many who are struggling across the world, I have a wealth that can’t be measured in dollars and cents, and for that I am deeply grateful, something I need to constantly remind myself of when things seem dark and hopeless.
Here’s the thing, though; we are all hurting in some way, magnified by the horrors of months of worry, loss, division, and uncertainty. None of us is alone in that. I am learning so much from observing people in how they handle the magnitude of it all. There is no rule book for this period in our lives, no one right way to ‘do a pandemic’. Some people hold it in and soldier on stoically. Some are open and honest that they are struggling and seek out answers. Some are pushed to the edge and end up bleeding on others by not dealing with what is hurting them, being easy to anger and react negatively toward people who didn’t cause them pain in the first place.
It’s not easy to be even-keeled during these endless months where we feel so out of control. We have to work on it, though, so that we don’t add stress and strain onto undeserving people, people just like us with their owns worries and fears, their own heartaches and struggles. Let’s instead try to lighten each other’s load. Focus on gratitude, focus on kindness, focus on empathy. The world is not all about us; the world is we.
When I think about the collective we it helps me step away from the selfishness of focusing only on myself and what I’m feeling in my little world. We are all stronger together, so let’s lift each other up, doing our best not to add stress and strain to another person’s load. We have no idea how heavy that load is for them, so let’s be gentle and kind in our reactions, be it professionally in Zoom meetings or just walking around the grocery store or around our neighborhood. What a difference it could make in the quality of our lives as we head toward the light of a new year. We all have a choice in how we react to stress and strain; as for me, I’m going to do my best to choose gratitude and kindness, both for my own sanity and out of consideration for my fellow humans. Life is hard enough right now to do otherwise.
Stay safe and well.