Best to know in advance that recovering from the year 2020 will be a Herculean task for every one of us, since we all feel like a cat licking its tail while sitting in the middle of Highway 90. It has been a year like no other, so proceed with caution when doing your reflecting. This might be the one time when reflecting too closely could have a daunting effect. The future will be a slow but imperative process like no other and we all have to march dutifully to our Happy Place. Think about it: there was not even a dress rehearsal for COVID-19, yet we were all pushed to the stage, front-center, under the white-hot stage lights, to perform in a historical pandemic. There are even wars that have produced less casualties than this indiscriminate virus.
Our safety and wellbeing were constantly in jeopardy and we’ve all been living on high alert, at all times. How can human beings think of purposefulness, joy or happiness in 2021 when bad news is continuously flying in our faces? During 2020, every square inch of our country was filled with inflammation; a swelling of Inflammation so painful that depression and anxiety seeped out and became a natural in our lives. Living through trauma became a real thing; one to be contended with daily.
So, here we are. It’s 2021 and we all need a “new year, new me.” This metamorphosis will require us to prioritize taking adventures and taking more risks – truthfully, we may all be cleared to travel and enter one another’s personal space again, but will we feel safe? That is the question. Edging into that uncomfortable feeling is the risk I am suggesting here… when these behaviors are deemed safe, we have to adapt to feeling safe again. If you push through your newly-developed agoraphobia and xenophobia, the reward will be worth it: you can finally see a big, beautiful, unmasked smiles and get lost in a bear hug once again. The tighter the hug the better, ‘watcha think?
It’s so easy to make promises in the New Year to indulge in a spa day, eat healthier, and have a year loaded with happiness, but you can’t shift into 4th gear immediately. We are all scarred veterans from the pandemic and a culmination of all the hardships and worries that resulted in living during 2020. Let’s admit all hell broke loose in March and it was an unspeakably bad year. The truth is important as we level with our psyche. We humans were slowly crawling on all fours into an unknown plague and were emotionally in lockdown during this time of social upheaval. We built bubbles around us, and feared one brush would a stranger could cause illness, even death! This was serious business, no matter how we tried to Zoom our way through it. Now, in the New Year 2021, we must examine our exhaustion and depression. We must call it to the stage and say, “You served me during your season. But this is a new time, and it’s time for new feelings, emotions, and behaviors.” Recognizing that insulating yourself from the outside world saved you then, and now, what will save us all is openness and connection. It’s not just time to put on big-girl panties, but get your quartine-15 butt into that blasted wetsuit and ride the cold, relentless waves of change. We must get through this. It is clear that our emotional well-being and security is at stake now. We have to do a lot of self-talk inside our heads to stay afloat.
We can continue to use our faithful safety nets: Zoom and FaceTime, for that sense of belonging and that must continue, plus even more reaching out virtually. The amount of virtual support groups has boomed, and has been a beacon for the formerly isolated, like those with mobility issues and struggling moms with toddlers hanging off her limbs. As people continue to become ill, we must follow the rules, as proud, strong survivors and prepare for many things not being the same as they were. We have to be proactive and optimistic together, plus totally present in the evolving moment.
On a personal note, although I survived Hurricane Katrina when the levees broke and also experienced a serious cancer diagnosis without warning and painful chemo, I still had time to force myself to be totally present so I could make the right decisions. Unlike hurricanes and disease, this virulent germ gives us no warning and our futures remain uncertain. Positive thinking and healthy behaviors are our new ammunition.
So, I say “buckle up” and be confident that this will pass. Meanwhile, I am in throes of developing ideas to take me emotionally away from the cold, dark winter. I have ordered a ton of books to keep me entertained. Sleep, physical activity, and nourishing our bodies with healthy foods help keep stress hormones intact. I’m the first to want to devour that bag of Oreos so I have to shop smart and surround my kitchen with healthy and enjoyable alternatives.
An empty calendar doesn’t give us a sense of well-being or safety, so I try to learn something new each day and know that we will have a “new normal” in our futures. A science fiction writer could not predict the year 2020, that we know. But as we ride out this tidal wave together, we will get through it and the finished product will be happiness once again. We are writing the future day by day. Make sure you record your joy and perseverance – if nothing else, the next generation needs to know it is possible to remain empathetic, human, and whole through tragedy. There will be some hiccups, no one promised us miracles, but healing will begin. Tenacity and patience are key, so tuck into your wetsuit and flippers ready to feel the thrill of accomplishing hard things in 2021. We can all do it together.