I think all of us feel like we should review our lives at New Year’s. What have we done, accomplished, or learned from this past year? It’s always a good time to reevaluate where we are and where we want to be.
What have I learned this past year? I had a lot to choose from. This year, out of all my many years on this earth, I’ve seen more turmoil than I’ve ever seen or experienced before! I don’t recall ever having been exposed to so much news and disruption, so much anger and bigotry and pain, yet also so much hope and support and shared empathy. It’s no wonder we’re all left feeling a bit shaken, if not completely overwhelmed. This year has been a lot!
From the pandemic to protests and politics, we’ve had our hands full dealing with circumstances that we’ve never experienced before. All of these things have put us into a situation that made us reevaluate what we believe and how we choose to react. It has sometimes made us question our choices and beliefs and it’s definitely made us uncomfortable. It’s a perfect time to take a look at ourselves.
Times like this require a different set of skills to adapt to life. On a normal basis, we tend to rely on habits that we create to make our lives easier. We don’t normally have to think as much or make as many decisions as we’ve had to do over this past year. It’s hard work having to be “on” constantly and thinking about new things several times a day every day. It’s not how our brains are set up to work and it’s exhausting.
Whether you’re a student, parent, or teacher adapting to remote learning or an employee that had to learn to work from home or you have to go in to work every day while staying as safe as possible, each of us has had something to adapt to. It doesn’t even matter if you’re used to staying home, HAVING to stay home is something entirely different. I can’t even imagine the stress, the pain, and the emotional toll that it takes to have had a loved one become ill or worse. The amazing people that have had to treat the hundreds of thousands of people that have become sick are truly amazing but I can’t imagine the toll that this has taken on them. There has been more anxiety, stress and pain than anybody should have had to experience over this past year.
While we’ve all had different levels of change, different levels of stress, and different effects on our health and well-being, we’ve ALL been impacted. I feel like if there is any time to be kind to ourselves, it’s now. In looking at my own expectations of this past year, I’m obviously disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to accomplish several (most) of the things I had intended to do. However, I’m still here, alive and well, ready to greet the new year. A lot of us are not that fortunate. I’ve learned to be especially grateful for things that I’ve taken for granted previously. If nothing else, I’ve learned to be more patient, more forgiving, and more tolerant, even of myself. I think that’s definitely a plus for me personally. At this particular time, I’m pretty content with that.
I think the overriding message this New Year should be acceptance. There’s no guidebook on how to survive what we’re living through. All of us have our own set of circumstances and ways of coping, so the answers will be different for each of us. What we can control is how we react to each other and how we treat each other. Acceptance and tolerance is a lot better than anger and hatred. We should also accept our own limitations this year. We may not have accomplished everything we planned to, but maybe we gained a lot more than we would have in a different time. We can value our relationships with each other a lot more; we can feel more compassion for others and show it with our actions. We can support each other through these turbulent times and be there to listen to and understand each other. We’re all just trying to get through it right now. There’s no precedent for what we’re experiencing, so do what you can to support yourself and those close to you. Reach out to friends and family members if you need help. Reach out to see if you can help them with anything. Be forgiving of yourself and others. We’re all just doing the best that we can and that’s good enough for now.
As for 2021, I think we all deserve a break. I’m wishing you and the people you love a very Happy New Year!