It seems these days that everyone is overwhelmed or stressed out. COVID-19 has stirred up chaos on top of the drama we were already navigating pre-pandemic. No one has escaped 2020 without facing a decision to change one or more aspects of their life.
I picked up a saying a couple of years ago — “Nobody likes change except wet babies. And they cry during the change.” Yep. That pretty much describes how much of us have dealt with the dynamics of this new reality. Of course, adult crying looks different than a baby screaming its lungs out. We cry by shouting in the streets, creating rambling and divisive posts on social media, and sinking into negative but comforting patterns. For all of the changes humanity has had to undergo over the last century, we are still terrible at embracing it in positive ways.
Which begs the question: “How can we maintain a positive attitude in the midst of change?”
How can we maintain a positive attitude in the midst of change?
In 2010, I faced one of the most difficult journeys in my life. I faced a serious illness that could have ended in death or chronic conditions. My journey back to “normal” took almost one year. There were times when I felt like giving up. In the middle of my personal chaos, I took up running. I often joke, “Running saved my life.” But that journey was full of so many life lessons. Looking back on it now, and this may sound strange, but it was one of the best things that happened to me. It opened my eyes to parts of myself that I would have never slowed down enough to see. And parts of the world around me that I was moving too fast to see. You can say that the phrase you must “stop and smell the roses” became real in my life.
And in a way, that whole experience prepared me for this pandemic. I find myself going back again and again to the lessons that I learned on that journey.
Lean on Others and Be Gracious
The first thing I had to learn how to do was let go of so many expectations. I was off work and bed-bound for weeks. I had to depend on my family to do just about everything. I was used to doing it myself. Independence had been a hallmark in my life. I was used to doing for myself and others and now I couldn’t do even some of the most basic things for myself. It was frustrating, to say the least. But slowly, I learned to lean on my family and accept their help with the grace of knowing how fortunate I was to have the help. I started just practicing gratefulness for what I did have instead of looking at my losses. My mother used to remind us as children that there are so many with so much less than we have. It is true. Stop whining about what you don’t have and just stop and be grateful for the people who surround you with love and assistance. Lean into that and accept it graciously.
Let Go of Expectations and Live in the Moment
As a goal-oriented planner, I struggled with not being able to plan and execute. Unfortunately, when you are physically ill, the mind may say “Yes,” but the body may say “Uh, hell no!” That was what I was facing. Again, I had some great people surrounding me that kept reminding me to take it slow. And my life partner kept repeating “One day at a time!” I had to let go of the expectation that I should be anywhere except in this moment right now. I had to stop looking at timelines and where I needed to be and accept where I am right now. I had to let go of the expectation that I should be doing anything other than what I was doing at the moment. I had to slow down and listen to my body — hear what it was telling me. I had to give up on pushing myself and lean into the stillness of being. Accepting things as they are and letting go of what is “supposed to be” allowed me to balance my energy and regain strength. Stop “shoulding” on yourself and just learn to be in the moment.
Find Peace in Creating and Simple Giving
Hell for a “doer” is constraining them to one place with nothing to do. That was pretty much my situation. For the first couple of weeks, I just laid there feeling sorry for myself. After one particularly frustrating day (and a good cry), I leaned into the stillness and being of the moment. Then this idea popped into my head — “Make your hands busy.” So, I mustered the strength to make a trip to the local craft store and stumbled upon a sale of needlepoint items. I bought several patterns with different people in mind. Learning needlepoint taught me so many things but the most important was the joy of creating for others. I found a “doing” that I could do and a “giving” that made my heart sing. As I stitched the patterns into reality, I found a peace that I can’t explain. And the joy of handing those who were helping me hand-crafted keepsakes was beyond words to describe. Find a way to create and uplift others through simple giving.
So as I navigate this COVID reality alongside others, the lessons I learned a decade ago have saved me from so much stress and anxiety.
Yet, I wonder about the struggles of others. What can we all learn from this moment? And how will we embrace the lessons this can teach to create a better life both now and for the future?
I am still learning.