It has been an interesting “year-ish” –particularly in the sense of the ancient saying, “may you live in interesting times.” During this year, I have written about the importance of caring for yourself, of being gentle with yourself, of continuing to find meaning. All that still applies. But equally important is pure fortitude. Right now I think my thoughts are best summarized by a bracelet someone gave me, which says “just keep *#@! going”. But without the asterisks. There are times when fortitude is your best friend.
I have heard myself calling this year “horrible.” That is inarguably true, particularly when you consider the terrible toll the virus has taken, the number who have died, the people who have been laid off, the small business owners who have lost their livelihoods. And the fact that it is not over, as the virus continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the world. Yikes.
Still, for me, “horrible” is not the best word. Challenging? Difficult? With moments of “horrible,” but also moments of great learning, and joy?
That brings me to one my favorite coping mechanisms. Gratitude. Pure gratitude for this year is unrealistic. But silver linings? Recently my therapist – I’m sure exhausted from my ongoing anxiety and grief – encouraged me to make a list of the silver linings from this year-ish. And, perhaps surprisingly, I had a pretty long list.
Over this past year, I also wrote about identifying the good parts of this period (aka, silver linings) and the importance of building them into our future. I’ve heard many of you say something similar. Both at work, in terms of how you operate and lead, and at home.
You’ll be relieved to know I’m not going to share all my silver linings with you. But some. And more next week. I hope these resonate with you and help you in some way.
I confirmed that I am strong. In this year-ish, I have moved about as far as you can get from Florida and still be in the lower 48 states. I drove across the country with my dog just as the country was shutting down – a dystopian experience. I sold my house in Florida, and bought a condo in Bellingham, WA, just before the real estate market here became impossible. You all are strong, as well. I know this both from knowing you and knowing what amazing things you have accomplished this year.
I found a sense of a community in my new home, even during a time when I could go few places. This thanks to Bellingham being an incredibly friendly place, to walking, to having a dog, to new friends, to old friends that still live here, to finding social places that felt safe – a coffee bar with a great outdoor space, an outdoor dog bar with powerful heaters. (I know, I know – the heaters use a ‘ton’ of energy. I feel guilty. Really.)
I discovered I can explore dating again. Yikes. Many of you know that my husband passed away two years ago, and I thought this dating things was *way* in the future. But this period gave me plenty o’time to think back on my marriage, and not shockingly I discovered that there were things that each of us could have done differently. So, I’m trying this out. I’m learning how to date, how to have relationships, at the age of 60. Late bloomer, I am. How does this relate to you? For me, this was about taking risks. I wish I always had been a big risk taker, but I’m coming into that a bit late in life. I’m still afraid of making mistakes, but I’m working to counter that. As a good friend of mine once said, you can almost always fix them.
I grew emotionally. This period provided so many opportunities to do so, and I did. My career has always been central to my identity. It’s still part of my identity, but it has become less central. I’m now a hiker, and a dog owner. I’m remembering how to be a kayaker and cyclist. I’m learning tai chi and remembering yoga. I’m a woman that lives alone and am learning how to be alone but not lonely (to quote Mary Chapin Carpenter). I am much more comfortable admitting that I am imperfect – something you all knew already. I have shared my struggles with anxiety and depression, and my belief in therapy. And based on the emails and calls that I have received, I’ve helped other people acknowledge their struggles and seek assistance, too. Has there ever been a time when people have had more opportunities, and need, for self-growth?
I have been continually reminded that I have an incredible support network – amazing people throughout the AZA – you all. Family, now nearby – yea! Co-workers past and present, old friends and new. All of you have supported me from near and far as I have grieved, as I laughed, and as I cried. I have learned how to reach out more when I need it – still not easy for me. (It’s easy to reach out when you ‘don’t’ need it.) And the Year of Zoom had its own silver linings – I got to know many of your pets, partners, and children. Somehow or other a number of friendships deepened significantly. That is one joy of our community – boy, do we support each other.
I learned how little I know about racism. I know a little more now but have a long way to go. I am getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I suspect this is something that applies to many of us.
Phew – that’s enough of my silver linings for now. More next week. But in the meantime, maybe this will encourage a few of you to count ‘your’ silver linings. See you again next week.