December 26, 2020

Silver Linings to the Year That Wasn’t: 5 Ways we Thrived.

So we can all probably agree that 2020 has not been anyone’s best year, not by a long shot.

And we could say it’s been the worst year that most of us, boomers and under anyway, have experienced in our lifetimes, with COVID-19 making what used to be simple things—things we didn’t give a second thought to—such as going grocery shopping, meeting a childhood friend for coffee, akin to something that you’d have to put on armour (mask up) and weapons (sanitizer) for. Just those simple, everyday things, that you wouldn’t have worried about in a million years, made it seem like you were heading to battle, to face an invisible enemy—the coronavirus.

And that’s not to say anything about the out of control fires on various continents, insane elections, giant murder hornets, stock market crashes, sociopolitical and race riots, the deaths of some larger than life people (Ruth Bader Ginsburg for one). And looming large over all of this is, of course, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and all that it has brought with it (lockdowns, quarantines, anti-maskers, toilet paper hoarding, cabin fever, Zoom fatigue to name a few).

One thing that I feel slightly comforted by—something that we can all kind of bond over—is the fact that there isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t been affected by it in some way. We’re all in this together. I heard somewhere in the last few months that this whole experience is like we’re all stuck on the ocean in a bad storm, but we’re not in the same boat—some of us are on rafts, others on tiny dinghies, and yet others on yachts. We’re all in this together, but some are more at an advantage than others, some less.

But there is something we can all do, no matter how we’re weathering this storm—we can look for the positives, the silver linings.

I know it might seem crass to look for the good when there has been so much tragedy. But as the iconic Mr. Rogers famously said to look for the helpers in times of trouble, for the sake of our mental health and sanity, we need to look for the silver linings.

Some silver linings I’ve realized since the world got twist-turned upside down as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air said (that in one way feels like just yesterday but at the same time feels like a lifetime ago), are:

1. Home is what you make it.

I know, the social butterflies, extroverts, and people-people have probably struggled with the various sheltering-in-place, quarantine, lockdowns, WFH (work from home) that have come, and gone, and come again over the year. Whatever you want to call it, most of us have probably spent more time in our homes than ever before (except maybe the introverts like me, then it might just be par for the course).

You might feel like you’re getting cabin fever and that you look more like a caveman than modern man with your quarantine hair, but home should be a sanctuary, something that, well, makes you feel at home. It should be a place we find comfort in, not a jail cell. Some silver linings: my home has never been cleaner! (Though I haven’t gone as far as disinfecting my groceries.) And during the early days of the pandemic, I used the increased time at home to do some spring cleaning, getting rid of clothes, and donating them to local thrift stores—a win-win! And maybe best of all, wearing your comfy pants (and maybe even slippers) on work Zoom meetings.

2. Masks have multiple benefits.

Besides the obvious of virus protection, they are now seen as fashion accessories (who else was hoping for a cool mask in their stocking this year?) and another way to show our personality, but they also make us less self-conscious about potential hygiene issues like bad breath or stuff stuck in our teeth. And they work pretty well in keeping our face somewhat warm during the colder weather—bonus! Also, the new terminology that’s surfaced like “smize”—smiling with your eyes because people can’t see your mouth. And another bonus—I, and others I have spoken to, have not been sick once, this year.

3. Zoom get-togethers and other online events.

Since March I’ve attended more online meditation retreats and mindfulness courses than I ever thought possible (and even came down with a mild case of Zoom fatigue). But the big silver lining was recently connecting with an aunt who has terminal cancer, who I’ve actually spent more time with via online visits than I have at any other in-person visit (those big Easter/Christmas family get-togethers) over the years. We’re actually spending real, quality time, and for that I am grateful and cherish every virtual moment.

4. We’re all connected and need connection.

COVID-19 has been a reminder that we’re all cut from the same cloth and we’re all connected, more so than we ever realized, and it’s a great reminder that there is more that connects us than separates us, so we also need to remember our compassion toward others.

5. Nature.

I’ve always loved getting outdoors with my dog, but more than ever, getting outside this year has been a balm for my sanity, a place where I could take a deeper breath, where it seems like the world is like it was before. Nature has remained unchanged through all of this (well, except for the fact the planet actually healed itself in the initial few months of the pandemic), and that, to me, is a comfort.

What are some silver linings that you’ve recognized since the new normal began?


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