December 30, 2020

You just get Stronger.

With the end of the year, many of us are all about self-reflection.

And this year’s pandemic has provided an even more intense Klieg light on that reality.

Remember last year? I do. I came across a post at last year’s end that summed up the rather challenging, painful year I had in 2019:

“2019 was a hard year. I fought many silent battles. Wiped my own tears and survived. Please 2020 be easier.”

Yeah, I know.

No amount of hindsight seems to be able to aid the juggernaut of 2020. This sentiment, describing 2019, seems almost quaint and naïve. After all, who knew what we were in for when the calendar changed, huh?

We thought it was simply all about the Baby Yoda craze taking pop culture by storm. Ignorance. Bliss.

But reality was more like innocence being disrupted by a thing called COVID-19.

None of us were ready; none of us were prepared.

Within this past year, there has been so much talk, speculation, fear, frustration, and loss. Our lives are altered, probably, in some ways, forever. Our “new normal” is not a fun or easy normal. And no one can avoid it, no matter how hard we try for a more pain-free abnormal.

Anyway, self-reflective, little old me has been studying my 2019 prayer, sizing it up against the brutality that has been 2020. What do we do? New Year’s resolutions don’t seem to cut it.

So, me, being the amateur detective, looked for some clues. Here is what I came up with. I hope it helps.

With difficulty, there is a need for (self) compassion.

“2019 was a hard year…”

Here is something, which can either be depressing or affirming, depending what kind of glass person you are (half empty, half full): each year is a hard year. The pandemic does not have a lock on that.

Yes, COVID-19 has been awful, but there has been difficulty, struggle, and pain before, and yes, there will be pain after it.

Each year, no matter what blessings and silver linings exist in it, is tough. Something goes awry. Something changes. Something dies. Something about life demands we pay attention, designating it to be a “hard year.”

What is your hard stuff—beyond, along with, or in spite of the pandemic? Death? Divorce? Illness? What change blindsided you?

Whatever it may be, year in, year out, we need to practice compassion. That loaded word often gets the reputation as a mechanism that is pointed outward, toward other people. But we can get lost in the shuffle of spreading compassion. We often neglect to turn it in on ourselves.

And we need to do just that. Put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we try to help anyone else. Otherwise, no one can breathe here.

And you and I deserve that breather. It’s true regardless of past, present, or future feelings. We deserve to have self-compassion. Each of our lives is hard. There is no vaccine for that.

Instead, acknowledging and honoring that reality, with no quantifiers, can help pave the way to more healing, away from self-flagellation.

Speak. Don’t let the battles be silent.

“…I fought many silent battles…”

Pain festers in silence. It is too heavy of a burden to carry all by ourselves. Yet most of us do exactly that, don’t we?

Talk! Blab! Tell your truth and pain! Get it out!

Yes, ideally, trustworthy counselors, therapists, friends, and family members are options, but sometimes, we just need to start by saying it out loud to ourselves! You are not crazy for doing so. This is part of self-care. I often pray angrily. If you open your window right now, you might be able to hear me ranting up a storm at The Almighty.

Regardless, get it out of your system, one way or another. Write, cry, scream, pray, wail. All good options. Your voice and what you have to say are legitimate and worth being heard.

Be noisy about your healing!

Victory is simply existing—even if that is all you do today.

“…Wiped my own tears and survived…”

I don’t know about you, but I have come across numerous posts, over the past few years, uttering things like, “Sometimes, courage is admitting defeat and saying I will try again tomorrow,” “Rest if you will, but please don’t quit,” and “Be. There is nothing more you need do.”

Why is that?

My theory is because we have placed such an oppressive premium on results, productivity, and earning, to the detriment of our health and well-being. “Just produce!” You can almost hear the drill sergeant and the whip cracking, can’t you?

Again, compassion needs to show up. Some days we do not have the capacity. It is all we can do to brush our teeth. That’s okay. We have been so conditioned and trained to believe that unless we are doing 20 extraordinary things all at once and perfectly, we are good for nothing. Anything short of that unrealistic marker is failure.

Therefore, unbrushed teeth appear to really send us into loser-ville.

But what if we change the thoughts up a bit? What if we insist that simply being, while doing nothing, is success? What if we insist that working ourselves to our own self-harm, despite the fabulous results it may bring, is failure instead?

Sometimes, survival is enough. Existing is enough. Being is enough. At least for now. Give yourself that permission to believe it.

The next year (and life itself) will be what it will be.

“…Please 2020 be easier.”

Where were you, last year? What was going on with you before COVID-19 changed everything?

Most of us were probably wanting a better year than what we experienced. Again, it feels so naïve, looking back, thinking about what “problems” we were going through back then. Stacked next to a pandemic now, maybe they don’t seem so much like problems.

Or maybe they do.

Still, there does appear to be a human need within us to want things to get easier. Look at the invention of fire, the wheel, tools. These were all designed to make life easier when we lived in caves and fought wild critters for our survival.

So, what did an easier 2020 look like for you? What does an easier 2021 look like for you?

This would probably be a great time to bust in with a quote I heard years ago. I don’t know who originally said it, but it carries practical wisdom, even if it’s not “feel-goody”:

“Things don’t get easier. You just get stronger.”

We can place enormous pressure on ourselves to expect an easier anything. As sophisticated and mature as we’d like to believe ourselves to be, we still want easy. We groan internally at the prospect of getting stronger, because that means growth, hard work, and maybe even some suffering. We would like to bypass all of that, thank you very much.

But life doesn’t work like that. (Newsflash.)

Life—and in the short-term, 2021—will be what they will be. Good and bad. Pain and pleasure. Struggle and ease. Laughter and tears.

Whether or not we like it (we usually don’t), we are being prepared for something. It is not a pleasant thought to entertain, the possibility that the hardship, the failed marriage, the death, the pandemic were all a part of developing something within us to make us…better? Stronger?

Usually, when we are in the process of becoming stronger, we feel at our weakest. And 2020, with its pandemic, has made most of us feel very weak, indeed.

But what is on the other side of that?

There is something. There is more. (And some good is in that “more” too.)

Perhaps, we should all check in with each other, this time next year, and see where we are. Let’s see if we have answers to some of those questions. Let’s see how strong we have become. What good happened? There is some here, within the rubble.

Until then, for what it is worth, happy new year!

Wishing you healing, comfort, peace, and safety, because of, and despite the pandemic.

May we all truly get stronger in the best sense of the word.

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