The calendar will soon flip from December to January. Although the pandemic won’t disappear overnight, the changing year signals a new hope that this will soon be over. How are you reflecting on this awful time? I’m trying to be optimistic. I’m searching for silver linings.
The Need for Silver Linings
The effects of COVID-19 have rattled people all over the world. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones—especially those who couldn’t say their final goodbyes or hug their grieving relatives. Donna’s post about her father was incredibly touching. In normal times we take final farewells for granted.
It pains me to see friends out of work, and small business owners permanently close their doors. I wish I could reassure everyone that life will return to normal, but I know some businesses will never reopen, and some lives will never be the same.
2020 has been awful in so many ways, but it hasn’t been the worst year of my life. If I had to rank the worst ten years of my life, 2020 wouldn’t even make the list. That decade was filled with medical trauma, chronic pain, infertility, job loss, my mom’s failing health, a crazed coworker who physically assaulted my husband, and the loss of our company.
So far, my family and I haven’t experienced any devastating impacts from COVID-19. We haven’t contracted the virus or lost anyone to it. My kids miss school. My husband and I miss seeing friends and coworkers, and we all miss hugs from people outside of our immediate family, but overall we’ve walked through 2020 relatively unscathed. (Knock on wood.)
I empathize with those who are experiencing hardships right now. I’ve experienced many painful, heartbreaking years in my life, and I know what it feels like to suffer through them.
I also understand the importance of searching for silver linings. I reach for light amid the darkness.
Searching for Silver Linings
Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I’ll be honest I’m not sure if that’s entirely true.
I’ve experienced plenty of traumatic events that made me feel lonely, sad, and anxious. Rather than feeling stronger than ever after they were over, I felt broken, rattled, and weak. My medical traumas occurred over a decade ago, but trips to the doctor still make me apprehensive and fearful.
Strength might not come from those extraordinary moments, but clarity certainly does. Whether I like it or not, every difficult encounter has taught me about myself, and many of those experiences forever changed my projected path in life.
I may not feel stronger after each event, but I do feel different. Searching for silver linings during and after the awful events helps me shift my perspective and focus.
It’s not easy to see the good in a bad event, but those silver linings can provide hope and solace in desperate times.
It may seem downright impossible to search for anything good right now. That is entirely understandable, and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself for feeling that way.
It’s challenging to sort through the heaviness and negativity weighing you down, but if you can muster the strength, try to look for the bright lights and seek support to help you see the good. We often need others to point out light in the darkness. Don’t discount the cheerleaders who can help you.
Pushing Past the Heaviness of Negative Events
Without the adverse events in my life, I’m not sure that I would recognize the good ones. When things are terrible, it makes me appreciate the smallest gifts life has to offer. When things are going well, it’s easy to dismiss those tiny treasures.
Throughout this pandemic, and after other tough times in my life, I’ve searched for the smallest, tiniest glimmer of good. I am thankful that I’ve always been able to find at least one.
When I was suffering through daily bouts of chronic pain, my husband was there to support me. Rather than returning to work after my job loss, I took the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom. After we lost our company, my husband and I focused on comforting one another and learning to discuss our desires and needs.
Each time something terrible happened, I altered my mindset and began to view my path more clearly. These changes didn’t happen overnight. Many took years to comprehend fully, so don’t plan for an overnight epiphany.
Reassessing Life Choices
More than anything else, the bad moments taught me to reassess my life choices. After experiencing major medical hurdles, I decided not to waste my life in a cubicle. After struggling with infertility, I chose to become a stay-at-home mom.
When the pandemic struck, I began to ask myself the same questions I’ve asked many times before. What makes me happy? Who do I want to visit? What do I want to do with my spare time?
I added new questions too. What do I miss in the time before COVID-19? What was I doing before COVID that I no longer wish to do?
Moments like these can force us to push the pause button to live more intentionally. You might not be able to change careers, but you can still ask yourself what you would rather do. What are your goals, and how can you prepare if you don’t want to work anymore?
Do you find yourself staring at a closet full of clothes you aren’t wearing? Do you miss wearing them, or do you find yourself trapped in a house with stuff you don’t need?
Don’t just return to life as usual when this is all over. Take the time now to ask yourself what you want out of life and what you need.
Striving to Be Empathetic
It’s easy to blame others for their life situations, but we can’t always control our financial success. Very few people can weather a nine-month financial storm like this one. Financial experts recommend a six-month emergency fund, but it can take a year or more for this to end. Even the most financially savvy were probably unprepared for this 100-year storm.
Before my medical problems, I didn’t think about those who didn’t suffer from chronic pain. I couldn’t imagine a world where people woke up hurting. Now that I live with the pain, it’s easy to understand how everyday actions are challenging for those with disabilities.
The world is full of people struggling right now. Please do your best to put yourself in their shoes. Even if you’ve saved your money, still have your job, and are happy not to be commuting. Imagine if your company closed its doors, your employer eliminated your position, or your loved ones were sick and dying.
Bad things happen to good people all the time. The next time someone is suffering, try not to judge them based on their choices. Try to recognize that many of us fall on hard times in our lives.
Silver Linings from 2020
So what did a pandemic teach me? Here are my silver linings from 2020. The things I need to pay more attention to and create more space for from this point forward.
Local Communities are Incredibly Valuable
This pandemic helped me recognize the value of my community. I miss running into neighbors at the gym and grocery store.
I miss short conversations while waiting in the pickup line at my sons’ schools or talking to friends at the playground. Worst of all, I miss seeing people smile. It’s hard to believe I took smiling for granted, but I did.
My husband and I are searching for a new house, but I’m hesitant to move in the middle of a pandemic. I enjoy seeing dog walkers, bikers, and baby strollers rolling by.
Every so often, we run into someone we know. We each step back to maintain six feet distance and chat for just a moment or two. Our lives feel so different right now. I’m searching for familiar faces in a world that doesn’t feel familiar.
Everyone Needs Support from Friends or Relatives
This year I started reaching out to friends and family members just to say hello. Before COVID-19, I didn’t call my seventy-four-year-old uncle very often. Now I call him every month to chat and check in on him.
Once a week, I fire off an email to say hi to someone I haven’t seen in a while. I also scheduled Google Meets and recently dropped off a tiny Christmas tree for a friend who celebrated the holidays without family.
My husband and I are lucky to have each other during this difficult time. We know there are many suffering alone. Several friends and acquaintances have told me how much they appreciate my phone calls and emails, so I will continue reaching out when this is all over.
Physical Contact Makes the World a Better Place
This past week I celebrated my first, and I hope last, socially distanced Christmas. I drove up to my parent’s house, where my kids and I sat six feet away and opened gifts in the front yard.
It always feels strange to see my parents and not hug them. Who knew we were all taking hugs for granted?
We Need to Carve Out Time for Our Family
Time has lost all meaning in the year 2020. Without the need to wake up for school, rush to work, drive to practices, or attend events, the days merge into one continuous stream of events. Some mornings I can’t remember what day of the week it is. I walk over to the refrigerator to check the calendar just to be sure.
This may seem awful, but 2020 hasn’t been all bad for us. With nowhere to go and nowhere to be, my husband, kids, and I spent a ton of time with one another. We’ve spent countless hours snuggling on the couch, cooking dinner, taking walks, riding our bikes, and sitting beside a fire pit in the front yard. We even pulled the training wheels off my five-year-old’s bike last week!
It’s Okay to Say No
I’ve enjoyed the slow pace that life offers right now. I appreciate the importance of saying no to events we don’t want to attend or activities we’d prefer not to do. I hope I can stick with this ideology in the future.
Time Is Important So Let’s Not Waste It
This pandemic has made me realize how much time I wasted running errands while the kids were in school. Trips to the grocery store, drugstore, and who knows where else could take up hours of my day.
When life gets back to normal, I won’t waste time this way. I want to spend my time more wisely by making space for writing, exercising, and enjoying my passions. I used to squeeze my hobbies around the other activities, but I want to live my life the other way around. From now on, I want to focus my time where it matters.
How is 2020 going for you? Have you been able to search for silver linings this year? If so, what have you discovered?