1. We are more social than we think we are and there is still a necessity for down time. The time of covid was an introvert’s delight. There was a permission to sit and just be. But I heard from many introverts that did want more freedom to go out. I am an extrovert, and I missed all the public places I had gone and the people I could not see. Even though I missed the time out with others, I found I cherished the downtime where I was not expected to be anywhere. Holidays at home and no requirement to drive anywhere felt freeing to me.
2. There is an interconnectedness to this world.
As I heard the stories of sadness, loss, and fear, I found it so extraordinary to hear my clients and others share feelings and experiences I was experiencing at the same time with them. I felt powerless to make big changes and sitting with the feelings was my call to action often. People in the helping profession are not usually experiencing the same experience at the same time as their clients. This was profound. I had to make a conscious decision to more connected to my self-care than ever.
3. We do not always know what curve balls life will throw us.
My family and I thought we had the year 2020 planned when the clock struck midnight and the new year began. We entered 2020 with a feeling of exuberance and joy. We had so many plans for the year. We dubbed it the “year of the McLaughlin’s.” I had heard so many of my friends express the same excitement for 2020 and saw it as a turning point year. The curve ball is my metaphor when life does not go the way I planned or expected. Once the year began to roll out, it was clear 2020 would not look like what any of us thought.
4. Be grateful for what you have.
As I sat home with my family, I was grateful that I had my husband and child here and my parents close by. I know of people who had some many different experiences, either feeling alone or being around too many people for too long.
5. Food is comforting.
We know food is comforting, but the world experienced food as comfort. I felt scared when I went to the grocery store and saw the shelves empty of food. I have never lived in a place where there was food scarcity, and this is what I experienced. We never actually went without food, but my empathy increased for people who do experience the lack of food.
6. Movement is critical.
I sat- a lot. My family and I walked most every day to get out of the house and to get fresh air and to have movement. I found working from home created more time of sitting and my body hurt. My gym was closed, and they had virtual exercises. I tried to engage virtually, but I did not push myself like I do at the gym. I was grateful when the gym “opened” in early summer at the park. We were able to work out together and stay socially distanced. I realized that I need the social experience of movement to push myself to do more.
7. Routines are important- no matter what.
The pandemic brought this lack of centeredness for myself, my family, and my clients. We did not necessarily have to keep to schedules because life felt upside down. Working from home and virtual school created different routine patterns and I expected less from myself. Sleep was off, food routines were off, and general life was off balance. Once I realized that having a routine no matter what was essential, life became more in balanced.
8. We can adapt to difficult situations, and we are resilient.
I worried about my daughter’s school closing. I did not know how she could get the education she needed. I knew my husband and I were not equipped to be her teachers. It took time, but her school figured out how to have quality virtual classes. We were able to set up a routine for her where she was not on a device all day. She had a lot of virtual playdates where she and her friends make DIY projects, talked, and played games.
9. You do not know when your last day on earth will be, cherish the people and the moments.
This was a tough year. We had a few family members who made their transition during the time of COVID, but they did not die of COVID. Actually, we knew only a very few people close to us who got COVID and no one who was extremely sick with it. I heard many stories of loved ones who died of COVID or got extremely sick. There was and is much pain with the loss of so many lives over a relatively short period of time. I was reminded that death can give us a different perspective on life and to appreciate the moments, no matter what they look like.
10. No matter what, kindness is the key.
Lastly, kindness matters. It really does. I felt so grateful for the doctors and nurses who were on the front lines and did their best to assist as many people as possible. I had more psychotherapy clients want sessions than I could assist. People were feeling the stress, loneliness, and fear. I felt it was an honor to help people during this really difficult time. I had such regard for those who kept working at the grocery stores and made sure we could all get the food and essentials we needed. It was a time of helping neighbors and strangers. We were all going through this shared experience that bonded us together.