No doubt about it, 2020 hasn’t exactly turned out to be a banner year. Aside from the birth of our new granddaughter (which was a wonderful gift), it has mostly been a series of hardships that had to be both accepted and endured. From learning that our dog tested positive for heart worm in February, to the arrival of the Covid virus in Spring and the subsequent lock-downs which resulted in the cancellation of every single event and gathering we had been looking forward to, to the worry of our granddaughter’s premature birth, followed closely by my husband’s cancer diagnosis, I feel as if I’ve hardly had a chance to draw a breath, much less process it all.
But like everyone else whose world has been turn upside down in the past few months, I don’t really have a choice other than to do my best to cope with this new reality. And so I do what I can to adapt and learn new coping strategies. It helps to do the small things that cheer me up, like buying fresh flowers for our house or making sure I always have a stack of new books to read when I can find the time. I’ve learned the importance of self-care, and am getting much better at saying “no” to obligations that threaten to overwhelm me. If nothing else, I’ve come to accept my limitations, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve also discovered the importance of discernment. There are days when I take a break from the news, knowing that all the craziness and conflict will still be there when I actually feel strong enough to hear it. I hit the “unfollow” button on Facebook in order to keep my newsfeed free from the petty bickering and tribal chest-thumping that many feel obligated to post on a daily basis. Sometimes I let my phone go directly to voice mail, particularly when it rings just as I am sitting down to a hot meal or settling into a comfortable chair with a good book. It took a while, but I’ve finally learned not to feel guilty about that.
More importantly, I’ve learned to be a bit more particular about the people I talk to on a regular basis. I’ve always believed in accepting others for exactly who they are, and that is still the case. But now that I find myself living almost constantly on the fine line between coping and feeling completely overwhelmed, I realize that I need to spend most of my time only with those who have the ability to cheer me up and keep me hopeful. One good thing about hard times is that you discover some of the people you know are really, really, good at being supportive. They’re the ones who listen to you without judgement, who assure you that things really will get better, and who know how to make you laugh when all you thought you could do was cry.
I still love all my friends and family, and value my relationship with each and every one of them. But right now, in this particular situation, I’m gravitating toward those who are helping me cope. And that’s okay, I think. If nothing else, they’re showing me exactly what I need to do when it’s my turn to “pay it forward” and help someone else who is in need. Because the one thing I know about dealing with hardships is that it’s so much easier when you don’t have to face them alone.