Well, we’ve finally arrived in December of 2020. Anyone else feeling a cautious sense of hope as we are in the last month of this year that has lasted 7,598 days long? Maybe it’s just me (or the fact that New Years Eve is still one of my fav holidays!), but I really do feel hopeful as we head into 2021. I don’t think anyone would argue that 2020 has been just a super duper awesome year. However, I’m hesitant to broad brush it as a total dumpster fire. Here’s why. There’s a concept in cooking that you need enough sweet to balance out the bitter and vice versa. I first read about this in one of my all time favorite books, Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. In taking the sweet with the bitter in mind, I’ve intentionally been thinking these last few days about the sweet, positive things that 2020 has taught me. My list ended up being longer than I thought it would be, so I’d love to share a few highlights with you.
~ A slowed down pace. One thing that 2020 has taught me is the power of slowing down. With 2 kids, a husband, close friends, and family in the area, our evenings and weekends were often jam packed with get togethers, meetups, and fun activities. All of that came screeching to a halt (as did the rest of the world) in mid March. And while I definitely went through a grieving period of missed holidays and time with family (looking at you, cancelled Easter trip) and face to face time with friends, I found myself also able to focus more on the little aspects of my kids lives that would often go unnoticed simply because I wasn’t taking time to notice them. I had been too busy rushing to get from one thing to the next. But in mid-March, I was forced to slow down and began to notice little things. Like how our daughter’s face lights up when she sees her Daddy walk into the room; the way our son loves to practice golf in the backyard with my husband; chasing each other around the house to just be silly together; bringing back at home date nights to have actual adult conversation and eat anything BUT chicken nuggets. And while we’ve cautiously and safely picked back up some of the activities we regularly enjoyed pre-COVID, we’re more aware of what slowing down brought our family and thus protective of keeping a slower pace to our family’s life. I’ve realized the joy (and rest!) that can come from slowing down.
~ Taking good care. I tell you, if 2020 taught me one major thing, it’s this. The importance of taking good care. This phrase was first taught to me by my counseling supervisor when I was an LPC Intern. Kim, my supervisor, would ask me regularly, “JoEllen, how are you taking good care?” She usually didn’t specify about what area of life it was that needed good care, but by regularly asking me the question, she helped me stop and take inventory. How was I taking good care of my mind, body, and soul? This year, more than ever, I learned how important it is to take good care of all aspects of our life. One major breakthrough for me was picking exercise back up as a way of good care. This is crucial to me for several reasons, the biggest being exercise helps me manage my anxiety. I shared in an earlier post that even counselors get anxious! When our church, like most others, went online only, I realized how much the practice of going each Sunday morning and the collective spiritual routines grounded me and helped me get centered for the upcoming week. It took a bit to find a different routine that would also take good care of my soul, but eventually I did and learned so much in that journey, too. I found that in order for me to teach others to take good care, I had to be practicing what I was teaching. Whatever your practices are, please be sure you’re taking care of ALL of you.
~ Be where your feet are. Let me be brutally honest with you. There were days in late March, April, and May where it was much easier to zone out on my phone and escape the reality that was sheltering in place, seeing grocery store shelves empty, and what felt like more unknowns and question marks by the minute. Please hear me on this - spending time on social media and reading or scrolling through stuff on your phone is *not* bad. When you’re using that as a strategy though to stuff down and ignore big, overwhelming feelings, it’s not healthy. I realized that spending too much time on social media was increasing my anxiety and my guilt. Mom-guilt that I wasn’t creating enough fun, indoor/outdoor, Pinterest-y activities for my kids to “make up” for not being able to do the social activities we used to do. Wife-guilt that I was so tired from flipping work from in person to remote and all the huge learning curves that went along with it. Family-guilt that we weren’t supporting our families enough virtually. You get the picture...it was just easier to "numb out" on my phone. I went through an incredible personal and professional development program in October that really challenged me to be where my feet are. I’ve realized that the biggest thing my family, friends, and colleagues need from me is to be where my feet are. Not where my brain is while looking at my phone, checking email, or scrolling through Instagram. When I set down my phone and give them my complete focus, we’re all calmer, kinder, and grounded. When you can be where your feet are, you’re giving the best of yourself to those you’re interacting with.
2020 has not been easy. I’m too much of a realist to think that on January 1, 2021, our lives will magically get better and Covid-19 will be gone. What I do know is that I’m determined to carry into 2021 the best that 2020 has given me and do so with a hopeful heart for myself, those that I love, and our world. So tell me, what helpful things can you take away from 2020? I’d love to hear from you and learn alongside you!
I'm JoEllen and I'm so glad you're here. Thanks for visiting and let me know how I can best serve you!