2020 has been the most unusual year I can ever recall. I’m obviously not alone.
In some quarters, it’s been said that the COVID-19 pandemic will turn out to be one of those seminal moments in world history – things will never be the same again, in many ways.
Many (most?) of us are grieving for our previous carefree way of life, when we wouldn’t think twice about piling into a taxi or bus with strangers, sharing a meal with friends indoors at a restaurant, or attending a concert, public lecture or tourist attraction with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other human beings. Extroverts now bemoan the necessity of working from home and the impersonality of Zoom meetings.
Eventually, unless by some miracle a vaccine is developed that can provide permanent immunity, we’ll need to accept that our new attitude of caution and wariness of strangers is likely to be with us for years to come; perhaps for the remainder of our lifetime. We will adapt, and as the months and years go by, we’ll get used to it. It’s my earnest hope that we will also find new ways to strengthen our connection and bond with others. But just as when we grieve the loss of a loved one, we will never forget our old way of life.
The fast-approaching end of summer is like a micro-allegory of that scenario. Every year, those of us who love summer and dislike the cold weather go through a grieving of sorts, as the evening and early morning chill sets in even while the heat lingers in the daytime. Leaves start turning before we feel ready; the return to school in September for kids of every age summons a shift in routine for those with young families, and we start to see ads for pumpkin spiced everything.
For a summer-loving gal, quite frankly, it sucks.
For many years, I resisted the fall. I fought its arrival with my whole being, allowing myself to get thoroughly depressed because it signaled to me that winter was right around the corner, bringing with it snow, shorter days, and cold.
I didn’t focus on the beauty of multi-coloured maple leaves, or the breathtaking sight of a harvest moon, or the bounty of the harvest and gorgeous late-blooming flowers. No, I focused on the chilliness of the rain, the bareness of the trees as they released their leaves, and the anguish of seeing Canada geese flying south in formation, bidding us farewell until next spring.
Perspective is everything. We can’t change or control the turning of the seasons, any more than we can control the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic. And so, we are left with two choices: acceptance, or denial. The former is healthy, the latter is destructive.
Refusing to accept what is, sets us up for either misery and chaos, or complacency and inertia. We risk becoming either the proverbial bull in a china shop, thrashing around in destructive fashion, and unable to find the exit, or the dog lying on a tack and moaning because it can’t muster enough energy to stand up and move. It’s no way to live.
By contrast, facing reality head-on and choosing to find the good in it will lift our mood, generating energy to give us momentum, so we can work towards achieving our goals.
There is freedom in accepting the reality you are facing; not doing so keeps you stuck in place, unable to move forward. You are focused on a problem with no solution. Acceptance also brings with it a renewed sense of empowerment, particularly when you are working to build something new, to reach a goal, or to fulfill a dream. It allows you to pay attention to the aspects of your life that you can actually control. And as you step into the unknown with faith in your ability to figure things out, each tiny bit of progress generates mental and emotional strength for the next challenge.
When I decided to stop fighting the end of summer, and instead committed to focusing on the things I actually liked about the fall, (Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, anyone?), I started noticing so much loveliness around me, and the magic of the earth renewing itself by preparing to go to sleep for a few months. I stopped feeling sad, depressed, and lethargic, and began to see the fall as a sort of second New Year – an opportunity for fresh beginnings and cleaning house, both literally and figuratively.
I still occasionally feel a twinge of angst as I notice the first few leaves turning and falling, or when I hear the call of the Canada geese as they fly past. But then, I catch myself, and smile as I remember that these are actually harbingers of good things to come.
As the Borg so famously said on Star Trek: Resistance is Futile. So next time you catch yourself feeling down in the dumps, no matter what the cause, take a step back and ask yourself what you’ve been focusing on, and whether there’s an alternative, positive aspect of your situation towards which you can direct your attention instead.
Perspective leads to acceptance…which in turn leads to joy. I wish you all three. And if you need help getting there, I’m here, so let’s chat. Click here to book a complimentary 15-minute convo today!
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