“I am afraid someone I know will get sick. I am afraid I will get sick. Fear and disease permeate me everyday. And yet, I must keep going. All I have is hope and some days I feel foolish holding onto that.
How do you be a leader when you’re afraid?
We are not going to emerge from this the same as before, everything has changed and some things are gone. Maybe all that will be left are the things that matter.”
My journal, April 6, 2020
The emotions I remember feeling at the beginning of the pandemic were a mirror of the complete loss of control I felt internally, reeling personified. The staples that held my life in place were ripped out and suddenly, all I was left with was a shroud on the floor. For a long time I didn’t know what to do but just keep going, to put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t have the strength to write a book or get in shape, I felt the only thing I was really responsible for was simply to keep myself together for the people around me. So I did, but inside I was what we in the South like to call “a mess”.
Finally one day I broke down to one of my closest friends, who advised me to see a therapist. I told her I was too busy. This friend (a psychiatrist by trade) kindly told me that in the therapy world this was called “resistance”. What does she know, right?
So, I started talking to someone. We got to the bottom of things, which was a lot further down than I even realized. My therapist gave me simple tactics, breathing through anxiety, keeping a gratitude journal, pretty much all the things Oprah has been telling us to do for years. Slowly I started rebuilding, putting myself back together and putting up new staples, and this is what I’ve learned in 2020:
1. Be kind to yourself. You are worthy TODAY (IE not next week when the project is done or in 4 months after you’ve lost 10 pounds. Today.)
2. Do not rush. The world (especially the US) says to hurry through everything, only to get to the next thing, and then hurry through that. No, sit and enjoy your coffee, talk to your kids, contemplate your day. If anything 2020 has really pressed the point that you might not get another one.
3. Love is the only thing that lasts. When I think about people I’ve lost in my life, what stays forever is the love they left with me, and in that way, it’s like they are still here. So I’ve tried to cultivate love more in the people around me, so at the very least my spirit of love will haunt everyone long after I’m gone. (Cue ghostly laughter)
In short, yes the worst year of my (and everyone else’s) life did force me to break down and essentially rebuild myself and it was not fun at all. But I can’t believe how much I’ve learned and grown and for that I am thankful.
Happy New Year, I hope there are moments of hope you were able to hold onto as well.