"Difficulty creates the opportunity for self-reflection and compassion." - Suzanolori Parks
The year of 2020 has been a memorable one for sure. For the rest of our lives, we will remember this year as the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. We will remember being told to "shelter at home" and "social distance" at least 6 feet away from others, though physical distancing would have been a more accurate term. We will remember the closing of movie theaters, malls, parks, and beaches. We will remember that churches were required to close their doors and hold services online instead and all sports were cancelled. We will remember how we were instructed to remain home and not meet up in groups outside of our household. We will remember how colleges and schools were closed and students sent home for online distance learning instead; funerals and weddings postphoned or forced to be held virtually or without attendees. We will remember how a lot of businesses and restaurants had to modify the way they functioned. We'll remember hearing that employees who could work from home were told to do so. We will remember dentists, eye doctors, and even medical clinics closing to help decrease infection risks, to help "flatten the curve", and to save on necessary medical supplies (PPE, masks, gloves, face shields, etc) that were below adequate quantities in hospital settings. We'll remember how many healthcare workers, truckers, and grocery clerks worked hectic schedules to meet the needs of others, while putting themselves at additional risks. Nursing homes and hospitals not allowing visitors, their patients being isolated and alone will also be a too hard to forget memory. And I can guarantee that people will remember the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and even meats in the grocery store. The daily news about Covid-19 was disheartening, frightening, and at times overwhelming while our communities tried to adjust to all the changes this virus was unexpectedly creating in our lives.
However, even amongst the sickness, negativity, uncertainty, and fear there there will also be positive memories shared along the way. Some parents were able to spend additional quality time with their children, some families actually had time to eat together at the table again, people who were always on the go were able to sit back and relax a little more than normal. Life slowed down for many, books were read, Netflix and other TV services utilized, favorite series/movies were binge-watched, walks and bike rides in nature increased, communities came together in support of those on the front-lines, new hobbies were discovered, and house chores that had been put off time and time again were finally completed.
Personally, I found it interesting when reflecting on the impacts this virus had on my family. Yes, we were worried, concerned, and fearful about the severity and destruction that this virus was causing in the the world, in our country, state, and town. We definitely felt increased anxiety from this health crisis. However, our day to day schedule was not thrown out of sorts like some. The major change in our household consisted of my kids being at home completing school work, instead of at school. My daughter wrote her first fictional chapter book, which is being published, and is already writing her next book. My son had time to discover additional college scholarships to apply for. More meals (and desserts) were cooked at home, while less trips were taken to the grocery store in an effort to reduce the risk of us being infected. We also stayed away from other family members outside our house in hopes of ensuring noone became infected with Covid-19. Instead, we focused on talking with my parents and other family members on the phone or over facetime. When we did happen to see my parents, we kept our visits at a distance and outside. Doctor appointments being altered was another change for me, like many other patients. Instead of in-person clinic visits, I had phone call visits with my psychologist and a virtual online visit with my gastroenterologist. Both telemedicine styles felt strange, but were still effective.
Surprisingly, I also noticed that the way I perceived myself during this pandemic was kinder and more understanding than how I often viewed myself prior to the virus. I figure this is because I felt like I was more connected with the world, not insignificant like I sometimes believed, as everyone was expected to remain at home as much as possible to help save lives. I felt like I had "permission" to live my "chronic illness life" because it resembled what "normal healthier" people were doing as well right now. (Yes, I know I don't need permission to respect my limitations and do what's best for my body.)
Which brings me to my intentions of what I'd like to keep and carry with me after the pandemic is over. Instead of returning to minimizing my worth and value, I want to grow from this experience.
Four goals come to my mind that may help me achieve this personal growth:
1) Continue recognizing and appreciating the blessings that surround me. Enjoy moments, make memories, and don't take for granted the time I have with my family.
2) Always walk in faith. Everything happens for a reason. We're never alone. God's in control, not us. Stop wasting precious time and energy fighting things that are out of my control.
3) Add variety to my days. Illness may limit me in what I can do or where I can go, but that doesn't mean that my days have to be meaningless or empty. I need to ensure that I make time to participate in different activities during the day. Some examples of tasks I can look forward are....
4) Improve Self-Compassion by having a less judgemental and critical inner voice. Replacing my negative thoughts with more kindness, understanding, and forgiveness will be my ultimate goal. I believe that I was already making some progress in this area with the help of my psychologist, but definitely still have room for further growth.
I know that I am human, am imperfect, and that everyone will experience difficulties in life, it's inevitable. I am going to continue trying to be more mindful of my thoughts and feelings in the moment, and accept them without senseless judgement. I haven't mastered this mindset yet, even with years of attempting to, but I'm not giving up. This will certainly be a struggle for me at times, maybe more than I like to admit, but it is worthwhile because I am worthy. In order for me to be successful, I am going to have to allow my vulnerabilities to surface. I will have to face and acknowledge the emotions I experience, including the physically and emotionally painful ones, allow myself time to actual feel them without avoiding or running away from them (yikes!), and then eventually, hopefully release the negative hold they have on me. As I've heard before, "life is messy", but in reality the messiness and beauty we experience is something that connects us all together. Everyone will encounter hardships and challenges during their journey in life, and though we may feel lost, isolated, forgotten, or alone, these feelings are not uncommon or unnatural.
Message: The Covid-19 pandemic will live forever in our minds, and will likely be around to haunt us for quite a while. Many aspects of this virus and it's impact on our lives are out of our control. For those of us that are always searching for the purpose, let's try to hold on tight to the positive personal and community growth which can be possible and present as well.
A proud mother, educator, Gastroparesis & GI Motility Disorder Advocate,
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