Developing through hard times
“Though I feel alone, I am never alone.” These are the words from a song* of my past that have stuck with me throughout the years. Whereas these words have brought me hope at times, they have also fallen with a thud as of late.
When the quarantine first began in March of this year, the initial feelings of disappointment were immediately met by the unexpected partner of relief. When the news came out that we had to stay home as much as possible, as well as avoid contact with other people, it felt as if a burden had been lifted. Our plans for the next few months got canceled, but so did almost everyone else’s.
We all finally had a shared experience, all of us together had to accept and adapt to one of the strangest global experiences in many of our lifetimes. For a moment at least, the playing field leveled.
I did not realize how much I had carried this social pressure to “keep pace” with everyone around me, and in some ways, it felt like I was falling behind in life. We live in a world that is constantly showing us everything we are missing, and subversively urging us to keep up. It is a world of infinite information and we are adding to that information flood every time we share something online.
The strange thing is, it was my expectations of what connection looked like that I was trying to keep up with.
I had become overwhelmed by social media, and it had taken a toll on my self worth and my ability to be okay with my life. I felt guilty for resting during times of rest and felt as if I could not be entertaining. So in some weird way, the pandemic brought a time of relief.
I’m still not sure what was going on that brought me to this space in life. Perhaps it was a mid-life crisis or something (though I would call it more of a “38% life crisis” as I plan on living to 100).
I had developed bad habits of discontentment and lack mindfulness in my daily experiences. Going into quarantine, my mind was everywhere but here. My experiences were always compared to someone else’s experience. Who I was aiming to become was unclear as I developed a copycat system where I tried to be like just about anyone else other than who I already was. That was a destructive cycle that stole my joy and my presence from those I cared about.
The above struggles of comparison and self-doubt had to be dealt with. The new base level of life was a life that required acceptance, an open mind, and a broad perspective to be a source of hope and strength for those who would need it. If I lacked a broader perspective on life before the pandemic, it was now the only option.
The Voice of Tension
I had to learn to recognize tense feelings. Tension calls out to us as a voice that requires a response. To respond to this call requires us first to listen, to tune in to where this tension rises from. Perhaps there is a relationship that weighs on our mind fairly consistently, and we must engage it to see where it leads. Maybe there is a dream we have yet to pursue, and it requires us to find courage. It could also be that change has taken place, and we have yet to accept it.
Once we have that first step of insight, we must either move forward or let it go.
The road taken to get to this realization has been paved with heartbreak, heartache, and too many sleepless nights. It feels as if I have been slowly fading away, even though I have been steadily working toward becoming. One step forward has been met with two steps back over the years, but not always. Time escapes us if we do not seize it, and opportunities can be missed if we are looking in the wrong direction, and time is a gift if we can see the opportunities.
Instead of grieving what was, I must embrace what is.
A celebration is a time where we recognize the good that someone or something has brought into our life. It is a time for joy, and though sadness may not be far away, in celebration we choose joy. Likewise, we can choose to celebrate.
In awareness of the moment, be present, whenever possible, and look for the opportunities to celebrate. If friendships have changed, or seem to have faded, celebrate the fact that they are still there every chance you get. If there is a chance to meet someone new, celebrate that newness. Relationships that are growing right before our eyes, so much so that we may forget to stop and celebrate that gift of closeness and intimacy.
The path toward a meaningful life has many turning points, and knowing what we stand for and who we want to be will help us take the paths that align with our purpose. There will also be obstacles along the way, yet those can become opportunities; opportunities to persevere, develop resilience, get stronger, or even get wiser.
Through 2020, I have become more aware of my own tendencies that created a false ground for unhappiness. There is much to celebrate in this life, and I hope that you have found something to celebrate in your life, and may we together continue to find those people and paths to celebrate.
*Song “Though I Feel Alone” by 100 Portraits and Waterdeep