January 2, 2021

The Many Emotions of 2020 (& How it brought back Empathy).


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I’ve been taking time to reflect on the past year as we got ready to enter into a new one. 

I bounced so many thoughts around in my mind, good and bad, and realized something: it always comes back to perspective. Perspective has been a good friend to me. Sometimes I don’t want to hold her hand or even listen to her, but this year I did.

Despite having done it before (to some extent) due to my cystic fibrosis, sheltering at home because I’m a high-risk, COVID-19-vulnerable person really blew. 

Everything, even the simple things, was being taken away. Lunch dates with friends, spending time with family (physically), going out to dinners with hubby. (You get it.) 

The worst was not being able to hug. It’s one of my primary love languages. A heart-to-heart hug is healing. The power and nature of a hug in the absence of words is spectacular. It fills me with joy. 

Yes, I missed that the most.

That being said, I tried many new things this year that I might not have done if it weren’t for perspective. Mindfulness showed up in a greater, more soulful way, reminding me not only to look inward but outward.

I found myself yearning, even more, to connect with people’s plights, to educate myself more about politics, to take action, to make a small dent whenever I could for the sake of humanity.

For the first time, I made calls to get people to vote, wrote letters, virtually attended social justice meetings, read and researched more about history, purposefully devoted time to become more acquainted with a bigger picture of the world (which I thought I already somewhat knew).

There was grief, joy, shame, love, and many emotions to navigate through this year. It was strangely enlightening. There was an acute awareness of time, of my fatigue—of the world’s fatigue. The fear, chaos, and continuing struggle to “figure things out” were more than pressing. At times, it felt urgent and caused great anxiety. Leaving me curled up in bed with a racing heart. There was a balancing act between leaning in and leaning out.

Perspective showed up to say, “Hey, you can’t work on everything,” and, “Use some of this precious time to figure out what you can do for yourself.” 

And, so, the inward began:

I took a Mindful Buddha Doodling course. I would never have imagined it opening the door to art. It was an awesome challenge—doodling and meditating at the same time.

For a while, I took harmonica lessons to work on my breath with a cool group of people from London. They welcomed me with open arms into their COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) group. As a newbie to harmonica, it took a while to get used to the lip placement, but they cheered me on no matter how I sounded.

I took singing with the Breathe Bravely Organization. It helps people with lung disease find their voice. Talk about being brave! Wow. The vulnerability was scary and wonderful all at the same time. What a gift!

I took a writing course with the Elephant Journal Academy, which sealed the deal for looking inward and reaching out. Imagine the paradox of going to counseling for support in working on yourself and then the ability to reach out and touch someone’s heart. A roller-coaster ride filled with all the nausea and joy one body can take.

When I attended Zoom classes with the awesome Tara Brach, my soul searching elevated.

I did more Zoom classes: dance, exercise, and a year of coleading a weekly CF (cystic fibrosis) patients group.

These are the things that might not have happened within the busyness of life if there wasn’t a pandemic.

This year gave me the perspective to live more loudly. To live in a way that allowed me to connect with strangers. And to recognize, in a greater way, that our own humanness has the power to reach out and touch others through empathy. We sometimes hear, “Triumph can come from tragedy.” And I believe this. I also believe that unity can come from effort, compassion, and listening.

As we say goodbye to 2020, we can’t assume that 2021 will be better just because the clock changed. There is an urgency to say, “Yes, let this year be over.” (It makes sense.) But, we will still be charged with the task of doing something about it to make it better.

Let’s have a call to action—come together to bring healing, hope, and kindness. Let’s have a shared sense of responsibility to bring about a more just world filled with compassion. Who is with me?

Wishing you all a peace-filled New Year.

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