Are you OK? Can I get you anything?
Do you need to sit down? Breathe? A cup of tea, a blanket, the entire 10 seasons of FRIENDS playing on repeat in the background while you wear fluffy socks near a crackling fire?
Or do you need silence? Quiet? Space? A room to yourself, devoid of all the clutter and noise and energy of anyone but you until you can stop that trembling grating vibration only you can sense beneath your skin?
Do you need to scream and run and throw and break things to release that combustible force under your breast bone? Do you need to cry under the shower head, just to get it all out and finally feel empty?
How about sleeping for the next 27 hours straight, in a massive bed with the shades drawn and no alarm clock set, just to have the luxury of waking when your body felt ready and rested?
Or do you not even know what you need?
I think I fall into all those categories, and then some.
But we made it. You are here. Somehow, some way, with or without all your sanity still intact, you did it. I did it. We did it. Collectively, we are battered but not broken.
I’ve sat on this blog post for the last 2 months, not sure how to word my thoughts or what to even say. But I haven’t been able to move on to write anything else. The first blog post of the year needs to say SOMETHING about the months previous, doesn’t it? So how does one cap off a year like 2020? How do I even BEGIN to express what these last 365 days have felt like for me, for us, for the world? How do I summarize the most ground breaking, earth shattering, horrific and sometimes enlightening year in existence when it’s barely in our rear view yet because if I’m honest – 2021 just feels like 2020: Part 2 to me.
I’ll make it short; you don’t need me reiterating how this year went. You lived it and have the scars to prove it. I mean, we are STILL living it, still shaking off the weight of the last lockdown changing how we move through our communities, tentatively creeping into another ‘New Normal’ with adjustments across the board from our unique Public Health Units. Some of us still with restrictions, others tip-toeing back into stores and restaurants and offices like scared prey-animals. Not sure what to expect, but needing to forage and socialize after so long in hibernation. So you really won’t benefit from a bullet point list of all that happened last year to bring us up to today. In fact, there’s a Netflix show for that… satirical though it may be.
In fact, reading about how bad 2020 was might actually be detrimental! We learned a while back that re-hashing a negative experience makes it more potent in our mind (#neuroplasticity). Although it might feel cathartic, running through all the ways that 2020 affected me will only strengthen that narrative and make it easier for me to repeat it in the future. The story, and its accompanying emotions, become stronger.
That’s not to say I can’t talk about it, or that I SHOULDN’T. I have valid reasons to feel… whatever I feel about this past year. I just want to be mindful of how I retell it. Because what I say and think and repeat to others is going to be the tagline attached to this experience in my mind.
I can hear the record scratch from here. I probably just lost about half of you, as that word has some pretty potent connotations for many of us. And it did for me too! I likened faith to Him, and religion, and whether or not I said enough Hail Mary’s before bed. I grew up with a roman catholic background, the smell of candle wax and wood polish lingering in my memories of Sunday School in the church basement, folding palm leaf strips into crosses and gluing cotton balls onto cut-outs of sheep. I didn’t remain within the religious world, but I started there and my sense of what faith meant had roots that were planted when I was too young to understand.
My concept of faith has changed and I found myself dwelling on it heavily this year, because faith now means so much more. I had to rely on faith in a way I never thought possible.
Anyone who has worked with me in therapy knows I love pulling up definitions for the words we use; so often we are frivolous with the English language and we say one thing but mean entirely another and I always want us to be clear about our words. It helps clarify, and often opens people’s eyes to their own perceptions and misconceptions.
The secondary definition of faith, not the first one, is related to belief in a god/God, even without visible proof. Go ahead. Check. Throw it into Google and see what comes up. And yet, how many of us when we hear the word faith, jump straight to religion? Interesting, the way our culture shapes our linguistics.
Faith, at its core, is the strong, certain belief in something. Someone. Anything.
Some people seem to have an abundance of faith. They have faith things will work out. That things will be OK. Faith in the world being a good place, that there’s sense to all of this, faith that people are good and just and fair. Even when faced with ultimate challenges, they have an unerring belief that they will get through it and things will be fine in the end.
I… cannot say I felt that way in March of last year.
I am a pessimist by nature. Not in that ‘I hate everything and everyone is terrible’ sort of way, but that I struggle to TRUST the universe. I find it hard to give up control, to not intervene when I see something I can change. I am not the passive, sit on the sidelines and let things play out sort of person. I rarely find myself able to delegate because I don’t truly believe things will work unless I do something about it personally.
My husband and I fight about laundry CONSTANTLY, in that I don’t trust him to wash the clothing correctly.
That’s right. Laundry. We fight about laundry. I could wring his neck over throwing a loads of whites in, and panic when he asks if I need anything washed because I don’t believe he will do it properly.
So faith is not a big word in my vocabulary. I barely have faith in the little things, let alone the big ones.
Many people can relate with me on this – those who feel anxious about how things will turn out, the over-prepared who struggle not to have an emergency plan, the Type A personalities that take on all the jobs and can’t ask for help. One thing we all have in common is we don’t have much faith (a strong belief) that things will work out.
2020 taught me to have faith.
Not necessarily in the world (because let’s be blunt, we had some not so great character arcs this season as a species). But in myself.
I witnessed myself go through the same ups and downs you all felt. I went through the classic 5 Stages of Loss, from anger and bargaining, denial and depression, straight through to a grudging acceptance and then back again. I reacted with fierce emotions in a way most people had never seen from me before. I turned quite a few heads and even shocked myself with the depth of my feelings. I then restructured my entire life, took a flying leap that went against every alarm bell my subconscious threw at me, and I somehow landed (mostly) square on my feet in disbelief.
I did not do any of this confidently and I had very little faith that things would work out.
And I realized that this clumsy, sometimes tearful and anxious ability to change and grow and do the unthinkable in the face of crisis actually proved something to me. Maybe I couldn’t have faith in the world, or in other people – because I’ve been proven again and again that sometime I cannot rely on others the way I wish I could – but I could rely on myself. On my problem solving. On my stubbornness and perseverance.
That’s a weird feeling for those of us who lack self confidence. To trust ourselves. See ourselves as capable. To acknowledge our ability to handle things. We rarely give credit where credit is due.
I’ve often told clients to remember that they have a 100% success rate in finding a workable solution to every problem they’ve ever faced. You’ve always found a way. If we were to acknowledge that, see that as proof of your own aptitude, we could change our very sense of self.
Our self esteem often relies of how we perceive ourselves and our acts on some sort of global rating scale. But we are the Kings and Queens of dismissing evidence of our own efficacy.
This year taught me to acknowledge my own power and the ways I have survived and in some ways thrived against all the odds I thought were against me. I have tangible proof that I managed this, and if I allow it, I can begin to use this faith in myself to change my self worth.
I invite you to do the same. Take a moment, right now, to look back over the last year. Notice what has changed. Think of the challenges you have faced and admire how you are still standing today. Don’t look for perfection; I don’t want you to focus on your performance, as in whether you thought you handled it ‘well’ or without tears and pain. I want you to look at the end product. Battered and bruised, here you are, in all your glory, still pushing and striving and making it work.
Was it messy? Yes. Did we get by unscathed? No. But we still did it.
I invite you to have a little faith in yourself today, acknowledging how getting through the last 12 months is concrete proof of that. And that’s worth celebrating.
I’m proud of myself today, and I’m going to make a conscious decision to savour that feeling.
And I’m proud of you too.