Reflections and Hope Series: Janet
Janet’s Reflections on 2020 and Wisdom Looking Forward
2020 had a lot of firsts for me. There were the collectively experienced global, political, environmental, and societal dystopian nightmares (Seriously, murder hornets and swarming locusts do not even make the top 10 list of extraordinary occurrences.). Then there was 2020 as experienced in my own little microcosm. My 2020 started with a bang (During the first week of January, I moved and started this position with VJLAP.) and ended with a whimper (Wishing my husband goodnight through my mask from the guest room doorway. He was COVID positive; somehow, I remained COVID negative.).
All that happened in between is a bit of a blur, like every day in the pandemic, simultaneously moving at a glacial pace and at warp speed. I moved and then moved again (and again). I canceled spring travel plans and then risked pandemic-fall plane travel. I vacillated between reading/watching too much and not enough news (And, unequivocally, watched too many Hallmark movies.). I grieved the loss of people I admired from afar (RBG, thank you for being an unrelenting trailblazer for gender equality.) and in my family (Still from seemingly afar; a cold, distanced, pandemic grief; without hospital visits or a funeral.).
I hosted my first Zoom meetings, became my team’s “go-to” Zoom person, experienced Zoom-bombing (And, remain completely baffled as to what is the sadistic pleasure in Zoom-bombing.), and experienced Zoom fatigue. I read every wellness article that crossed my screen and shared that information in new, strange, and mysterious ways: social media (Okay, just new to me.). I experienced pandemic fatigue. I hit my pandemic wall. Then, I hit my pandemic wall, again.
In 2020, I often wished the day away. I just as often wished the year away. Flipping the calendar to January 1, 2021, would bring rainbows, unicorns, and sunshine. Right? Then, a couple of weeks into 2021, I caught myself saying, “Well, maybe it will be better in 2022.” What?! I stopped myself, and, since then, have been dutifully refocusing my personal narrative to one that embraces those coping skills I learned before and was reminded about in all of those articles (Okay, not all at once; but baby steps eventually lead to running.).
What I did in 2020 was practice my resilience skills in new ways in challenging times:
- I focused on what I could control: my actions and my responses. I narrowed my focus and did what I could where I could (I can’t end hunger, but I can support shelters and food banks.).
- I identified my triggers: some carry overs (Come on, doesn’t everyone have a strong opinion about the Oxford comma.); some newly created (Is it okay to have a resentment against the word “unprecedented” and the term “the new normal”?).
- I learned new things (Did I mention I’d never used Zoom or most of social media before 2020?).
- I admitted when I did not know what or how to do something, remembered to ask for help, and actually acknowledged my limitations (Yes, I gave up on figuring out the margins on the second page for a Publisher-produced letterhead. Word, you are my friend.).
- I reached out for family, peer, colleague, team, and program support and shared my feelings. I sometimes actually answered by personal phone and responded to texts. I Zoomed with my graduate school friends regularly. I even set times for phone calls or video conferencing with my new, 2020-established friendships (Surprising to me, I made friends while social distancing.).
- I practiced gratitude: for both the big and little things. Generally daily; sometimes most of the day.
- I paid attention to the strengths and weaknesses in my self-care routines and tried to raise my wellness baseline (I actually started practicing a sleep hygiene routine – something too many of those articles promoted that I couldn’t ignore forever.).
- I gave myself grace. Breathe, breathe Janet, breathe (Apparently, it is true that I am not perfect… and a grammar error will not kill me.).
Most importantly, what I did not do in 2020 was drink or have a mental health meltdown.
Finally, I can’t leave 2020 behind without being grateful that I never ran out of toilet paper. Here’s to 2021 and fully-stocked paper-products aisles!