by Sonia C. Solomonson—
The past two years have been so unusual. We faced fear and anxiety. We dipped our toes, bit by bit, into returning to more normal existence. Then surges of the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID- 19 hit. Add in more extreme weather—tornadoes in December, fires, cyclonic winds and more.
I generally face a new year with excitement and anticipation. This past January it was a mixed bag. I’ve entered a new decade, so everything feels different. And because my brother died a few months ago, I’m far more aware of the brevity of life. When parents die, it’s not easy. But when a sibling dies, the possibility of death looms much closer—not in a morbid way, but in a realistic one.
We’re told we should live each day to the fullest and as though it could be our last. But let’s face it—we generally don’t live that way. Right now, though, I do think more often about what I really want to be sure I get done before I leave this earth. I want to prioritize those things.
CHOOSING TO CHANGE
How then do I want to live? What do I want to be sure to pass on to my kids and grandkids? How do I want others to remember me? What’s my legacy?
Aging—no matter what age you are—offers opportunities. Opportunities to examine behavior patterns and responses to various situations. Opportunities to choose how we want to be in the world. It’s never too late.
Is it possible to live more lightly? Not to grasp attitudes and habits so firmly? Is it possible to live with more ease? More gratitude?
Is it more clarity you’d like? Or a kinder heart? Is it your wish to find your healthiest lifestyle, whatever that includes for you?
Do you wish to change your story or narrative? If the focus of your story has always been the ways you’ve suffered, been hurt or had unfulfilled dreams, would you rather turn the kaleidoscope slightly? What if you were to change the story to the ways you’ve healed, overcome challenges, created new dreams and enjoyed life? Would you like to focus on the goodness you never expected or the people who were there for you? That doesn’t mean ignoring the pain in your story. It can merely mean changing the focus so your story contains more hope.
KEEP HOPE ALIVE
Augustine of Hippo said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage: Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
In Augustine’s view, anger has a place. It can spur us to change the way things are. We don’t deny the anger that we felt or that we still feel. We can use it to get to courage that, in turn, gives birth to hope. Right now, I think most of us are angry at the ways COVID has taken over our lives and kept us away from loved ones—or even taken them from us. Perhaps that anger can lead to the courage it takes to make life as good as it can be in these circumstances. Find the courage to do whatever is right for you to stay safe and keep others around you safe and healthy too. Find ways to help others. That, in turn, can lead to renewed hope.
And hope, my friends, is so essential. We don’t ever want to lose it. Some days it seems elusive. When that happens to me, I turn away from negative news and look for those “helpers” that Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to find in scary times. They are always out there, bringing comfort, assistance and joy wherever they can.
A tornado? See the helpers pulling people out of the wreckage. See them bringing food and clothing. Watch them setting up shelters and beds for the newly homeless.
Illness? Watch people bringing food, offering rides to the doctor’s office or hospital. People are praying and bringing comfort in whatever ways they can. Look around you. If you look for helpers, you will see them everywhere.
LIFE WITH MEANING
I’ve read that many people are quitting jobs in which they feel used and abused. People are cutting back on activities to focus on what’s important to them—family and friends, a life with meaning. Perhaps this might be a good time to ask questions such as: Who am I, with less going on in my life? What other opportunities might open for me if I stop doing some of what I’ve always done? With less frenzy, will I be able to develop a pattern of mindfulness? Of paying more attention to what’s around me? What’s within me?
Perhaps it’s time to live life rather than sleepwalking through it. To quote a character in The Shawshank Redemption, “You’d better get busy living or get busy dying!” That’s a powerful line from a powerful movie.
You may be far younger than I am. Don’t let that keep you from at least thinking about your own mortality. Doing so doesn’t have to be morbid. It offers opportunities for us to make choices to live our best lives. It can open us up to the preciousness of this life. As author Kathleen Dowling Singh writes in The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older:
We rarely pause to question, to look. Where have I not forgiven? Where have I not apologized? Who have I not loved well? Who have I not thanked? Where do I still cling? What fears do I still harbor? Such deeply and thoroughly honest contemplation allows us to change what can be changed and die with less regret.
Aging, facing our mortality and even simply turning a calendar page can offer possibilities for a new start. Each of these are opportunities for reflection and for making choices that can lead to more abundant living. What will it be for you?
Sonia C. Solomonson is a life coach with Way2Grow Coaching. You can find her at way2growcoaching.com, where you can sign up for her monthly e-zine.