By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
If anything, 2020 has been, and is continuing to be, a year of recalibration.
Nothing is as it was, and the demands of money, relationships and life in general weigh heavily among most of us.
Maintaining our mental health or at least our attitudes has been a nearly full-time job.
We might find ourselves swinging between the big picture of global pandemic and economic consequences and the up-close and personal impacts and decisions regarding everything from school to toilet paper or grocery shopping.
Either way, large or small, the challenges never seem to decrease.
Taking care of ourselves, and those around us, has become our number one priority.
Here are a few simple steps, available to any of us, that we can take to maintain a little bit of sanity and stability to our lives even as we are surrounded, if not besieged by chaos.
How we start our day sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Begin the day with something positive and productive.
One school of thought is to make your bed as soon as you get up. This small accomplishment is, obviously in a tiny way, a move toward taking control and making a clean break between one phase (sleeping) and the next (being awake and active).
Another aspect of beginning your day is your first few activities. I try to do at least a few practical things (a quick walk around the house, some short exercises, a minimal clean up) before I allow myself screen time.
Momentum is everything, from saving money to losing weight. How our morning gets moving has everything to do with how productive we are.
Many of us feel overwhelmed by the dreary minutia of daily news. Looking beyond these, or even reconnecting with who, or what, matters most to us can ground us in our identity and purpose.
Photos or mementos can remind us that there is more than today, more than the droll exclamations of news anchors, and certainly more than the latest disheartening conspiracy theory.
Real life, real memories and real experience will do far more for our moods and general outlook than any screen scrolling.
One way to get yourself, maybe even those around you, in a better mood, is to do something for someone else without any expectations – even a thank you.
Do those things your partners or housemates don’t like to do, or do something a little bit extra. Do that task no one likes to do.
Consider the opposite, and possibly more common, situation where moods and relationships sour visibly as the see-saw argument goes from “It’s your turn”, “I did MY share” or “You never….”.
If anything, how we feel treated by those around us, impacts how motivated we are to get going on either necessary projects or those creative excursions we’ve always wanted to get to.
My experience is that nothing is as demoralizing as “keeping score” in a relationship.
Our relationships are literally where we live. Nothing is more important to keep us moving in a forward and positive direction.
Our work, our interests and our sense of purpose are refined and rekindled by those around us.
Reconnecting with those not immediately accessible can also make us feel better.
A phone call is very different from an email or a text. Hearing someone else’s voice, their tone, their familiar cadences, almost no matter what the conversation may cover, is a world away from the sterile, black and white characters on a screen.
Call at least one friend or family member each day. I think you’ll be amazed how much better you feel – and, it goes without saying, (in most situations, at least) how much better those people will feel.
This set of situations is unique in that, even though we are in it together, most of us feel isolated.
This leads me to my final suggestion; spend some time each day connecting to something far larger than yourself, far larger than your community, even far larger than humanity.
The news headlines scream about politics, the economy and conflict around the world or across town.
If you look at the stars, or the waves lapping at a beach or even a local forest or stream, you can feel in your bones that all this craziness will pass, that our obligations, our worst fantasies and fears will be like a bad dream or an image in the distance in our rear-view mirror.
Take a walk in a park. Spend some time in silence. Put the phone away and watch the clouds go by. Put a few notes in a journal. Whatever you do, get your eyes off the noise and confusion that dominate our media, conversations and most thoughts.
This season, like every season, will teach us many important things. In more ways than we could count, this time will define and frame our life from here forward.
Several years ago, I had as one of my life goals to do at least one thing a year that I had never done before. I had in mind activities like sky-diving or arcane travel, but it turns out that all I really needed, and was looking for without realizing it, was a change in perspective.
Circumstances and other people may annoy us, but with a little more perspective, we can let those petty things slide.
There’s an old saying that whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.
In general, under most circumstances, I’m not really convinced enough to believe it, but I do think in this case it is true; for those of us who make it through all this, I am convinced that we will be stronger – more resilient, more resourceful and maybe even a bit more circumspect.
As the poet e.e. cummings put it:
I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance
No matter what our circumstances, may we be willing to learn from them, and may we be careful about the “lessons” we are accidentally passing along.