Take what you need and leave the rest behind.
Those words were some of the first that were spoken to me by my therapist in our first session. Much of what she said to me that day fled from my mind soon after our Telehealth visit came to an end. Those words, though... they stuck with me.
It is quite possibly ironic that I took those words and left the rest behind, don’t you think? I have gotten a lot of value out of those nine words. They have been invaluable to my recovery efforts and reciting them became a coping tool I couldn’t imagine doing without.
Words have power, and perspective matters.
So, 2020. What a year, right?
Foremost was COVID-19. the dangers it poses and the heavy impacts it has inflicted upon our daily lives.
We also had what I would call the mother of all contentious election cycles, where nobody seemed to be allowed to agree with someone without being accused of treason and no one could have an opinion without being subject to the finest name-calling most of us have experienced since middle-school.
In addition to all that. we had to contend with an overtly oppressive effort by the mainstream media to convince us all that we are on the brink, courting doom, and about to fall.
Finally, were they peaceful protests or were they riots? Careful how you answer, because one way or another you are wrong and should be ashamed of yourself, according to some random commenter you'll never meet on some random social media post you don't even remember responding to.
What’s next? That's the question clinging to us like a boat anchor, keeping relief just out of reach.
How could things get any worse, we wonder in silence with bated breath. Every time we open our eyes to a new day, a lot of us dread what we will learn to have happened while we slept.
Dread could be said to be the overarching theme of 2020.
It is no wonder that so many people succumbed to mental health issues this year, if you stop think about everything I mentioned above. I've attached a CDC report regarding some of the issues that propped up this year both directly and indirectly related to COVID 19.
It's truly sobering stuff, and it seemed to hit us all at once, didn't it?
We were kept inside, forced to hide our faces from one another and to visit each other from a distance, if at all. Store shelves were bare, the gyms closed, and when we sought a moment of mindless entertainment, the actors and newscasters preached, provoked, poked the bee nests and stirred the pot at every opportunity.
So, what's the use?
Seriously. I'm asking you...
What is the use of any of what I just wrote about the seemingly ceaseless onslaught of awfulness that was the year of our Lord 2020 A.D.? What purpose does it serve to carry that all with us, piling new bad on top of old bad?
If your answer to the above question is that 'there is no use for any of it,' then why keep any of it in our minds and in our mouths, at all? If we don't need it, why shouldn't we leave it all behind?
Venting our frustrations is a great way to free ourselves of pressure, but it's only an effective practice when it unburdens us of what threatens our peace.
Let’s consider, for a moment, what it would be like to sort through all that we have experienced this year, holding onto only those things which helped us grow stronger, more appreciative, more mindful, perhaps even more vigilant, and allowing anything that causes us grief, anxiety, shame, or pain to be left behind.
This is where the power of words can come in handy.
Here’s an old proverb; I am sure you have heard it before:
‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’
We had to make do without a lot of things, this year. We had been taking those things for granted, and as we reclaim them we are going to see them in a whole new light and appreciate them all the more for having gone without.
Take, for example, weddings. One of my best friends is getting married last June.
I didn’t mistype that sentence. His save-the-date is still stuck to my refrigerator door, as is the invitation my wife, mother, and sister received for the bridal shower that never happened. I am going to be the best man at his wedding last June. Well… okay, it got postponed. It’s now happening last September.
Oh… postponed again? It’s going to be next June, now. They have referred to their wedding as 'the event so nice we planned it twice.'
I am quite certain that having to postpone a big, lavish wedding, an event my friend and his fiancé had been so very much looking forward to, caused a lot of anguish and heartbreak for the both of them. I know that I was disappointed for them, and for myself as well (I’m the best man, after all).
However, when next June rolls around and we are getting closer and closer to the date, after such a long wait, and with such a great story leading up to it, now, I have to imagine this is going to be one very well appreciated wedding. Everyone in attendance is going to be so engaged and grateful to be a part of their special day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure a lot of the guests would have been overjoyed last June, but by next June, there won’t be a soul in that room that isn’t 110% ready, eager, and excited to cheer, laugh, clap, and dance their hearts out. I will appreciate all those things that I have had to do without all the more when I have them again. Absence made my heart grow fonder for them, and I am more mindful of how fortunate I truly am.
The news is anathema to a positive perspective. It seems to be their one and only goal to despoil their viewers’ spirits and play us all against each other. This would be an example of something I will be leaving behind, as there is nothing and no one in the news media that has anything to offer me that I really need in my life.
Sure, it could be interpreted as putting my head in the sand, but there is another old proverb I would love to bring to your attention; it helps solidify my stance on the news and mainstream media in general:
‘Ignorance is bliss.’
I can think of all the awfulness that became of 2020 and sulk, embittered about some election result or having to make a few sacrifices over the past year. On the other hand, I could consider what my Thanksgiving plans are going to be, start making a list of gag gifts to get for my niece for Christmas, and look forward to standing up for a great man and his beautiful bride in 2021.
I am choosing to keep the latter and leave the rest behind. I’ll leave the gray days of 2020 in my rearview mirror.
Gray behind. Blue ahead. Perspective matters, my friends.
...of course, there is one last adage to address:
'Easier said than done.'
I can say to myself that I will not carry with me any of the terribleness of 2020, but I know that not to be the case.
Some events in our lives linger as scars remain after a physical trauma, so to are we left marked and somewhat battered by the levels of emotional and spiritual damage a year like this inflicts. While these scars may yet linger, some just weigh us down and gain us nothing in return for all the strain and stress we endure for their sake.
You have better things to do, better sights to see, and better experiences to have.
Unburden yourself of dread and 2020.
Make room for all the good things yet to come.