2020: a challenging year... with a silver lining?

by Chantal Bufe


Only 21 days until Christmas. Only 28 days until New Year Eve. I am not sure how you feel; as for me, I am a little confused:


One part of me can not wait for this year to be over. It's the part that is tired and anxious, the one that went insane having to homeschool three kids simultaneously while trying to get some work done myself. The part that felt overwhelmed having to cook, clean, and care for five people while planning (and executing) a cross-continental move during a pandemic. And yes, it's the part that continues to worry about our friends and family's safety and wellbeing every day.


Undeniably, this year has challenged us all in so many ways. It impacted how we work, how we learn, and how we interact with each other as we tried to stay connected while practicing social distancing. Without sufficient interpersonal contact and increasing social isolation, we had to manage our depressions, addictions, anxieties, or 'just' the general stress from Covid - 19.


As a parent, I struggle /ed with the constant, continually shifting, conflicting flow of information around this virus and the pandemic (and now the vaccine!) as a whole. What information should I be paying attention to? Which source is reliable? Whom can I trust to tell me the truth so that I can make informed decisions to protect my children both physically and mentally? Some news outlets say one thing, while the article I read last night states something completely different.


These diametrically opposing views are exhausting, as I am trying to keep up with (truthful) information while feeling like I have to continually justify myself for wearing a mask / not wearing a mask, meeting people / not meeting people, staying indoors / going outside. You pick.


So far, I have relied on a small circle of people I trust and know more than me (i.e., doctors or medical researchers) and my gut. It's all I can do. So, yes, I feel a great yearning for this uncertainty and struggle to end and for clarity and stability to reemerge.


But (and I know this is a small but!), I do have to admit that a part of me does not want this year to end, for reasons that I am still trying to figure out. It's the part that is very aware of the challenges we have faced and continue to deal with, but that always also sees the silver lining - the good side, the break in the clouds.


The part that recognizes a meaningful shift from inaction to action within people and examples here is endless.


For one, this pandemic has forced people to come together in recognition that this is a collective, shared experience that requires a mindset that is less egocentric and more altruistic. We wear masks not only to protect ourselves but also our next of kin. We have a newfound respect for doctors and nurses - all frontline workers!


Also, this pandemic has taught us to learn to expect the unexpected, as we all still do not fully know how long this pandemic will last and whether it will have lasting effects on our future. We have become more flexible, more understanding, and more prepared for the future. Hopefully, we have become more open-minded to other possibilities and maybe even towards other people?


Undoubtedly, we also have been reminded just how finite our life is and how precious our time is. We reevaluated our priorities and made lifestyle changes to make our physical and mental health better. We changed our diets, began to exercise, changed professions, or at least somehow attempted to inch ourselves a little closer to finding out what makes us truly happy.


And maybe this is what I love about this year: that we were all forced to get to know ourselves a little better. I, for one, encountered facets of my character that I didn't think I had. Let alone knew how to deal with (thank you, homeschooling, and lockdown). It was interesting, painful, revealing. Necessary.


For I am convinced that it is those moments that make us more authentic. The moments that push us to limits we never knew we had; moments that shine a light on our darker side. Because when we finally see those facets of ourselves and accept them as a part of us, only then are we whole. Human.


And as I look around, I can feel that people around me have become rawer - more truthful - about who they are, what they want, and what makes them happy. I witness this shift within myself and my little family; I feel it when I speak with friends or relatives. Sometimes, it is a small shift - palpable ever so slightly - but it is always there in some form or another.


I cherish this feeling because it means that something has changed. And change always encourages growth. Whether we like it or not.


So, maybe, I was wrong: I am wholeheartedly looking forward to a new year.


Maybe I don't want us to forget the truths that we have learned about ourselves this year, not to forget who we are and what makes us truly happy when the wheel of pandemic-free, everyday life starts to spin again (whenever that may be).


And maybe this is not a reminder for you. But really for myself?

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