JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Reflect, Review, and Renew
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D
As we look in the rearview mirror at the unparalleled demands of 2020, we are continuing the challenge as we move forward. The term ‘unprecedented’ is overused, but certainly accurate. As a person nearing the eighth decade of my life, I have not previously experienced anything remotely close to this past year. The complex experience of COVID-19, the political-social environment, and our own unique lives have required each of us to reflect on what has happened and what is happening, review our own set of internal and external resources, and renew our sense of direction and purpose.
Let’s review some of the skills of resiliency. Joan Borysenko, in her book, It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change, gives us three qualities essential to dealing with stressful challenges:
A resolute acceptance of reality.
A deep belief that life is meaningful.
An uncanny ability to improvise.
The first step is always to affirm what is happening. Only when we look realistically at our emotions, our circumstances, and our reactions to them, can we be ready for next steps. As we find purpose and meaning, we can explore our resources and use our creativity to improvise.
In the famous Kauai Longitudinal study of seven hundred children from birth to thirty-five years of age, it was shown that the children who were resilient had identifiable characteristics. They were sociable and friendly, and some were advanced in language and motor development. They took the help offered and learned practical problem-solving skills, believing problems could be overcome by their actions. They had a connection with at least one competent, emotionally stable person and actively sought help, taking advantage of opportunities, including continuing education.
As you reflect on the experiences of last year, review the outer and inner resources available to you, and continue your journey of renewal. Tara Parker-Pope, in the New York Times article, For a Healthier 2021, Keep the Best Habits of a Very Bad Year, suggests “… build on the lessons you learned…you may even discover some hidden positive habits you didn’t realize you had started…reflecting on what you accomplished in 2020—and what you missed or lost—is also a healthier path toward self-improvement.” We can change behavior by forming a new habit to bundle with an existing behavior. In the science of habit formation, this is called ‘stacking.’ Take a habit you have and pair it with one you want to add. Take more steps on that daily walk or think of something you are grateful for while brushing your teeth.
Brittany Robinson, in the NY Times article, It’s Not That Hard to Buy Nothing, tells us about Elizabeth Chai, a young woman who decided she would not buy anything, other than essentials, for 2020. She would fix or borrow things instead of purchasing them. Motivated by minimizing her impact on the planet, she made a goal of selling, donating, or tossing 2020 items. She learned that her desires for these things lessened as she felt good about what she was doing. Robinson mentioned others around the country who were similarly motivated by a new purpose—focused on consuming less and devising more creative ways to live.
Many people are feeling lonely due to lack of social contact. Katherine May, in her book Wintering, chronicles her struggles with her husband’s illness, her son’s anxiety, her own medical issues, and her challenges with being on the Autism spectrum. Her experience of this process became the inspiration for the name of the book. “It is a time in our lives,” she says, “when we may feel cut off from the world, rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of the outsider.” Her resolute acceptance of reality is reflected in what Alan Watts called “a radical acceptance of the endless, unpredictable change that is the very essence of life.” Wintering will happen; the challenge is how we choose to deal with it.
It is helpful to look at what you have learned this year, what you have helped others to learn, and how you want to go forward. I hope you can find some moments to reflect on these things, consider the possibilities for ongoing growth, and carry on with a renewed sense of hope and determination in this time of challenge.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video sessions), seminars, in-service training, or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or firstname.lastname@example.org; www.heartlandholistic.com. Some pro bono and lower fee sessions available at this time.