A Year Like No Other

As this topsy-turvy year races to its close, I think we all can look back and reflect on a time most of us have never seen or experienced. It’s been a time of swirling emotions–a year that’s unloaded a lion’s share of losses, illnesses, healings, and recovery. It’s an existence most of us didn’t foresee, and life just hasn’t been the same.

Our losses of income, shelter, and access to healthcare are on the rise, and living and interacting with each other through masks and at safe distances have become the necessary norm. Jobs are hard to come by, and food banks and shelters are overflowing past levels never seen before. Nowadays, most instances of non-emergency medical care are conducted via phone and online through tele appointments. It’s as if the world’s become drastically slower.

But despite the gloom of all the challenges we face, there are always positives to take away from all of the lessons this year has forced us to learn. It’s brought our families closer, and made us more stronger and resilient. We’ve surely learned that we don’t need a lot to function and be happy. Although our faith has been tested to its limits, we’ve done our best to withstand and bury all of our lingering worries, doubts, and fears. We will overcome and get through this. It’s been a year like no other, but we’re a people like no other belonging to a God like no other!

Be Grateful

Even now, amid a year and time filled with uncertainty which has taxed us emotionally, there are always reasons to be grateful. Breath, health, food, clothing, and shelter immediately come to mind. In fact, I believe more good and positive things can be gleamed from the things we perceive to be unfortunate setbacks–all it takes is a shift of our perspective.

When we take a step back and rationally receive a situation in its entirety, chances are we’ll understand it with more clarity and come through it with gratitude. You’ll appreciate the fact that it made you stronger and you learned from it. Even and especially during the moments when the negative aspects outweigh the positive aspects, an attitude of gratitude will carry us through. Life isn’t meant to be linear, where everything and every situation is a beautiful experience. Life as we know it comes filled with bumps, bruises, scars, and the myriad of emotions that come along with it.

Despite everything 2020 has hit us with, we haven’t allowed it to completely take away our joy and happiness. When we awaken each morning, we’re blessed with a new day and new opportunities to focus on all that’s good in the world, and to learn from the bad. At the end of each day, we’ve learned a little more about ourselves. We’ve realized that our wants greatly paled in comparison to our needs. If nothing else, this year has faced us to not only examine ourselves, but to be grateful every step of the way while doing so.

What October Brings

Along with the colorful leaves, welcomed chill in the October air, pumpkin spice, candy corn, and everything Halloween related, we must remain cautiously aware of our health crisis. Sadly, with the infection and death rates rising, this is surely not the time to let our collective guards down. Six months later, the threat remains the same and the state of the world hasn’t changed much.

With that being said, the majority of us have become more adept at compartmentalizing and making the necessary adjustments for ourselves, our families, and our careers. Each new day provides opportunities to forge ahead while finding joy in the small things. Celebrate every accomplishment–no matter how small. Choosing to remain positive above all else leaves no room for negativity in your life.

Fire prevention and safety week begins October 9. If you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to ensure you have at least one fire extinguisher in your home that’s easily accessible. Also, make sure you install fresh batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. It wouldn’t hurt to create a fire evacuation plan for your family also.

Lastly, let’s continue to exercise the same care and vigilance that we have had these past six months because along with COVID-19, flu season is upon us as well. October’s arrival is poignant and lets us know we’ll soon be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas because as survivors of this pandemic, we’re truly grateful to still be here.

Change With The Changes

If nothing else, the pace and struggles of 2020 have taught us that we must adapt and change right along with the rapid changes currently taking place in the world. Nearly three quarters complete, I’m sure the majority of us would agree that this is a year we’d like to forget and put behind us. Ingesting daily doses of illness, death, violence, racism, and civil unrest has everyone on edge and seeking relief. It feels as if life’s changes are happening faster than the world is spinning. Even the days, weeks, and months appear to run together. It can weigh on our emotions and feel as if we’re racing through the fog of a never-ending nightmare.

As for me, I have to continuously remind myself that it’s okay to not feel okay at times. Life constantly changes and I have to change with it. I surely don’t want to take this year’s clutter with me into next year. How do we change with change? We sort out, examine, and try to work through the things we don’t like while knowing in our hearts that tough times like these never last, and ultimately, we’re in control our lives. It’s the mindset needed to remind ourselves and each other that despite how chaotic the world looks to us now; everything will eventually be okay.

It’s not easy and our stressors are at an all-time high, but these storms are made for us to weather through to get to the other side. Moment by moment, we must change with these trying times and refuse to be defeated by them. Process the changes in your lives and change with them. We are much more powerful and stronger than we think or believe. Visualize and create your reality. Or in other words, “See who you truly desire to be.”

Sadness Behind The Smile

For some people, the joy, cheer, and merriment the holiday season brings won’t be enough to lift their spirits and overall emotional state of being. Try as they might, their constant cloud of anxiety, depression, and sadness won’t allow them to. When one has fallen hopelessly into that deep, dark, hole of the murkiest quicksand, finding a way out is nearly impossible. No amount of shopping, partying, or listening to carols can uplift their dark mood. Even when surrounded by their family and closest loved ones, they’d rather be isolated. For those battling severe anxiety and depression, something as routine as getting out of bed and using the bathroom takes immense effort.

Each day they awaken, get dressed, put on a mask of hope, and force a smile on their faces. They desperately want to fit in and be like everyone else. They secretly wonder why this appears to be their lot in life and why they’re forced to bear such a burden. They long for the kind of happiness and joy everyone else appears to experience–something far beyond the faint, quick glimpses of it they sometimes feel. To them, their sadness is a curse, an unfortunate scourge they’re forced to bear. Sadly, they feel everyone they come in contact with should notice their disposition, but most never do. Maybe they unconsciously do such a great job of masking it that no one ever seems to notice. I’m sure there are people you may encounter daily who are sad during the holiday season. Take a little time and carefully observe everyone you regularly encounter. Spend a little time trying to lift their spirit and mood. It will mean more to them than you could ever imagine. They just want to know someone cares and is there for them.

Please be mindfully aware that the holiday season isn’t a happy time for everyone. Some are mourning painful losses and some live with sadness every day. The holiday season only heightens the agony and malaise. Genuinely show care and concern and treat everyone the way you’d like to be treated because there are some people dealing with serious issues internally that don’t physically show on the outside.

Resolve Anew

Every New Year’s Day, people make New Year’s resolutions that they’d like to accomplish before the year ends. Sadly, for most of us, the very same resolutions are usually forgotten even faster than they were created. What is it that makes us lose our focus and will to try to reach and/or exceed our goals? I believe it’s as simple as scattering our energies on accomplishing them all simultaneously instead of fixating on one resolution at a time.

After identifying your most pressing resolution, dedicate all of your time, energy, and focus on that one alone. Be stubbornly persistent and insistent that nothing and no one will deter or detract you from its completion. After planting the seed of your intention and focus deep within your mind’s fertile soil, cultivate all of your efforts on the one resolution you want most. Put the entire energy of everything you have and everything you are into one resolution at a time.

In my own life, I’ve come to understand that in order to move forward, the journey is made easier when I tackle one resolution at a time. Trying to take on all of my resolutions at once doesn’t work for me, and I’m sure it doesn’t work for most of us either. Usually, during the first two to three months of a New Year, or a new decade for that matter, gym and weight loss memberships tend to surge to capacity, only to level off drastically in the following months. Whatever category your resolutions are, (i.e. financial, spiritual, religious or personal, etc.) your odds of achieving them increase when deciding to pursue them one at a time.

So, for this year, right now in this moment, choose what’s most important to you, formulate a plan of attack, and go after it with all of your might. Resolve anew–great gains are never made trying to do everything at once, but much can be accomplished in a year when you methodically work through one resolution at a time.

Self-Care

When was the last time you checked in with yourself? In the past twenty-four hours, have you even slowed yourself down long enough to do so? I’m not speaking of the routine day to day things such as waking, eating, showering/bathing, grooming and dressing way of checking in with yourself. I’m talking about a thorough and honest assessment and reconciliation with your feelings and emotions. How often do you stop and take a look within yourself? What issues are you facing? Are there any wrongs that need righted? Are there any lingering problems or residual pain from your past needing to be addressed and worked through? Truth be told, I believe from time to time we all have mountains to climb and rivers to cross.

If you’re okay inside, are you where you thought you’d be at this point of your life? If not, what can you do to help yourself get there? Life isn’t always about caring and looking out for others–we have to look out for ourselves as well. I imagine most people believe it’s quite the opposite, but we can’t truly care for our family and friends if we aren’t our best possible self.

I’m not speaking of perfection, because none of are, and none of us will leave the world that way. I’m speaking about totally loving and accepting yourself inside and out and being content where you are on your journey right now. You’re totally at peace with the skin you’re in. You’re aware of your purpose and intent in life, and unbothered if you’re yet to find it. Everyone matters, and everyone adds value to the world. Life is about accepting who you are without comparing or competing with anyone else. It’s about owning and processing your experiences, feelings, and emotions. Failures and losses aren’t important, but they’re necessary. Their sole purpose is to show us a way that doesn’t work. While fleeting, life teaches us–it provides either lessons or blessings. We’re immortal beings wearing mortal bodies–living, learning, and never failing.

Self-care isn’t being selfish, it’s the total love of self. To fully love and care for others, we must first love and care for ourselves.

Still Unequal

It’s difficult to fathom in the year 2020 that women are still judged as unequal to men. Why haven’t they ever received a fair shake and why does the glass ceiling appear to only apply to them? I’m not referring to token advances like the right to vote or the right to occupy certain positions with limited power. Why can’t power and fairness be mutually shared across the board?

Even after proving themselves a worthy and equal counterpart to men, they’re still seen as unequal to some men in every measure and walk in life. Each of their great achievements always comes with a subtle nudge, seen or unseen, to hold them slightly lower in comparison to men.

This provokes you to ask yourself, what keeps them there? The male ego? The thought of their masculinity potentially being diminished? Personally, I believe the world would be a far greater place if both sexes saw and respected each other as equals. The world would then wear a balance it has never known before. Mutual respect would lessen any conflicts and residual bitterness between men and women. Women would no longer be treated and viewed as less if they’re truly embraced and appreciated as equal to men. Inequality would then forever wear equality!

Temporarily Normal

During this chaotic time of quarantining and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, day to day adjustments have to be made out of necessity to ensure our safety. Everyday life as we know it has slowed significantly for most and halted altogether for others. School assignments are either emailed or conducted via zoom conferences, and those who are able to are teleworking from their homes.

As we continue to adapt and adjust to our new norm, I’m sure most of us can’t help but wonder if life as we knew it is gone forever. Life today quickly reminds us about all of the simple freedoms taken for granted. Restaurants are closed or doing take-out only, movie theaters are closed, and all sports and concert events have been postponed or cancelled. Even churches now find themselves adapting their services to live-streaming either through their website or various social media platforms. Public transportation and ride share services have either slowed to a crawl or completely shut down altogether.

For those of us optimists, we can take advantage of all of this time to slow ourselves down and bond closer with our family and friends. Instead of focusing on the negativity or feeling sorry for ourselves, we can choose to reflect and focus on everything we’re grateful for. Use this time to see this positive in everything and in every moment. Use this time to see how you can be of service to others.

Do you know any elderly people who need groceries, water, medicine, cleaning supplies, etc.? We only get through tough times when we band together with the right attitude. Remember, storms come, but they never last forever. The sun will shine again. And lastly, what we do to others, we do to ourselves, and what we do for others, we do for ourselves! Stay strong and positive!

Staying Checked-In

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I believe it’s important to honestly assess our emotional well-being. Sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 Pandemic can become taxing on anyone’s mental health. Fortunately, mental illness is a topic that has been gaining traction because directly or indirectly, mental illness affects everyone.

During normal times, according to data furnished by the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI), almost half of adults, roughly 46.4%, will experience mental illness during their lifetime. In addition, 5% or approximately 43.8 million of adults (18 or older) will experience a mental illness condition in any one year. What’s more, of adults in the U.S. with any mental disorder in a one-year period, 14.4% have one disorder, 5.8% have two disorders, and 6% are clinically diagnosed with three or more conditions. Half of all their mental disorders began by age 14, and three-quarters of them by age 24. Sadly, in the U.S., only 41% of people who’ve had a mental disorder in the past year received professional health care or other related services.

Being sequestered at home on a daily basis can begin to weigh on anyone’s psyche. The most important thing we can all do is learn how to relax in order to reduce our stress and anxiety levels. We can do this by: Focusing – which is simply deep breathing for 1-2 minutes while focusing only on your breath. Meditation – which is sitting quietly and breathing deeply for an extended period of time. Imagery – sitting in silence and imagining a relaxing place in your mind. The most important thing to do when your emotions begin to overwhelm you is to talk to someone and express your feelings. If there’s no one to directly talk to, you can start a journal.

In addition to trying to maintain a proper diet and exercise, there are free online resources to utilize. Top10.com provides free individual or group therapy sessions. During these times let’s stay checked in with ourselves and each other. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek professional help–the weakness is being too proud not to.