Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”Wayne Dyer
Yes, I know we all want to put 2020 behind us. It’s certainly been one like no other. In November 2019, after months of physical therapy for a misdiagnosed shoulder injury, I had surgery to remove a huge calcium growth on my right rotator cuff. The X-ray technician who filmed my shoulder months earlier had missed it and so did the doctor.
It’s fair to say I had high hopes for 2020 as I looked forward to putting 2019 behind me. At that time, I certainly didn’t think 2020 could be any worse but, as we all know, it was. Nothing could have prepared us for the challenges and doom and gloom of COVID-19. But before we put 2020 to rest, I must admit it wasn’t a total bust. In the midst of our greatest challenges, we also find our greatest strengths and learn our most valuable lessons. Here in no particular order are some of my personal takeaways from 2020.
- What We Appreciate, Appreciates. If we focus on what’s lacking in our life, our unhappiness and need for more will only grow. But if we focus on what we already have in our life, we will find contentment with what we already have. If we focus, instead, on what we don’t have, we’ll always be looking for more. Nothing will ever be enough.
- The Simple Things Are Not So Simple. In March 2020, I found myself at the local supermarket bright and early at 6:00 a.m. My mission was a modest one . . . to buy toilet paper. But as I combed the aisles looking quite disheveled having just rolled out of bed, I realized that the shelves were completely bare of paper products. No toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, tissues—nothing! After visiting quite a few stores with no luck, I ended up paying a fortune for toilet paper on Amazon. It’s a good way to learn that the basic things in life are really not basic. In 2020, the simple things I never thought about became my focal point while the more elaborate things fell to the wayside.
- Never Take Anything for Granted. I know I’m not alone when I say 2020 taught me a hard lesson on not taking things for granted in life. We all do it. Our daily routines become so habitual that we don’t take the time to think about them. Instead, we take these things for granted and move on to still more things. Ironically, these very things we so often take for granted are what often matter the most.
- Feel How You Feel. Pay attention to your feelings; they are there for a reason. This year had me feeling completely burnt out. Between my health issues, my family and all the mental stresses that came with COVID-19, I was pushed to the edge at times. I realized that I just couldn’t do it all and that’s OK. Admittedly, I felt guilty at first. But I couldn’t truly heal without putting myself first for a change.
- Touch is Essential. Rick Springfield was right, “We all need the human touch.” The year 2020 taught me the hard way that human touch is a fundamental human need. Never before have I ever appreciated a kiss or a warm embrace more than I did this year. Never before have I valued my time with my family and friends more than I do now.
- Change is Unavoidable. Many things in our life appear to be permanent so we convince ourselves that they are. We don’t give these things a second thought. Unfortunately, this permanence is just an illusion. Everything around us—our relationships, our circumstances, our feelings, our needs, etc.—is constantly changing. We all know this but we often don’t pay much attention to it—until something like 2020 forces us to.
- Stay True to Yourself. This year had me suffering some kind of an identity crisis as I struggled with not being able to keep up with my work, my books and all the other things that I identify with. But that’s just it. All those things are just things. The real me is much more than that and is very much still me.
- Cherish the Moment. Nothing is ever really guaranteed and the only thing we ever really have is right now. Put another way, five seconds ago is the past and five seconds from now will be the future. The past is no more and the future may never happen. So, again, the only thing we only know or have for sure is the present moment.
- Be Still. Just breathe. When was the last time you watched the sunset or got up early to watch the sunrise? When was the last time you took the time to meditate and quiet your mind? When was the last time you took the time to appreciate the beauty of a rose or the sound of ocean waves crashing along the shoreline? In July 2020, I had to have surgery and I’m still recovering. As I said earlier, both 2019 and 2020 dealt me some hard blows. But through it all, I tried never to lose sight of the value of the moment. After my surgery in July, I spent a long time laying in the lounge chair in my backyard. Honestly, it offered me the best way to lay down without feeling too much pain. And it also offered me many opportunities to just be still with my thoughts and appreciate the incredible beauty of the sunset. And, AAH, the moon! Did you know the more you focus on its glittering glow, the brighter and more beautiful it becomes?
Try it. I promise you your eyes will never see anything so stunning. We can’t see the things we don’t choose to look at. As the late Wayne Dyer once said, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”
No, we didn’t have a choice in the difficulties dealt to us with COVID-19. But we can use the lessons learned from our many challenges in 2020 to grow and thrive in 2021. Remember, what we appreciate, appreciates. Our reaction is always our choice.
Happy New Year! Perhaps the many hardships of 2020 will plant seeds of gratitude and become the milestones to a joyful and treasured 2021.