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Lessons Learned: Writing the Narrative

Author: Kathleen Nelson-Simley Posted: Tuesday - March 16, 2021

Cue this week in March a year ago when our lives were abruptly put on hold and we were restricted from leaving our homes and seeing our loved ones. It feels like yesterday AND a lifetime ago. No matter who you are or where you live we all had to stop and face the unexpected and unknown challenges ahead of us.

Little did we know the challenges would continue into the same week a year later.

This past year forced us to endure a lot – isolation, uncertainty, hopelessness, fear, loss, insecurity, grief, frustration and loneliness.

On the flip side, this last year was also transformative. It forced creativity and flexibility and a new way of thinking, doing and being. We adapted and we learned.

Life's Lessons

Slow down.

I remember removing scheduled activities, meetings and obligations from my calendar and watching it go from being a page of solid black to a blank, white page. I can’t recall seeing my calendar that empty for a long, long time. Going from a 100 mph pace to 5 mph (if even that) was a shock to all of our systems. It seemed almost impossible to do at the time, but we did it. For me, I came to appreciate the “pause” in my life and am now grateful for the time. It serves as a reminder for all of us to protect our time and leave some white space on our calendar.

Expect change.

The only certainty is uncertainty. We have learned, not only to accept change, but to expect it. We need to always have a plan, but be prepared to change and ditch those plans. And we need to embrace the surprises and detours along the way for not all change is a bad thing.

Go with the flow.

For those of us who are routine people and who thrive with a schedule and daily “check off” lists, we felt  “lost in the desert” when the pandemic struck. Without a roadmap, we were aimlessly roaming in ways that were unknown and uncomfortable to us. I will always be a routine-kind-of-person. The pandemic didn’t change this about me. But, the pandemic did teach me that sometimes if life takes you in a different direction or throws you off course, you just have to go with it and not fight it.

We are resilient.

Learning to homeschool, work from home and connect with others safely – are just a few of the many ways we creatively pivoted and transitioned during the pandemic – all showcasing our true perseverance and resiliency.

Notice and appreciate the little things.

I remember how I felt when…noticing an uptick of couples taking walks and being in conversation with one another, seeing parents and kids playing outdoors and having fun, finding toilet paper and hand sanitizer on a store shelf as if it was like finding a nugget of gold, receiving a “how are you doing” phone call instead of a text message from a friend, realizing I have all the ingredients on hand to make my favorite recipe while being quarantined…It was the little things that we noticed and appreciated in ways we never had before that made us happy.

Count your blessings.

We were all deprived of so much this year and experienced hardships in ways that we couldn’t imagine. But, COVID-19 was even harder on those who have less than us. Counting our blessings – big and small - and trying to help others in any way we can is one of the most important things we can do – pandemic or not.

The internet can be life-sustaining.

Enjoying virtual concerts, happy hours, tours, worship, book readings and tutorials sustained us in ways we may never be able to comprehend. I am much more mindful now of the internet being a blessing than being an evil.

It’s okay not to be okay.

Most everyone has not been okay this past year. Understanding this has helped me accept my own not-okayness and realize I’m not the only one struggling. Knowing we are not walking alone through darkness offers us comfort, peace and strength.

We need community.

If nothing else, I think we can all walk away from the past year with a deeper understanding of one, undeniable basic need we all have – to be in community with others. I doubt we will ever take it for granted or underestimate its importance in our lives from here on.

These are just a few of the many, many lessons we have learned these past twelve months and with the pandemic still in force, there are more lessons to be learned. Generations from now, plenty will have been written about the highs and lows and lessons of the past year, but we will be the ones who actually lived it. We each have the power to shape the future narrative about the past year. We will influence whether the narrative focuses primarily on the challenges we experienced or the lessons we have learned because of them.

So, I ask you:

What would your narrative of the past year most focus on? The good or the ugly?

What are the lessons you have learned from the challenges you faced?

How will you take the lessons you have learned and use them for the greater good in your own life and the lives of others?

What do you want future generations to learn from your experience?

Now, grab a pen or pencil and begin writing your narrative. You have it within you because you have lived it.