I know no one who is not thrilled that 2020 is finally coming to an end! As we await the stroke of midnight tonight, we are breathlessly anticipating a beautiful New Year that includes distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, a new administration in the White House, and what we hope will be an end to the nightmare of 2020. It was a year filled with a whole lot of terrible. Yet, if we look closely, we see some beautiful silver linings as well. What better time to reflect on the upside than New Year’s Eve?
Years ago, I remember doing an exercise in a self-help book (for the life of me, I can’t remember which one). The first step was to list all of the terrible, tragic losses you had suffered in your life so far. My list was long and heavy. The death of my 12-year-old brother. Moving to California in an attempt to save my marriage. My (inevitable) divorce. Being laid off from a job that I considered my lifetime career. The illness and death of my second husband, Ed. When I was done writing, all I could think was that it was a miracle I was still functioning!
But the second step in the exercise changed my perspective. Now it was time to look at each item and write down what good had come out of what felt like a tragic event. Finding the silver linings was much easier than I expected. My brother’s death led to a much more nurturing, loving relationship with my parents. Moving to California didn’t save my marriage, but it helped me find my courage, creativity, and independence. Getting laid off forced me to rethink my career and find my true calling as a financial advisor. And Ed’s death allowed me to stop being a caregiver to someone else and start taking care of myself—and I gained the freedom to live alone for the first time in my life.
It is a cliché to say that whenever a door closes, a window opens, but that exercise made me see the truth in that ‘old saw.’ With every loss, something ends, but each change often offers us some good in return. For me, that has been true throughout 2020. After that first stay-at-home order back in March, I was overwhelmed by the idea of having to work from home and miss out on so many planned activities. Nights at the theatre. Vacations. Evenings with friends. Visits with family.
As the weeks turned into months, my perspective began to shift. My home office became more efficient than my traditional space. I found ways to use technology to serve my clients better than ever (despite my initial resistance, I’ve found that Zoom meetings can sometimes be even much more productive than in-person meetings…who knew?!). That change afforded me the time to take an advisor coaching session in which I learned more tools and techniques to take the business to a new level of excellence. Always an avid reader, I had even more time to read—about five years’ worth of books in a single year. I watched movies I’d always wanted to see but somehow had never found the time. With more time at home, I began to rethink my personal space, which led to the ‘re-feathering of my nest.’ I’ve found that calling people on the phone is more satisfying because everyone is home and has time to chat! Suddenly, what matters is human connection, and what is missing from our daily lives during the pandemic has regained its value.
So yes, I found a lot of silver linings. The question today is: where do we go from here?
Post-vaccine, when this mess is finally behind us, I’m sure I won’t want to jump back on the old treadmill. When things are ‘back to normal’ (it will undoubtedly be a ‘new normal’), I will choose differently. Will I sign up for four different theatre subscriptions? Will I head into the office every day instead of working from home? All I know for certain is that I will choose to spend more time in nature, far away from the city. I will find ways to spend quality time with my grandchildren. I will be more intentional in everything I choose to do—for my business, my family, my free time, and my life.
I hope that 2020 has opened some windows in your own life as well. I hope it gave you the freedom to not hold on so tightly to things you were afraid to lose, to stop being weighed down by the past, and to start creating a new version of your life that is better suited to the new, post-pandemic you. I pray that 2021 allows us all to exhale… and breathe finally.
Happy New Year to you and yours. Stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to all 2021 has to bring. Cheers to a new year and new beginnings!