Back To School Season is upon us. Whether you are a student, teacher, parent or just an innocent bystander at Target, you cannot escape the message: it’s a fresh start, people! It may feel more like Covid 2.0 than a sparkly new school year, however. But we are wiser and more prepared for whatever this is going to be. In my home, we are fully vaccinated, masked up and ready to go. The question is, after all we’ve been through, combined with lingering uncertainty, how do we start over?
- We begin by taking stock. At the beginning of the pandemic, author Elizabeth Gilbert joked that if aliens came to earth, it would be off the front page by Tuesday. We adapted, it’s what humans do best. Granted, many of us, including my own family, had the privilege of having our needs met and access to the support we required. Not all of us ended the Covid school year without lasting scars. Battle weary though you may be, you can acknowledge yourself for the effort. It wasn’t easy, but you did it anyway.
- Experience is everything. The confidence we gained to handle the next iteration of this pandemic is a tremendous comfort. Masks indoors again? A pain yes, impossible: nope. On the bright side, no colds or flu. I personally dug that part. Random cancellations? It happens, but for the love of all that is holy, please don’t. It’s really horrendous on the kids. I’m going to visualize lots of safe fun over the coming year.
- How ever we’ve weathered the Covid storm, it’s tempting to tick off a list of regrets, wishing we could have done things better, somehow. Try giving yourself some grace, resisting the urge to judge. It’s impossible to steer your life in a positive direction while staring into the rear-view mirror. We can’t change anything back there. This year showed us how resilient we are. We are stronger for whatever is around the corner.
- When time stopped, it presented a unique opportunity to prune away some activities, even some relationships that didn’t serve us. It provided insight into where we derived fulfillment and what felt like a drain. I stepped back from roles I felt pressure to take on but that sucked up my time and sapped my energy. When asked again to recommit, I drew a healthy boundary and said no. Obviously, we all have responsibilities that are non-negotiable. I don’t mean those, I mean the optional stuff. No need to fill your calendar with people and activities that drag you down.
- Why not DREAM BIG? Eckhart Tolle advises to use your imagination only for what you want. Your mind is the most powerful tool you have. If you don’t actually wantthe worst case scenario, stop visualizing it. What you focus on, you get more of.The more vivid a picture of your big, beautiful life you place squarely in front of you, the greater power you give your brain to make it happen. Now’s the time to do more than just dog paddle. Caution around Covid is a long term necessity. Pursuing our dreams and taking action despite the pandemic is imperative.
- Choose happiness. When awful stuff happens that you can do nothing about, do not allow it to dominate your thoughts. If you are taking concrete steps to solve a terrible problem yourself, wonderful. You may feel compelled to spend time hand-wringing but it is a false productivity. Making yourself miserable helps no one. If you don’t know how to choose happiness, take a look at Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. Yes, I know I’ve recommended it before–it works! He teaches neuroscientifically-proven techniques to direct your mind towards a state of curiosity, calm and collaboration rather than stress. Building healthy neural pathways can be detected in an MRI. Choosing happiness is real.
7. Mind your business. According to Byron Katie, there are three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours and what simply is. You can call the third one God or reality. It’s basically anything that is totally beyond our control. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When you think, “I want you to be happy, you need to take better care of yourself, you could do so much better,” I am in your business. When I’m worried about the spread of disease, hurricanes or when I will die, I am in God’s business. To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business. Even with the best of intentions, it is presumptuous, and the result is tension, anxiety, and fear. My only business it to decide what is right for me. It’s on me to work with that before I try to solve your problems for you. If you understand the three kinds of business enough to stay in your own business, it could free your life in a way that you can’t even imagine. The next time you’re feeling stress or discomfort, ask yourself whose business you’re in mentally. (P.S. How Katie came to these insights is an extraordinary story: https://thework.com/about-the-work-of-byron-katie/)
When we acknowledge ourselves for our efforts, focus on what we really want and resist the urge to judge, we get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.
WRITING PROMPT: What helps you to start over again?
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