Updated: Jul 30, 2020
I'm thankful for a lot these days, even the small things that would normally just fly under the radar without a second thought. But I think what I'm most thankful for is Jessi from one year ago who decided something had to give.
I think about where I'd be today in the middle of this pandemic if I hadn't taken the steps I did starting last July. I'd be super anxious and depressed, probably eating and drinking my way through it, angry at the world, blaming others for things I can't control and terrified about the future.
I would also have made the pandemic one more excuse not to pursue my goals because I would be in survival mode. Not only would I be suffering because of the upheaval COVID-19 has caused, but I'd be telling myself how unfair it is — why is this happening to me? How am I supposed to get through this? I better just hunker down until this is all over with and then I'll get back to growing my business, working on my relationship, losing weight, asking for a raise or writing that novel.
Well that's just bullshit. Don't crawl into that hole and wait for this to be over — this is your life with all its messiness, this is the world with all of its uncertainties, but we can still find moments of joy and even laughter in the midst of chaos. Author Joan Didion says it best and I share this quote often:
“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
How beautiful is that? I'm not saying people aren't suffering right now and I'm not saying you should push yourself to the brink of a breakdown for the sake of success. I'm just saying don't let the pandemic be one more reason why you can't find progress in your life. For one, we don't know how long this is going to drag on, and I don't want to be playing catch up and be in COVID recovery for another year after that. Progress might be slow during this but it's still progress.
Without doing the thought work I've been doing for the last year, I wouldn't have the ability to recognize when my brain is telling me unproductive thoughts and sometimes just straight up lies! I wouldn't know that I had the ability to focus my brain on truths and the positive aspects of my life and generate the emotions I want to generate. I wouldn't be aware of when my ego was in control and turning my shame into defensiveness.
Disclaimer: this doesn't mean negative emotions don't have a place in our lives and in our brains. I accept my negative emotions, I feel them (strongly in fact) and then I let them go. There may be several days where I feel depressed or angry, but now I know those emotions don't rule me. I trust that I can get to the bottom of those feelings, understand them and they will pass.
So maybe you didn't start your journey like I did a year ago, but it's never too late. Try imagining where you could be in July 2021 if today you choose to begin retraining your brain.
I hope everyone can find something productive to work on in their lives during this pandemic — something you can be proud of when you look back at 2020. If you want to find out more about thought work and managing your mind, I highly recommend listening to The Life Coach School podcast with Brooke Castillo or Unfuck Your Brain with Kara Loewentheil. If you're dealing with overwhelming stress and anxiety and want to find some inner peace for once, dig into the work of Eckhart Tolle, especially his book A New Earth.