No-Share November, or Is Grateful Dead?

What a wild time we are living in currently. If you’re like me at all, you’re fighting this constant battle of worrying that you’re doing something wrong. Not knowing what is expected of us at every turn can create anxiety that either envelopes us into avoiding any interaction or bubbles up inside until it explodes into anger at the drop of a hat. So many of my friends have forgone social media because of the constant negativity that seemingly seeps into every post. Whether it’s passive aggression or direct confrontation, for some of us it’s become too much to bear. We are struggling to keep hopeful, and with the holidays around the corner, the thought of maintaining the image of a positive outlook is exhausting. I’m exhausted. Anyone else?

Whereas family gatherings are often filled with political, ideological, and philosophical debates, this year many of us won’t even have the chance to get into heated arguments in person. We’re stuck in this limbo of wanting family connection but fearing what that means in terms of both long and short-term consequences. We’re worried the kids will be forever impacted by this year, whether socially or intellectually or physically.

My wish for you, dear reader, is to remain creative. The playing field has been evened a bit, and everyone is having to adapt. For some, that is a feat in and of itself. We all have fallen victim to routine in some manner or another. And for good reason. There is comfort in routine. We are creatures of habit. There is fear in the unknown. As a freelance teacher, especially in my early days lacking experience, every class took so much energy out of me because I had to be constantly on my toes. Classes would change, locations would change, times would change. I would plan and plan for hours so that I would be ready, and inevitably the plan flew out the window the moment I stepped into a school. Yet, I still overplanned and agonized over every minute of that hour-long class.

But in being so chained to this planned schedule, I found that the kids didn’t enjoy the lesson and I didn’t enjoy the lesson. I wasn’t open to possibility. I wasn’t being present in the moment and reading the kids. I was spending so much time worrying that they wouldn’t be entertained in every activity that I didn’t allow for time to process. We all need that time to decompress. To breathe. To have a moment to let it all sink in. To just be listened to and understood. Suddenly it all clicked. When I left time to let students lead an activity or gave time to sit down and write or draw, the results were amazing. I didn’t know what it would look like and neither did they. And we figured it out together.

We have almost over-scheduled kids to the point that they don’t know what to do with downtime. It’s the same with adults. Do you remember when you were a child? Playing in your room with the door closed. Being left on your own to entertain yourself? We had to be creative because there were no iPads to keep us from boredom. When was the last time you were bored? There are endless Facebook comments to read or new Netflix series to watch….boredom is a thing of the past. However, this pandemic has brought back boredom. A sense of feeling stuck. And we don’t know how to handle it. We haven’t used those skills in decades. But with time and patience, we can regain that muscle memory. Now is the time to get creative.

Create new holiday traditions. Maybe they’ll be fun and great, maybe it’ll be a hot mess. Allow for the unknown and relish in the possibility of “I don’t know.” We all want control of our life, especially now. We want to control others to gain back a sense of control ourselves. And it’s grating on those around us. Create love instead of anger. Think of these emotions as tangible projects. If you were making a cake or making a work of art, the process of the creation is the therapy. It’s how we destress. Sometimes the outcome is a great delicious masterpiece, sometimes it doesn’t turn out how we want. But trust that the process is healing. Try to create happiness. Try to create compassion. It may not look how you intended. Trust that the effect is in the effort.

Adaptation is how we grow. As a society. As an individual. Change is the only constant. If anything, this pandemic has taught me to be grateful for what I have. Grateful for the roof over my head and the food in my belly. Grateful I have a family that I love and will miss dearly come Thanksgiving. Grateful for FaceTime. But I’m still sad. I’m still angry. I’m still anxious. And I’m grateful for those emotions. Grateful that I have things to miss. That I have things to look forward to when this is over. Grateful. Because what is the alternative?

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