A Walk in the Woods
Having recently moved from Celebration, I thought February would be my last monthly column in the Celebration News. Somehow, life had other plans. I have been asked to share some thoughts on our COVID-19 world and how to navigate through it. With events rapidly changing and the lag time from deadline to publication, it is tough to know what the world will look like when you read this, but there are a few certainties I think we can expect.
First of all, a big round of applause to all of you who grasped the depth of what was ahead of us and immediately took right turns in your lives to help save others and protect our healthcare community. While it feels like this has never happened before, we know that something worse actually did (the “Spanish flu”) -103 years ago. Our country survived that and moved forward, just as we will survive this and grow stronger from it.
From our jobs to our families, our social lives, shopping habits and finances – It was unimaginable that everything could change at once. Suddenly we are either essential, or not needed at all in the workforce. The future we so carefully re-built since the 2008 recession is now jeopardized. Yet under almost indescribable stress, our teachers have taught, our kids have become full-time virtual learners, our medical teams have run right into the fire, and our supermarket workers have re-defined what a hero can be. Parents home with kids cut off from friends and activities have had to be especially patient and creative (feel free to add a long list of additional adjectives here).
For a hint of how we recover from this forest fire that roared through our lives, we need look no further than the forest floor itself. Walk through Yellowstone as winter turns to spring after a fire and you will see new blooms sprouting from the rubble. We are all creating those hopeful sprouts every time we take steps to adapt. Many of us loved the comfortable patterns of living in which we surrounded ourselves. We had our daily schedules and habits, our weekly phone calls to parents, and our social rituals lined up just right. Now what? First, it is okay to mourn a way of life that may not come back exactly as it was. Feel sadness but work hard not to mire in it. There is too much to do to rebuild. Remember the rest of the world burned down too. We are not alone, which means everyone will understand the challenges we face.
Go back to Yellowstone years later and walk where the fire was. You will see a new forest starting to grow. It won’t have all of the exact trees in the same place, but it will be glorious just the same. We have the tools we need to grow into such a forest. We can develop parts of ourselves we have not exercised for a while – learning new skills, problem-solving, re-invention, creativity, enhanced communication – to name just a few. In short, to grow through adversity we must adapt and ultimately embrace the lessons it teaches. Change came when we did not ask for it and to survive, we have no choice.
As we move forward, gingerly stepping back into the lives we left, remember A&E: adapt and embrace the new normal we build together. We just might find some surprising new blooms growing out of that rubble.
By Eileen Crawford, MS, LMHC
Eileen Crawford is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice currently providing tele-mental health counseling to Florida residents. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.