By Krista A. Lample, M.Ed
I’ve written about my irritation with the “look on the bright side” “silver linings” crowd. Not only are we not allowed to just live in our darkness for a minute or two, we have to force a lesson out of every bad thing we experience. Take Covid for instance. I mean we could not even let the gravity of a worldwide pandemic of historic proportions that forced society as we know it to a standstill become a reality before we were being admonished by the media, social media, spiritual and mental health leaders and celebrities to appreciate the “opportunities” that slowing down would bring. Don’t even get me started on all the privilege it takes to make a statement like that with a straight face. Let us wallow in our misery for a just a second. People lost loved ones, they lost jobs, kids lost graduation and dances and sports and we all lost time. I think before we are all caught up in moving on that we need to make sure we have acknowledged our losses in 2020. We can’t nor should we be expected to come up with a “what it all means” mission statement.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but you don’t have to come up with a moral of the story or lessons learned and you don’t even have to count your blessings right now. Art, literature, religion and popular culture all glorify triumph over adversity and growing from pain. After all, “beauty comes from pain” and some other such nonsense.
Here’s the thing. Some things are just bad. And other words for bad. That’s all they are. We don’t have to see something positive in the Coronavirus tragedy. And this doesn’t make us less evolved or in touch with our feelings/emotions. We can wish it hadn’t happened. I wish it hadn’t happened. I didn’t see my Dad for over a year. My anxiety got worse. I made less money. I saw people I know get really sick. I am angry and sad that this happened. I’m not saying this is my final conclusion or anything. I just don’t think we need to rush acceptance and moving on.
I remember a writing professor I had in college who challenged me. After reading something I wrote about some childhood experiences he said that he just didn’t “get it”. He said that even though I told all the facts in the story, I didn’t tell the “experience”. I didn’t explain how the experiences affected me or how I saw them now as compared to then. I hadn’t processed it. I hadn’t added all the colors, even though I had all the lines traced. He needed more of the picture before he could see and feel the story. He wanted my perspective and not just the chain of events. Perspective is the interesting part. It’s the part people relate to. It’s the part that brings a story to life. And it’s something that I (and I am sure many of you) don’t have yet regarding the last year.
I don’t know why exactly but this brings me comfort right now. What I really want to do is to paint a picture of what 2020 has been like for me and hopefully give a voice to things that other people have experienced and felt as well. Kind of like saying “I’m not alone” or ”You’re not alone”. Compare feelings and experiences. I don’t just want to tell the facts, I want the color. Remembering my college professor reminded me that I have time. I don’t have to process it all immediately. Right now, I don’t have perspective yet. It often takes time and distance. And also, it doesn’t have to always have a positive spin. Perspective is real life.
Perspective isn’t the same as a silver lining or a moral of the story or a valuable lesson. It’s a way of regarding something. It’s your point of view towards something. It’s an understanding of the importance of something….a sense of proportion. When I say that my perspective towards 2020 and the Covid pandemic is not fully formed yet, that’s ok. It’s going to take some time and some distance. Right now, it’s ok if you need to sit in the sadness or loss for a bit. It’s ok if you are still feeling ______ (fill in the blank). Feel it for however long it serves you.
Perspective usually comes when pain diminishes. When the edges of 2020, aren’t so sharp and clear. When the shock and trauma start to fade a little. Maybe that’s a good time to dwell on everything that 2020 was to your life. Was it all bad? Was it all good? Probably not. The good news is that it can just be what it was. Maybe you learned a lesson or maybe you didn’t. I think it’s ok to not rush this. Let it all shake out.