The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.
I’m ready for spring. I’m ready to be done with 2020, done with the election, done with the pandemic. I’m ready to feel a sense of hope along with longer, warmer days, with friends. And those days will surely come. The arrival of spring is a certainty and in the context of 2020, I’ll take any certainties I can get.
I can’t help but feel a sense of momentum heading into the next year. It’s going to be a dark and frightening winter. The pandemic is out of control and millions of Americans are unemployed and stuck at home. But this isn’t the new normal. Vaccines look promising and by this time next year, our lives are likely to be back on track. It’s hard to imagine it now, but it may seem inevitable when spring arrives.
I am an optimist at heart. It’s a trait that I’m thankful to have, even if it makes me idealistic and perhaps naive at times. I find that it keeps my focus on the future and what can be learned from times of darkness. I tend to look at change and challenges as opportunities. The psychological term for this is “reframing” and I find myself doing it often; a secret weapon.
There was a moment in early 2020 when I started to feel the uncertainties mounting. It was early in the pandemic and nearly every aspect of life felt up in the air. My book, Big Enough, was sent to the printer, which meant it could not be changed. Then, the bottom fell out of the economy and the book industry took a hit. We decided to change the release date from May to September, with the hope that the environment would improve.
On top of all the normal anxiety that comes with a book’s release, I had to accept that I was publishing and promoting a book during a pandemic. All the time and effort I put into the book seemed like it could wash away in the flood of events. What if society changed to a degree that made Big Enough less relevant?
After the initial shock, I started to reframe. All things considered, the book was complete, still relevant and the core message seemed to fit. I read numerous articles about people who had discovered happiness in a more home-based lifestyle and were looking for opportunities to start a business that would support that happiness. Could the pandemic actually bolster the book’s message? Could this change in perspective, over time, be a net positive? This idea gave me hope.
Today the book is out in the world and doing fine. Above all, I believe that it’s a book people will find when the time is right. This winter may not be it, but by spring, we could be living in a different environment.
About two years ago, we moved out of our house in Seattle and filled a container with furniture, clothes, boxes and what felt like a million other things. Today, that container sits in a warehouse and I think of it like a time capsule. Our former lives and lifestyle are in that container, waiting to be released. A day will come, probably in January or February, when the container will be delivered to Orcas Island and we can reconnect with our past lives. This feeling of reconnecting and beginning again has become such a rich source of anticipation.
Perhaps we all have our own time capsules. Your belongings may not be sitting in a container, but your version of normal life may be on hold for a while longer. All the togetherness and freedom that we all miss is not gone, it’s just waiting to be opened again.
I, for one, want to believe that the spring of 2021 will be a time for us to open our time capsules and become reacquainted with our former lives. When we do, it won’t be exactly the same as before because we’ve changed. The optimist in me believes it could be better because we will have learned to appreciate what we formerly felt was normal.
That’s the core of this perspective. Bad things happen and change is inevitable, we can’t control it. It’s history. The best we can do is look ahead try to find the opportunity or hope within it, or use the change as a reason to push on something we can control and want to alter or improve.
If you find yourself feeling hopeful about spring, consider how you might use the transition to start on a different footing. There may be no better time than just after a shake-up.
I think about this from the perspective of our dogs, Maybe and Piper. They know nothing of pandemics or politics. They are unburdened by the economy. But they are about to experience a fundamental change in the new house and in that change is an opportunity to establish new behaviors and habits.
For example, the house will have a large fenced-in yard for keeping dogs in and deer out. It will wrap around two sides of the house, creating space for them to play without our supervision. My hope is to use this change in their environment to begin new practices that start on day one.
For example, I’ve been researching ultrasonic dog whistles that we can use to recall them without neighbors noticing. On the day we move in, the dogs will begin to learn that amazing treats are connected to the sound of that whistle. If it works, it becomes the new normal for us all.
My hope is that Spring 2021 will mark a point in time when we can all start to leave 2020 behind and begin to restart, rethink, and reframe. We’ve been through a lot. Don’t let that change go to waste. Instead, use it to consider what a new normal could look like to you in the next year.